AVON, September 22 – The first home game on the new synthetic turf at Avon High didn’t go as the Falcons planned on Saturday morning.
Visiting Tolland High came to town and dominated in a 36-0 victory in Central Connecticut Conference action. The Eagles frustrated the Falcons by allowing just 44 yards of offense, including just one yard of passing.
Tolland had 11 tackles for a loss in the game, blocked a punt and nearly blocked a second punt. On the offensive side of the ball, Tolland’s Ryan Carlson ran for four touchdowns and a game-high 104 yards.
“It was a tough ballgame,” Tolland head coach Scott Cady said. “It was one of those deals when you had to keep plugging and let the game come to you. That is what I was telling the boys. They were getting a little impatient. But this is how it is sometimes the game comes to you. Keep doing your job and we’ll be fine.”
Tolland (1-1, 1-0 CCC Div. III East) led 8-0 before adding one late score in the second quarter to extend their lead to 16-0. The Eagles really began to pick up steam late in the third quarter after Brady Gordon blocked a punt leading to touchdown.
Avon’s next possession wasn’t successful and the Eagles nearly blocked a punt out of the end zone by Avon’s Kevin Mullaj when the snap from center sailed over his head. Mullaj got the ball away but Carlson scored his fourth TD on the next play for a 30-0 lead.
The Falcons (0-2, 0-1 CCC Div. III East) were shutout for the second consecutive game. A week ago, Avon dropped a 54-0 decision to No. 8 Bloomfield but had some success moving the ball. This week, the Falcons were able to earn just three first downs on their own – all in the first half. Avon did earn some first downs due to Tolland penalties.
“It’s a lesson for me. I have to do a better job,” Avon head coach Jeff Redman said. “I am going to put this all on me, not the kids. I wanted more of a power game in there and we didn’t do that. We tried to get too cute. Defensively, we weren’t stopping the run up the middle.”
It was the first football game at Avon High on the long-awaited synthetic turf after 59 seasons of football on natural grass. A $2.99 million project to install a new eight-lane track and field facility and new turf field was approved by voters last December. Work began on the project in late April.
Work is still ongoing but enough has been completed for the school to safely host athletic contests on the field. The field hockey team played the first varsity contest on the new field on Sept. 12, beating Simsbury, 3-2. The Avon boys soccer and girls soccer teams have also played contests on the field, beating Bristol Central, 1-0, and East Hartford, 7-0, respectively.
On Saturday, Tolland took the lead with Carlson scoring from one yard away to cap off a seven-play, 65-yard drive. The big plays in the drive were runs of 26 and 10 yards by Carlson, who ran in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead with 4:06 left in the first quarter.
Tolland extended their lead to 16-0 when Carlson scored from 14 yards away with 52 seconds left in the second quarter. After getting called for holding on the two-point conversion, Eagle QB Aidan Clark completed a 13-yard conversion pass to Aidan D’Amato in the corner of the end zone.
Avon’s offense really struggled in the second half. “Defensively, that is what we think we are (as a team),” Cady said. “Anytime you get a 0 (shutout) you have to be happy with that.” It was just the second time that Tolland has shutout the Falcons. The first time came in 2016.
The Falcon defense did have their moments. Sean Nolan stole the ball right out of Carlson’s hands on the Avon five-yard line to stop a Tolland march with 2:45 left in the third quarter.
Avon started on their own 12-yard line after a seven-yard return by Nolan. But the Eagles sacked QB Tabor Engle for a six-yard loss and stopped Quandrell Stewart for a one-yard loss back to three-yard line.
Mullaj’s out of the end zone was blocked by Brady Gordon and the Eagles recovered on the two-yard line. Carlson scored and converted on a two-point conversion run for a 24-0 lead.
Avon’s deepest penetration came late in the fourth quarter when Arsh Moza recovered a muffed punt. Tolland’s Aidan D’Amato fumbled away a punt return and Moza recovered the ball on the Eagle 25-yard line. But the Falcons could only gain two yards before the game ended.
NOTES: It was the fourth straight win for Tolland over the Falcons. … In two games, Avon has given up 22 tackles for losses. … Cady, 55, is coaching despite suffering from cancer. Carlson began a Go-Fund-Me campaign in May to assist the Cady family with medical costs. The campaign has raised nearly $14,000. The Hartford Courant reported earlier this season that Cady is suffering from stage four peritoneal mesothelioma, a rare cancer which forms on the lining of the abdomen.
Avon returns to action on Saturday when they host Guilford (2-0) at 1 p.m. at the high school. It will be the first game between the two schools since 1990 when Avon prevailed, 27-25, the only meeting between the teams. Saturday’s contest is part of the Connecticut Football Alliance to provide competitive non-league contests to teams across the state. Eighty-four teams from five leagues will play 99 games this year.
Representatives from the Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC), Southwest Conference (SWC), FCIAC and Eastern Connecticut Conference (ECC) are participating in the alliance along with the CCC football teams.
Tolland 36, Avon 0
Tolland (1-1) 8 8 8 12 – 36
Avon (0-2) 0 0 0 0 — 0
T: Ryan Carlson (Carlson run), 4:06
T: Carlson 14 run (Aidan D’Amato pass from Aidan Clark), 0:52
T: Carlson 2 run (Carlson run), 0:46
T: Carlson 4 run (run fails), 10:24
T: Brady Gordon 14 pass from Clark (run fails), 8:28
RUSHING: Avon – Francesco Longo 9-32, Tabor Engle 4-7, Quandrell Stewart 6-minus 1, Chris Gens 3-5; Tolland – Ali Diaby 6-29, Ryan Carlson 17-104, Aidan Clark 2-19, Aidan D’Amato 1-3, Max Kuperschmid 1-5, Aaron Lange 2-4, Cylas Vega 1-1
PASSING: Avon – Tabor Engle 6-13-0, 1; Tolland – Aidan Clark 14-21-0, 175
RECEIVING: Avon – Quandrell Stewart 3-7, Francesco Longo 3-minus 6; Tolland – Aidan D’Amato 6-82, Ace Lumpris 3-45, Ryan Carlson 2-12, Ryan Jones 1-10, Brady Gordon 2-26
RETURNS: Stewart (A) 2-50 (kickoffs); Colby Nemarich (A) 1-0 (kickoff)
FUMBLE RECOVERY: Sean Nolan (A), Arsh Moza (A); BLOCKED PUNT: Brady Gordon (T); SACK: Aaron Lange (T) 1-6