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Farmington stops Avon to snap losing streak and earn first win since 2019

The River Hawks celebrate after recovering a fumble in the first quarter of Friday night’s CCC Tier 3 win over Avon .Farmington’s Gavin Driver (54) recovered the fumble. More game photos

FARMINGTON, Sept. 16, 2022 – It had been three years since the Farmington High football team had tasted the sweet nectar of victory.

It was November of 2019 when the team – then called the Indians – shutout RHAM, 47-0. Virtually no one on this year’s edition of the River Hawks was on the varsity team on that day against RHAM.

There was the COVID-19 pandemic that wiped out the 2020 season. A year ago, the River Hawks struggled with a young team, losing all 10 games and giving up a program-record 407 points. A week ago, Farmington faded in the second half in a loss to South Windsor.

On Friday night, things came together for Farmington. Luke Watson scored three touchdowns, running for a pair and scoring on a 55-yard pass play as the River Hawks snapped a 12-game losing streak with a 30-8 win over neighbor Avon in a Central Connecticut Conference Tier III victory at George Bennett Field.

When it was over, the players celebrated on the field and ran to the fence surrounding the field to celebrate with their classmates who raced to celebrate with them only to be stopped by the fence.

“It’s been a long time coming for this group,” Watson said. “It feels great.”

Farmington head coach Chris Machol had a big smile on this face. The 12-game losing streak was creeping dangerously close to the school record of 14. Now, it is out of his mind for good.

“The hardest part is (getting) that first one,” he said. “It’s hard to learn about winning without winning (games). Now, they understand what it takes. We were in a game for a half (last week against South Windsor). This week, we finished.

The River Hawks were outscored 24-6 in the second half of a 45-23 loss to South Windsor a week ago.

Luke Watson scored three touchdowns in Friday night’s win over Avon at George Bennett Field. More game photos

This week, Farmington had two turnovers and gave up a long 57-yard touchdown run to Avon’s Nik Meltser in the second half but had control of the game for most of the contest.

“The senior class, we’ve been at the lowest points and now we’re on top of the mountain,” Watson said. “It is really about sticking together and being together for each other. We’ve put in all that work in the off season. When you see someone’s head down, you pick them up.”

Avon High coach Brendan Smith hopes his team comes together as well. The Falcons were disappointed about giving up big plays to the River Hawks.

“This is when the culture matters the most, when things are down,” he said. “You stick together. You’re a family. You love each other. We’ll fix the mistakes and get eight more (games).”

Farmington (1-1) looked sharp early with quarterback Kevin Ives completing his first seven passes for 184 passes and a touchdown. In the opening drive of the game for the River Hawks, Ives had completions of 23 yards and 33 yards to Thomas Keough. Watson capped off the eight-play, 84-yard march with a one-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead after Jacob Skinner’s extra point.

On Avon’s second drive of the day, the Falcons grinded out a nine-play drive that left them three yards short of a first down at their own 49 yard line. The Farmington defense was stout and gave up two yards and took over on downs.

The River Hawks gave up a six-yard sack to Avon sophomore John Murphy on the first play. But on the next play, Ives threw a short screen pass to Watson, who weaved his way down the field for a 55-yard touchdown reception and a 14-0 lead.

Avon’s Chris Flickinger (74) and Andrew Sielski (7) try to open up some running room for teammate Tanner Cote (8) in Friday’s CCC Tier 3 game in Farmington. More game photos

Farmington forced Avon to punt from their end zone and Bryan Laduke blocked the punt, which resulted in a safety and a 16-0 lead.

Late in the second quarter, Meltser broke through the River Hawk defensive line and was off to the races with a 57-yard touchdown run. A two-point conversion run from Connor Lavore cut the lead to eight, 16-8 with 2:31 left in the first half.

But Farmington responded immediately. A nine-yard run from Watson, a 17-yard pass reception to Keough and a 19-yard reception to Kiniry Griffin put the Hawks on the Avon 26-yard line.

After an incompletion, Ives found Jahkai Veal with a short little pass that Veal grabbed and weaved his way through the Falcon defense and into the end zone for a touchdown and a 23-8 lead with 38.3 seconds left in the second quarter.

Ives finished the day by completing 12-of-18 passes for 242 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Keough caught six passes for 109 yards.

Watson rambled for 85 yards on 12 carries, including a 62-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

For Avon (0-2), Lavore led all rushers with 133 yards on 22 carries. Meltser ran for a career-high 70 yards on nine carries. Murphy had a sack and fumble recovery for Avon while teammate Tanner Cote had an interception.

Both teams resume play next week in the Connecticut Football Alliance with out-of-conference games. The Falcons will host Stratford on Friday night when Farmington travels to Southbury to face the Pomperaug High Panthers.

Farmington 30, Avon 8

At Farmington
Avon (0-2)                     0   8  0  0  — 8
Farmington (1-1)          7  16  7  0  — 30
First quarter
F: Luke Watson 1 run (Jacob Skinner kick), 7:26
Second quarter
F: Watson 55 pass from Kevin Ives (Skinner kick), 7:21
F: Safety: Defender tackled in end zone after blocked punt, 5:17
A: Nik Meltser 57 run (Connor Lavore run), 2:31
F: Jahkai Veal 26 pass from Ives (Skinner kick), 0:38
Third quarter
F: Watson 62 run (Skinner kick) 1:33
Individual statistics
RUSHING: Farmington – Luke Watson 12-85, Kevin Ives 5-39, team 2-minus 25; Avon – Cole Milardo 2-6, Nik Meltser 9-70, Connor Lavore 22-133, Tanner Cote 9-14, David Minami 2-5
PASSING: Farmington – Kevin Ives 12-18-1, 242; Avon – David Minami 1-2-1, 5; Connor Lavore 0-2
RECEIVING: Farmington – Kiniry Griffin 3-36, Thomas Keough 6-109, Jahkai Veal 2-32, Luke Watson 1-55; Avon – Tanner Cote 1-5
FUMBLE REC: Gavin Driver (F), John Murphy (A); INTERCEPTION: Tanner Cote (A), Cody DeGrandi (F); SACK: Murphy (A) 1-6; KICKOFF RETURNS: Meltser (A) 1-20, Cote (A) 1-17, Lavore (A) 1-12, Watson (F) 2-20

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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