By Jake Thompson
AVON — Three years of frustration boiled over on top of the Avon Orioles in last night’s sectional final against the visiting Pike Red Devils. Avon looked to knock Pike from postseason play for the fourth consecutive year, but the Red Devils had other ideas.
Jumping on top of Avon early and keeping their intensity for the entire game, Pike ran away with a 55-24 victory and the sectional title.
“They were pretty excited,” Pike coach Derek Moyers said of his team’s attitude coming into the game. “To get beat the last three years by three points, two times on the last play of the game, we didn’t have to get them too fired up. It was pretty much there.”
Penalties and miscues plagued Avon all night and they came at crucial times in the contest.
“I’m sure there was some frustration that set in and a few plays that we lost our poise,” Avon coach Mark Bless said. “It’s something we’d talked about all season and the last couple of weeks we had done a better job in that regard.”
On Pike’s opening possession, the Orioles’ defense forced the Red Devils into a third-and-7, but a pass interference call kept the drive alive. Eight plays later, Pike quarterback Brent Lyles found Tyrez Boyd for their first of three TD strikes through the air on the night.
Pike forced Avon into three-and-outs on its next two possessions before Lyles struck again, this time on a fade route to Dominique Booth.
Avon would answer with a 10-play, 67-yard drive capped off by a 4-yard touchdown run by Derrick Tennant and the Orioles trailed 14-7 at the beginning of the second quarter.
But that would be as close as Avon would get.
Pike scored 20 unanswered points and forced Avon out of its style of play, making the Orioles play catch up.
“We feel like if we can get ahead, that makes people one dimensional and we make them throw,” Moyers said. “That feeds into our strength with our D-line and our linebackers.”
Pike dominated on both sides of the line, pass protecting and blocking very well all night and causing havoc in Avon’s backfield.
“Especially their defensive line,” Bless said of Pike’s interior play up front. “We couldn’t keep them out of our backfield to pass the ball. They did a great job of putting pressure on us.”
A 38-yard field goal by Avon’s Nyles Edwards ended the scoring in the half as the Orioles trailed, 34-10.
Avon mounted an impressive drive to begin the second half, getting down to Pike’s 17 before quarterback Cole Johnson took off around the left end and fumbled the ball as a result of a big hit from a Pike defender.
“We told them at the half that we had to play it possession by possession,” Bless said. “That definitely deflated any chances we had, but I was proud of our players. We kept battling and playing hard.”
Pike scored again on a Lyles to Boyd 44-yard hook up and led 41-10.
Avon answered two plays into the fourth quarter as Johnson plowed his way into the endzone from two yards out and the Orioles trailed, 41-17.
Pike scored twice more and led 55-17 before the Avon’s Cody Baker scampered in from 22 yards out for the final score of the night. Baker led Avon in rushing with 105 yards on the ground.
Despite the loss, Bless was proud of his team’s efforts through an up and down season, along with a strong senior class that stepped up throughout the year.
“It’s always tough when you have a good group of seniors and they have been good leaders for us and have battled,” he said. “You hate to say goodbye to them. I’m dang proud of our team. When you play for a sectional championship, that’s where you want to be. That’s probably one of the most difficult things to do is be able to survive three weeks in a row and be able to compete for that.”