AVON – Avon High junior quarterback Ian McDonald had escaped the pressure, moved to his left and was racing down the sideline with open field ahead of him. It looked like he was on his way to his second touchdown of the season.
But Ellington/Somers sophomore Wellington Silva refused to give up on the play. As he ran from the other side of the field, he was thinking of the late Austin Tautkus, a former Ellington High player who passed away in June after getting injured in an off-road accident. “I was thinking of Austin to be honest,” Silva said. “I was thinking of him when I was running. I was doing what Austin would have done and hit him.”
McDonald had run 39 yards before Silva caught him near the 10-yard line and popped him, driving him out of bounds. Unfortunately, McDonald, who had run for 101 yards and a touchdown in three previous carries, was injured on the play. He never returned to the game.
From that point, Avon’s offense struggled. Ellington/Somers’ Mark Hickman scored four touchdowns including a tipped pass for a touchdown at the end of the second quarter as the Purple Knights picked up a very satisfying 28-14 Pequot Conference Uncas Division win over Falcons Saturday in the season opener for both teams.
It was just the second win ever for Ellington/Somers over Avon in nine tries. “We really came in here focused,” Ellington coach Sean Byrne said. “We had this one circled on our calendar since last year’s game. We felt we were embarrassed so we really got after it. The kids wanted this one and it showed.” Avon forced five turnovers and beat the Purple Knights, 30-13 last November.
Things didn’t go as planned for the Falcons.
McDonald was hurt on Avon’s second offensive series. He injured his wrist and he could miss six-to-eight weeks. Backup quarterback sophomore Dom DeBerardino hurt his shoulder early in the third quarter. The Falcons turned the ball over three times with an interception and two fumbles – one on the goal line. While Avon had three sacks and an interception, they gave up some big plays to the Purple Knights.
“I did not prepare this football team well enough to win,” Avon coach Jim Caouette said. “This is strictly my fault. They outcoached us. They were more physical than we were. Shame on me for not getting the job done.”
Avon looked sharp on its first drive, racing 76 yards in five plays in less than two minutes. McDonald had three carries including a 20-yard run and a 51-yard scamper down the right sideline to give Avon a 7-0 lead with 9:59 gone in the game.
Ellington/Somers marched into Avon territory but the drive stalled thanks to a 10-yard sack by Teddy Allmendinger of Ellington QB Christian Rider. On Avon’s next series, McDonald gained 30 yards on his first run. He was hurt on his next carry.
“You don’t like to see any player get hurt,” Byrne said. “But it changed their whole offense. They were moving the ball pretty well against us.” Bryne hasn’t forgotten the big games that Ian’s older brother Ross had against Ellington from 2008-10. “When he was in there I was having flashbacks of what his brother did against us.”
Avon nearly got to halftime with a seven-point lead. But Ellington’s Nathan Lajoie threw up a pass that Avon defender Jake Corrigan leaped to intercept. It bounced off his hands and right in the arms of Hickman who ran three yards into the end zone with no time left on the clock. The extra point from Julian Herms tied the game 7-7 and energized the Purple Knights.
Ellington/Somers added to the lead quickly in the second half. On the second play of the third quarter, Hickman got behind the defense and Rider found him for a 78-yard touchdown reception and a 14-7 lead. It took just three plays on Ellington’s next possession for Hickman to run up the middle, break a few tackles and race 72 yards for a 21-7 lead with 7:26 left in the third quarter.
“We have some good athletes,” Bryne said. “We’re still a work in progress. But our skill guys are really skilled and Hickman is unbelievable.”
On a fourth down and one play in the fourth quarter on the Avon 25-yard line, Hickman evaded the Avon defenders for a 22-yard gain to the four. He scored on the next play for a 28-7 lead with 5:53 remaining. Hickman ran eight times for 115 yards and caught two passes for 24 yards. And he scored four TDs.
Sean Del Gallo came in to pinch hit at quarterback and led Avon on two nice drives with some help from Ellington, who committed eight penalties for 100 yards. Del Gallo completed a 16-yard pass to Geoff Kirk and a 14-yard pass to Luke Meaney to put the ball on the Ellington five-yard line. Allmendinger scored from the five with 5:05 remaining to cut the lead to 28-14.
Allmendinger gained a career-high 129 yards on 25 carries. Junior Andrew Blackmore had a nice game with 19 yards on the ground and some nice runs. It looked like Allmendinger scored his second touchdown of the game on a two-yard run up the middle with 1:44 remaining but the officials ruled that he had fumbled the ball away and the Knights ran out the clock.
“Defensively, we didn’t play that bad in the first half,” Caouette said. “But we got hit for a few big plays. The offensive line did a good job early one. We’re going to get better.”
NOTES: Ellington/Somers beat Avon for just the second time. The first time was in 2011 when the Knights prevailed, 14-5. It’s the most points that Avon has allowed to a Ellington team. … Byrne said the win meant a lot to this team – not only because of last year’s loss but for Tautkus, too. “This was a place (Austin) loved to play,” Byrne said. “He always made some big plays against Avon.” … Not only did Silva have the crucial tackle of McDonald but he recovered two fumbles and had an interception. … Avon has lost on opening day in seven of the last 10 years. Still, in the last seven seasons, Avon has won at least seven games every season.
Ellington/Somers 28, Avon 14
Ellington/Somers (1-0) 0 7 14 7 – 28
Avon (0-1) 7 0 0 7 — 14
A: Ian McDonald 51 run (Alden Getz kick), 9:59
E: Mark Hickman 35 pass from Nathan Lajoie (Julian Herms kick), 0:00
E: Hickman 78 pass from Christian Rider (Herms kick), 10:58
E: Hickman 72 run (Herms kick), 7:26
E: Hickman 4 run (Herms kick), 5:53
A: Teddy Allmendinger 5 run (Getz kick), 5:05
RUSHING: Avon – Teddy Allmendinger 25-129, Ian McDonald 3-101, Andrew Blackmore 11-19, Dom DeBerardino 3-minus 3, Sean Del Gallo 1-0; Ellington/Somers – Christian Rider 11-35, Mark Hickman 8-115, Izaiah Castro-Vega 4-minus 1, Derek Litty 8-6, Zach Luginbuhl 1-minus 2, Stephen Griffin 1-0
PASSING: Avon – McDonald 0-1-0, 0; DeBerardino 0-3-1, 0; Del Gallo 2-7-1, 30; Ellington/Somers – Rider 10-15-1, 161; Nathan Lajoie 1-1-0, 35
RECEIVING: Avon – Geoff Kirk 1-16, Luke Meaney 1-14; Ellington/Somers – Ben Kloter 1-15, Castro-Vega 2-24, Litty 2-16, Joseph Mongillo 1-7, Shane McGowan 1-1, Hickman 4-136
RETURNS: Avon – McDonald 1-4 (punt), Jordan Williams 2-53 (punts), 1-15 (kickoff), Meaney 3-63 (kickoffs)
SACKS: Avon – Allmendinger 1-10, Ryan Rogers 1-7, Blackmore ½-3, Gino Bonalumi ½-3
INTERCEPTIONS: Jamie Dlugolecki (A) 1-0; Wellington Silva (E) 1-15, Daniel Hayes (E) 1-0; FUMBLE RECOVERY: Silva (E) 2