By Justin Whitaker
— While the Avon Orioles high school team has a chance to win a sectional title Friday, it’s the Junior Orioles who are preparing to win state.
The Avon Jr. Orioles consist of 33 fifth- and sixth-graders and play in the Indiana Elementary Football Association — 19 teams made up of mostly central Indiana squads. The Orioles sit 11-0 on the season and have a chance at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Avon High School to win the state championship against Carmel.
Avon has won three games in the postseason over Columbus, Decatur Central and Center Grove to advance this far. The dominating Orioles have averaged 40 points per game while only surrendering 20 points throughout the entire season. The closest game all year was against Center Grove in a 13-0 regular
“We have a nice balance and we are very explosive and very athletic on both sides of the ball,” coach Terry Haston said. “Our philosophy is, ‘If you don’t let the other team score, you can’t lose.’”
Avon runs a spread offense based on the Oregon Ducks with a lot of motion and misdirection. Orchestrating the offense is quarterback Nathan Conley and he’s assisted by running backs Jalen Peterson and Sampson James. Defensively, Matt Bromm, Carson Brewer and Trae Reynolds lead the Jr. Orioles.
Coach Haston has been at the helm for the team since it’s inception nine years ago. After running the youth program for Avon football, Haston created a better competitive opportunity for the young men.
“We were getting bigger and bigger and our in house program was booming. We branched out and looked for something more competitive for some of the kids.” he said. “And we are faith based so we were looking for something where we could talk to kids about more things other than football.”
The Avon high school players who are seniors now, were the second group of kids to go through the Junior Orioles program.
Haston is proud of the effect that the youth program has had on future Oriole classes.
“Most of the kids who come through our program are varsity starters and we think we’ve been able to give a little bit of a head start coming out of sixth grade,” Haston said.
Previously, the Jr. Orioles’ best season was in 2004 when the team went 12-2 and made it to the state championship game before losing to Hamilton Southeastern. Eight years later, Haston has an opportunity to redeem that loss.
“For me personally, it’d be the culmination of a lot of years effort,” he said. “We made the finals our second year and we failed there. We’ve spent a lot of work since then to get back so for me it’s just a lot of years and a lot of hours put into to see it come to fruition. It’d be the highlight of my coaching career.”