AVON, Sept. 8 – The Avon High football team won’t look the same this fall as it did a year ago. And that isn’t unexpected – especially when two All-State athletes graduate along with your starting quarterback.
Still, Avon head coach Brett Quinion thinks his team can contend for a fifth straight Pequot Uncas Division championship. Another league title won’t come off the speed of the Falcons. It is likely to come from the strength and precision of Avon’s play.
“We lost a lot of team speed but we’re very strong,” said Quinion, who is beginning his ninth year on the sidelines. “Last year’s team didn’t work hard in the weight room. This team is the strongest team I’ve ever had. They’ve been very diligent for the last 11 months.”
Players like two-time All-State running back Ross McDonald and All-State receiver Tyler D’Onofrio can hide weaknesses. McDonald, who ran for over 1,000 yards for the second straight season and scored 20 touchdowns, could pull away from the opposition once he got into open space.
D’Onofrio was a similar athlete at wide receiver where he set new school records for most receptions (51), receiving yards (974) and touchdown receptions (12) in a single season. All-Pequot Conference quarterback Colin Pavano threw for a school record 1,106 yards and 82 yards along with 10 touchdown passes.
Avon (8-2, 8-1 Pequot Uncas) was on the cusp of earning its third straight berth in the CIAC Class M tournament last November. But that disappeared in a stunning 7-0 loss to a stronger Gilbert/Northwestern squad in the season finale. It snapped Avon’s 34-game winning streak against Uncas Division opponents.
It will be a relatively new backfield. Junior Chris Suttmeier and sophomore Noah Hahn are battling for the starting quarterback position. Junior halfback Colin Moore, who ran for 678 yards and 10 TDs on 70 carries last fall, returns. “He’s very quick and strong for a kid who is 175 pounds,” Quinion said.
Senior captains Martin Bujwid (left tackle), Tyler Arnott (left guard) and Will Shriffrin (center) will anchor the offensive line.
“We have a lot of parity,” Quinion said. “There are some good, young kids to look at. A lot of the skill positions are wide open.”
Avon will need to work on its passing game to free up space for Moore and the running backs.
Defensively, the Falcons return several linebackers including quick sophomore Jimmy Murphy (46 tackles, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 interception), senior Sean Smith (92 tackles), junior Joe Murphy (team-high 99 tackles), senior Austin Curry and sophomore Steven Griffin (46 tackles). Senior George Kostal is set a nose tackle and look for some plays from Kwinton Proffit (55 tackles) at defensive end.
Solid up front, the Falcons lost two tremendous safeties in D’Onofrio and All-Pequot safety Ryan Jordan.
Still, Quinion likes his defense. “We’re going to give up some plays but we’re going to be stout in the box. We’ll be hard to run on. We’re going to hit you and we’re sound tacklers.”
Avon allowed just 117 points a year ago – its second lowest points allowed in the last quarter century.
Winning another league championship might be more challenging than it has been in the last four years.
Gilbert, buoyed by its win over Avon, earned a spot in the Class M tournament for the first time in school history, whipped Plainville in the quarterfinals and advanced to the semifinals before being eliminated. The Yellowjackets return their entire offensive line and running back Devin Molway, who ran for over 1,000 yards. They’re looking for their first league title since 1975.
Housatonic and its unique single-wing offense returns its entire offensive line. Enfield is always difficult and Coventry/Windham Tech and Ellington/Somers are well coached teams that are never pushovers.
There is just one night game on the schedule in week two when the Falcons visit Coventry to face the Patriots on Friday, Sept. 23. Avon had hoped to face Canton at night but it couldn’t be worked out. They’ll face the Warriors on Thursday, Oct. 6 at 3 p.m. at the high school.
There will be no crossover games with Pequot Sassacus powers Cromwell, Hyde or North Branford. When the Pequot Conference admitted Sport and Medical Science Academy from Hartford and Nonnewaug returned to varsity status, it put 11 teams in each division. Avon will play just within the Uncas Division.
Friday, Sept. 16
Avon at Stafford/East Windsor, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 23
Avon at Coventry/Windham Tech, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 1
SMSA/University at Avon, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 8
Canton at Avon, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 15
Avon at Gilbert/NW Regional, 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 22
Granby Memorial at Avon, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 29
Avon at Housatonic/Wamogo, 2 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 5
Enfield at Avon, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 12
Avon at Ellington/Somers, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 19
Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby at Avon, 1 p.m.