AVON – In a hard-fought regular season finale, Avon’s defense shined, as the Orioles pulled out a 12-7 Senior Night victory over Zionsville on Friday.
Avon held Zionsville to 143 total yards, at a rate of less than three yards per offensive play.
“Our defense played outstanding and did a nice job being all over the field making plays,” Avon coach Mark Bless said.
The Orioles trailed 7-0 in the third quarter, but scored the final 12 points for their fifth straight victory.
“It’s kind of a microcosm of our season, playing so hard on defense and just not getting much going on offense,” Zionsville coach Larry McWhorter said. “We say it every week, but it’s the truth.”
Zionsville’s Brad Buckland intercepted Brandon Peters in the first quarter, and the Eagles followed with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Joshua Hinkle to Nick Maines.
Avon (6-3) managed just one first down and 28 yards in the first quarter, and Peters threw interceptions to Joe Lupinsk and Brandon Wilson on Oriole drives in the second.
“Zionsville did a nice job with coverages and played real hard,” Bless said. “We made some mistakes, but Brandon is a smart enough quarterback that he’s not going to hang his head.”
While the offense struggled, Avon’s defense stood strong, giving up just 45 yards in the first half as the teams went to halftime with Zionsville up by a TD.
A holding call wiped out a first-down run by Derrick Tennant on Avon’s first drive of the second half, which would’ve set the Orioles up at Zionsville’s 30. Avon ended up punting, and Zionsville (4-5) reached the Oriole 28, but the defense held again, as Ryan Bradley sacked Hinkle on fourth down.
Avon’s offense then kicked into gear. With 20-yard receptions from Matt Moore and Tennant, the Orioles marched 67 yards on a drive capped by a 2-yard TD run by David Schall, but the extra point banged off the left upright.
Avon reached Zionsville’s 40 midway through the fourth quarter, but a sack by Ben Kocher for a 6-yard loss forced the Orioles to punt. The kick was bobbled by Kocher and recovered by Avon, and on the next play, Peters hit Moore for an 8-yard score.
On the next drive, Zionsville went for it on fourth down-and-9 at its 42, but Gabe Lakstins broke up Hinkle’s pass. Avon ran the clock down to under 50 seconds left before punting, and TJ Wilson capped the Orioles’ defensive performance with a game-clinching sack.
“The defense did what it could and the offense came out in the second half and started smacking them,” Wilson said. “Our defensive line was on them all night. You couldn’t ask for more as a team.”
Avon now turns its attention to the sectional opener at No. 2 Ben Davis, which improved to 7-2 with a 28-24 comeback win over fourth-ranked Carmel.
“We scrimmage them every year, and I know they get better as the season goes along,” Bless said. “We feel like we’ve made progress as well, so we look forward to the challenge, for sure.”