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Eagles survive another WSC shootout with Pirates
Eagles survive another WSC shootout with PiratesStory by John Blake
Photos by Ryan Kaczmarski
Video by Rob Trautman

Most high school football fans anticipated a shootout between Rocky River and Avon, two of the area's most prolific offenses.

It took awhile for the fireworks to get started Friday night, but those in attendance at Rocky River Stadium certainly got their money's worth.

After Avon built a modest 21-7 at halftime, the flood gates opened in the second half. Seven touchdowns and 49 points were scored in the third quarter alone as the visiting Eagles soared past Rocky River, 63-35, in West Shore Conference football action.

Defense was optional, for the most part. The Eagles and Pirates combined for a total of 1,198 yards on the night, 692 of them coming from the Avon side.

"I don't know, it's all a blur," joked Avon head coach Mike Elder about what happened in that scoring frenzy of a third quarter.

"That's the kind of team Rocky River is. They're very dynamic on offense and they like to get in shootouts," Elder said. "They do it very well. They stack guys up in the box and dare you to throw the ball over their heads and we had to do that a few times to stay ahead of them.

"With a dynamic player like they have at quarterback and wide receivers who do a great job, you got to keep scoring and then you just hope to get some stops," he said.

Avon running back Sonny Cooper was one of the stars, racking up 264 rushing yards (307 total) on 24 carries and reaching the end zone four times. The Eagles were just as dangerous through the air, as quarterback Jake Sopko completed 23-of-34 passes for 341 yards. Zack Torbert led all receivers with 160 yards and three touchdowns on six catches.

"We couldn't put it all together," said Rocky River head coach Rick Adams, whose team dropped to 5-3 overall and 1-3 in the WSC.

"The offense struggled in the first half. The opening drive, we put it on the ground,"Adams said. "The defense, for the most part, played well in the first half. We missed a lot of tackles and they're a good team. We got to play better. We're there, just one step away.

"We just need to step up and make plays. It does get frustrating. One thing is we don't quit. We keep coming back and coming back. We just couldn't get that stop that could have put us over," he said.

Rocky River scored on its first possession of the second half to cut the Avon lead to 21-14. The Eagles were just getting started, however, scoring two unanswered touchdowns over the next four minutes of play.

The Pirates did their best to claw their way back but the deficit was just too much and the Avon offense just too potent to make up the difference.
At one point, the Eagles scored twice on just three plays in the third quarter.

Neither team could really reign in the big play defensively. Torbert had touchdown catches of 64 and 66 yards, Rocky River's Patrick Connors caught scoring passes of 30 and 59 yards and fellow receiver Evan Nugent hauled in a pair of touchdowns, good for 19 and 87 yards.

Cooper's four scores came on runs of 12, 14, 15 and 53 yards. His career night came in handy, with starter Gerett Choat having been out since Week 5 due to injury.

"We certainly need Choat back on the football field. because he'll make us that much better," Elder said. "We knew going into the season our deepest position was at running back.

"I thought our offensive line is really starting to jell. They're playing well up front, and they're physical," Elder said. "I think our last three games we kind of leaned on them and they did a good job. In the first half I didn't like how we were running the football. They had a good game plan, made some adjustments and challenged our kids.

"I thought we ran the ball a lot better in the second half," he said.

Rocky River quarterback Matt Lowry finished the game 15-of-23 for 287 yards and five total touchdowns. He also added 160 on the ground, including a 62-yard scoring run. The Pirates had things going their way early on during their first possession of the game, but the 76-yard drive was stalled due to a Travis Smith fumble.

"One thing our defensive coaches do a good job of is preaching to play every single play no matter the situation," Elder said. "They're always ripping and stripping at that ball and we were able to get that one out.

"I'd say that was the biggest play of the game, even though it was the first series," he added.

On their next drive, the Pirates went for it on fourth down and one from their own 43, but the quarterback sneak was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. The defensive stand allowed Avon to go up 14-0 and eventually 21-0 later in the second quarter.

Adams said the final two games against Bay and Elyria Catholic "have to be" must wins in order for the Pirates to have a shot at the postseason in Division III.

As for the Eagles, they've been in playoff mode for a few weeks now.

"The home playoff game and conference championship are kind of out of our control now," Elder said. "But one thing we can control is to win every game left on our schedule, which gets us into the playoffs.

"Then it's a new season. But for us now, there's no margin for error. I felt like if we didn't win this game, we might not get in. We've treated every game since the Midview loss as a playoff game.

"Our hopes are to get in that tournament and be a tough out for anybody we play," he added.

Avon ends the regular season against Olmsted Falls and Bay.

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Click on the cameras below to view Ryan's photos and Rob's video highlights of this game:


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