AVON, Nov. 7 – It hasn’t been an easy season for the Avon High football team. After every game, it seemed, there has been the sobering news of a season-ending injury to absorb. In the first seven games of the year, the Falcons had six players get hurt, including four seniors.
But the Falcons simply go back to work. They adjust the game plan, move players around and continue teaching.
On Saturday, there were just smiles across the Avon High football field as the Falcons celebrated winning the 17th championship in team history with a dominating 41-12 win over Rockville to capture the Central Connecticut Conference’s Division III Eastern Division title in its first year in the CCC.
“If someone had told me with all of these injuries and illnesses that would be fighting for a division title, I would have told them they were crazy,” Avon’s third-year head coach Jim Caouette said. “But these kids are resilient. Our seniors are resilient. We have some pretty good players.”
Senior quarterback Ian McDonald was magnificent against the Rams. McDonald 6-of-8 passes for 120 yards and two touchdown passes. He ran for a 65-yard touchdown in the first quarter. He also tied a school record by returning a punt 75 yards for a touchdown and returned an interception 74 yards for a touchdown.
“He is probably one of the most electrifying players in Connecticut,” Caouette said. “He certainly has to be one of the best players in all of the CCC – even with all of those big schools. He’s smart, athletic, fast and tough.”
The win clinches the CCC Division III Eastern Division title for Avon, now 6-2 and a clean 5-0 in the division. It’s the 17th championship (league, division) that the Falcons have won as a program and the first since taking the Pequot Uncas Division title in 2012.
Caouette also praised his coaching staff led by long-time defensive coordinator Billy Woods, offensive coordinator Clay Hilyer and special teams coordinator Courtney Dunlap. “My coaches don’t get enough credit,” Caouette said. “They put together a (successful) game package every week knowing they are going to be down personnel. They’ve put the kids in position to be successful.”
Throughout the course of the season, the Falcons have lost seniors Andrew Marshall (tackle, nose guard), Andrew Blackmore (tailback, outside linebacker), Sam Donahue and Luke Meaney (receiver, secondary) to season-ending injuries along with sophomores Liam Russell (guard, defensive tackle) and Jordan Williams (receiver, secondary). All six were starters.
Avon keeps finding players to make plays. On Saturday, senior Robert Bujwid picked up a fumble caused by Geoff Kirk and ran 35 yards for a touchdown. Bujwid also intercepted a pass along with sophomore Danny Taylor.
Kirk and Del Gallo caught touchdown passes. Del Gallo fought off a Rockville defender to pull in a 16-yard pass from McDonald.
“We were really excited (with the opportunity to win a championship),” McDonald said. “We have a really resilient group of seniors. I think it comes from us being so close.”
Avon started quickly. McDonald scored on Avon’s second offensive play of the game, racing around the left side and down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown run.
Rockville (1-7, 1-2 CCC Div. 3 East) marched to the Avon 24-yard line helped by two Falcon penalties. But the drive stalled when Bujwid intercepted Rams sophomore quarterback Justin Orlowski at the Avon 13 and returned it 20 yards.
A pair of 20-yard runs from Teddy Allmendinger put the ball on the Rockville 27. Two plays later, Del Gallo fought off a Rockville defender for the ball in the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown pass and a 14-0 lead with 4:34 lead in the first quarter.
The Falcons extended the lead to 21-0 on a 16-yard pass from McDonald to Kirk with 10:21 remaining in the second quarter. On Rockville’s next possession, Kirk slapped the ball out of the hands of the Rams’ running back and Bujwid scooped up the ball and ran 35 yards for a touchdown and a 27-0 lead.
Rockville got the ball back but McDonald leaped in front of an Avon defender and Rockville teammate for the interception and turned back up field with a 74-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 34-0 lead. It was the fourth longest interception return for a TD in team history.
The visiting Rams couldn’t pick up a first down on their next drive and on the punt, McDonald caught it, eluded a few defenders and scored on a 75-yard punt return for a 41-0 lead. It tied the 39-year-old team record set by Mike Frank, who had a 75-yard punt return for a TD against Wolcott High in September 1986.
NOTES: McDonald ran for a game-high 82 yards on eight carries. … It was the first-ever game between the two schools. … It was the second interception return for a TD this season for McDonald, who has scored a team-high 17 touchdowns. … Falcon kicker Alden Getz was 5-of-5 kicking extra points. The snap was bobbled on one try and a pass from holder Sean Del Gallo fell incomplete. … Bujwid had a second interception that was reversed due to an Avon penalty. The Falcons were called for 12 penalties for 123 yards. … All proceeds from ticket sales and concessions were donated to Wounded Warriors. The donation was nearly $1,500.
The Falcons finish the season with a home game against Plainville next Saturday at 1 p.m. at the high school for Senior Day. The final regular season contest is Tuesday, Nov. 24, under the lights in Simsbury at 6 p.m.
Avon is currently ranked No. 9 in the CIAC’s Class L playoff rankings. Notre Dame-West Haven (6-2) is at No. 8 with Torrington (7-1), Wethersfield (7-1) and Middletown (7-1) at No. 5, 6 and 7, respectively. The top eight earn a spot in the playoffs. If Avon can win its two remaining games and one of the four teams ahead of them lose a game, the Falcons could sneak in.
Avon 41, Rockville 12
Rockville (1-7) 0 0 6 6 — 12
Avon (6-2) 14 27 0 0 — 41
A: Ian McDonald 65 run (Alden Getz kick), 11:09
A: Sean Del Gallo 26 pass from McDonald (Getz kick), 4:34
A: Geoff Kirk 16 pass from McDonald (Getz kick), 10:21
A: Robert Bujwid 35 fumble return (pass fails), 9:21
A: McDonald 74 interception return (Getz kick), 6:39
A: McDonald 75 punt return (Getz kick), 4:20
R: Joshua Foster 1 run (run fails), 6:11
R: Jake Wilson 26 pass from Justin Orlowski (pass fails), 0:03
RUSHING: Avon – Tommy Donovan 1-5, Teddy Allmendinger 4-41, Dylan Burgos 2-2, Ian McDonald 8-82, Ryan Nolan 2-14; Rockville – Justin Orlowski 1-2, Joshua Foster 13-27, unknown (No. 40) 2-5, Ryan Main 19-62, Christian Perez 2-4, Chris Wheeler 3-14
PASSING: Avon – Ian McDonald 6-8-0, 120; Sean Del Gallo 0-1-0, Dylan Burgos 0-2-1, 0; Rockville – Justin Orlowski 7-15-3, 88, Christian Perez 1-1-0, 25
RECEIVING: Avon – Sean Del Galo 1-26, Robert Bujwid 1-32, Geoff Kirk 2-42, Leon Asberry 1-4, Ryan Ollstad 1-42; Rockville – Chris Wheeler 2-17, Colin Neal 1-9, Jake Wilson 4-102, jeQuon Hutchins 1-14
INTERCEPTIONS: Robert Bujwid (A) 1-20, Ian McDonald (A) 1-74, Danny Taylor (A) 1-20; Malik Tate (R) 1-20; FUMBLE REC: Bujwid (A) 1-35; RETURNS: McDonald (A) 1-75 (punt), Nick Baldwin (A) 1-0 kickoff, Ryan Ollestad (A) 1-0 kickoff; Jack Jones (A) 1-20 kickoff