AVON – The final home game of the regular season is usually Senior Day – an opportunity to recognize the seniors who have been leading your team throughout the season.
Avon recognized 12 seniors before Saturday’s game with Cromwell. And those 12 seniors and their Falcon teammates rolled over an undermanned Panther squad in a 44-14 decision.
It was Avon’s seventh victory of the season and the Falcons (7-3) can finish the campaign with eight victories if they beat Ellington/Somers Saturday afternoon on the road. Compared with the previous six seasons that included a pair of 10-0 efforts and a pair of nine win seasons, it might seem like a disappointment.
But, here is a little perspective. Before the previous six years, Avon had played football for 47 years and in that span, they won eight games only four times. They won seven games only eight times.
And let’s look back at Avon’s three defeats this season. They lost to Canton, 16-13, on a touchdown on the final play of the game. Avon scored a touchdown on the final play against Gilbert/Northwestern and went for the win but the Yellowjackets stopped a two-point conversion attempt in a 34-33 decision.
“I’m so proud of this team and these seniors,” Avon’s first-year coach Jim Caouette said. “These kids play for 48 minutes and they never quit. They came in here and took care of business (against Cromwell). I’m very proud of our kids and our coaching staff.”
Cromwell (4-5) is a young team with just three seniors. But they do have some speedy athletes. Avon never let them in the game, scoring 28 points in the first quarter and 44 points in the first half.
Avon’s seniors led the way. All-State linebacker and running back Jimmy Murphy continued to make amazing plays – as he has all season. Murphy scored a career-high four touchdowns. He ran for three and caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Noah Hahn.
On the play, Hahn scrambled and was surrounded by three Cromwell defenders. He flipped the ball to Murphy, who took off down the left sideline toward the end zone. A Cromwell defender slipped near the goal line but it didn’t faze Murphy, who hurdled over the defender and into the end zone.
Murphy, who ran for a game-high 160 yards on eight carries, has scored a team-leading 23 touchdowns this season.
Hahn had another excellent game at quarterback. He completed 7-of-7 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns. One touchdown was a 75-yard completion down to fellow senior Justin Reichler, who briefly juggled the ball before pulling it in and racing down the left sideline for his seventh TD reception of the season.
Only two other players in school history have caught more than 7 TD receptions in a season. Hahn has thrown 22 touchdown passes this season, by far, the most ever in a single season at Avon. The previous record was 12 by David Wyrick in 2007.
Senior running back Stephen Griffin scored a five-yard touchdown against the Panthers while senior kicker John Burdick set a new school record by hitting six extra points in one game. Senior Avik Vimal had an interception while Devin Macko caught three passes for 66 yards. Dylan Marquis caught one pass and made some key blocks along with senior linemen Tim O’Brien, Nick Zacchio and Stephen DelGallo.
Because Avon had such a big lead at halftime, the second half was played with a running clock and senior running back Jackson Putnam took some big hits but he didn’t cough up the ball.
Cromwell has lost four straight games. The loss of sophomore quarterback Mavric Pelletier, who threw for over 1,200 yards and eight TD passes in the first six games, on the first series to a twisted ankle didn’t help. Neither did the suspension of nine players, including six seniors, four games ago.
“We have a ton of freshmen and sophomores out there and we’re very young,” Cromwell coach Chris Eckert said. “The future is bright.”
On Avon’s first possession of the game, a 47-yard run from Murphy took the ball to the Cromwell three and Murphy scored on the next play for a 7-0 Avon lead. The Falcons drove 81 yards on 10 plays to take a 14-0 lead on a four-yard from Murphy. The key play was a 12-yard completion to Reichler from Hahn on fourth down and five to keep the drive alive.
Avon scored a safety when Cromwell snapped the ball out of the end zone on a punt and extended its lead to 23-0 with 1:45 left in the first quarter on a 35-yard touchdown run by Murphy.
On its next drive, Murphy scored on a 15-yard reception from Hahn, leaping over a defender at the goal line for a 30-0 lead. Murphy had a 28-yard run on the drive while Hahn had a 13-yard scramble.
Reichler recovered a Cromwell fumble on the Panther five-yard line with 9:38 left in the second quarter. Griffin scored from the five for a 37-0 lead.
Reichler’s 75-yard touchdown reception with one minute left in the second quarter extended the lead to 44-0.
Avon played its second team for most of the second half to help manage the score. Coaches can be suspended for a game if they violate the CIAC’s score management policy, which includes winning games by 50 points or more.
On its first drive of the third quarter, Avon drove to the Cromwell 4 on a 31-yard completion from Dom DeBardino to Devin Macko. But Avon intentionally took losses on the next four plays and turned it over on downs.
Cromwell scored a pair of touchdowns in the second half, led by Jarius Bailey, who ran for 139 yards on 14 carries. He ran for 101 yards in the second half.
Avon 44, Cromwell 14
Cromwell (4-5) 0 0 8 6 — 14
Avon (7-3) 23 21 0 0 — 44
A: Jimmy Murphy 3 run (John Burdick kick), 9:19
A: Murphy 4 run (Burdick kick), 4:22
A: Safety. Ball snapped out of end zone on punt, 3:21
A: Murphy 35 run (Burdick kick), 1:45
A: Murphy 15 pass from Noah Hahn (Burdick kick), 10:55
A: Stephen Griffin 5 run (Burdick kick), 9:27
A: Justin Reichler 75 pass from Hahn (Burdick kick), 1:00
C: Nelson Carlson 37 run (Kristian Sapp run), 1:35
C: Jarius Bailey 2 run (kick fails), 1:46
RUSHING: Avon – Noah Hahn 6-48, Devin Macko 1-minus 3, Stephen Griffin 2-15, Jackson Putnam 4-1, Dom DeBardino 1-minus 1, Jimmy Murphy 8-160; Cromwell – Mavric Pelletier 1-2, Kristian Sapp 9-32, Jon Siena 1-4, Jarius Bailey 14-139, Emir Cirikovic 1-minus 17, Alex Hinkle 2-17, Nelson Carlson 7-52
PASSING: Avon – Noah Hahn 7-7-0, 153; Cromwell: Mavric Pelletier 1-3-0, 7; Bailey 1-2-0, 1; Cirikovic 3-6-0, 9, Maciej Dawidowski 0-1-1, 0
RECEIVING: Avon – Stephen Griffin 1-7, Dylan Marquis 1-9, Justin Reichler 2-87, Jimmy Murphy 1-15, Devin Macko 3-66; Cromwell – Cirikovic 1-7, Bailey 1-0, Antwaun Burney 2-9, Cole Bradley 1-0
Kickoff returns – Murphy (A) 1-14, Reichler (A) 1-21; Burney (C) 1-12, Carlson (C) 1-16; Punt returns – Murphy (A) 1-14, Teddy Allmendinger (A) 1-15
Fumble recovery – Allmendinger (A), Reichler (A); Interception – Avik Vimal (A) 1-5