Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
During the regular season, Avon's West Shore Conference game at Midview proved to be one not for the faint of heart. In a shootout for the ages, the Middies came away with the 49-42 win and went on to claim the final WSC championship.
Friday night at North Royalton's frozen Serpentini Stadium, the two teams met again, this time in a Division II, Region 4 semifinal. The rematch did not disappoint, unless you were wearing purple and gold.
Top-seeded Midview tied the score with one second left in regulation, then came up with one of its biggest defensive stops of the year in overtime. The result was a 42-36 win over Avon that sent the Middies into next Friday's regional championship game with Nordonia.
The Knights, like Midview undefeated on the season, advanced with a come-from-behind 56-52 win over Perrysburg in Sandusky.
Avon closed out its season at 10-2, leaving Gibson Field in disbelief after Midview's improbable late-game rally.
"That was quite an incredible game," said Avon head coach Mike Elder. "It even out-did the first one. Unfortunately, none of them are going to bring good memories for me. They will for Midview.
"My kids played their hearts out. High school football is about teaching life lessons, and my kids have learned all those lessons. But I'll walk off this field with my head high, and they should too. Avon kids never quit.
"They played their hearts out, and I'm proud of my football team," he said.
The Eagles, down 30-21 with 3:46 left in the fourth quarter, bounced back quickly. Quarterback Jake Sopko capped off a 60-yard, nine-play drive with a 1-yard scoring toss to Darrin Davis. Eric Sumislawski added the conversion kick, but Avon still trailed 30-28 with 1:35 left in regulation.
Avon went for, and converted, the ensuing onside kick, with Carter Rudy recovering the ball at the Midview 49. Just five plays later, Isiah Pinto ran it in from 12 yards out to give the Eagles the lead.
Sopko then ran it in for the 2-point conversion, making it 36-30 with just 26 seconds left.
But instead of going with a squib kick, Avon elected to kick away deep. Midview senior Dante Redwood returned it all the way to his 46-yard line, giving the Middies one last shot.
If the game wasn't crazy enough at that point, there were more thrills to come.
Midview ran a well-executed hook-and-ladder play down to the Avon 40. With 12 seconds left, sophomore quarterback Dustin Crum looked to his right and saw wide receiver Dimitri Redwood.
Redwood, who had eluded an Avon defender, caught Crum's pass and scored the tying touchdown with :01 left on the clock. But after a timeout, a high snap on the conversion kick denied Midview the win and sent the game into overtime.
Midview got the ball first and scored on Brett Zupanic's 9-yard run. But another off-the-mark snap resulted in the conversion kick sailing wide left, giving Avon a shot at the win.
The Eagles started out with an incomplete pass, then moved the ball eight yards on the next two plays as Gerett Choat carried the ball. But on fourth down and two, the Middie defense swarmed to Choat and stopped him well short of the first down marker to end the game.
Elder, however, felt the game's turning point came late in the third quarter. The Eagles, up 21-14, had held defensively and were driving deep into Midview territory.
A 21-yard pass play from Sopko to Zack Torbert had Avon down to the Middie 43. A 30-yard run by Choat moved the ball to the 13-yard line. Pinto took the next carry and rambled down to the Middie 5-yard line, but a holding call pushed the Eagles back to the 21.
On the next play, Sopko's pass was tipped and intercepted by Kyle Troutman.
"Actually, I felt really good when the score was 21-14 and we were pounding it down their throat," Elder said.
"Then we got a holding penalty, which was (expletive). That's what I really think, if you want to know the truth. If you're going to be an official and you're invisible the entire game, then be invisible the entire game. You don't call holding on a dive.
"That was the turning point in this game, and we wouldn't have had all these shenanigans," he said.
Midview took over at its own 16-yard line and scored eight plays later when Crum hit Heilman on a 37-yard scoring toss less than a minute into the fourth quarter. A 2-point conversion gave Midview the lead, 22-21, with 11:02 left in regulation.
Avon's next drive stalled, and Midview answered with the touchdown that made it 30-21 with 3:46 remaining.
"We had our chances, obviously," Edler said. "They scored with one second to go, and we had fourth and two right here. There are going to be 100 things I'll reply in my mind, but nothing more important than that holding call.
"That was the first flag they called on either team. Both teams held the entire football game. We were going to go up 28-14. It's a horrible call, a bad call in this game. If anybody wants to watch the film with me and see that, let me know.
"Again, I'm not taking anything away from the Midview kids. They played their butts off, and congratulations to them. But if we're talking about moments in games, I'm telling you the most important moment in this game was when it was 21-14. We were pounding the ball and we're going to go in and score.
"Then we get a holding penalty. That was a huge turning point in this game," he said.
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Click on the cameras below to view Larry's photos and video highlights from this game: