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No change in plans. Avon hopes to keep on running the ball

Avon hopes to keep on running the football this season under first-year head coach Brendan Smith.

AVON – A year ago, the Avon High football team had their first winning season since 2015 after four consecutive losing seasons. Last fall, the Falcons (7-4, 6-0 CCC Tier 4) won the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) Tier 4 championship for their first pennant since 2015 and earned their first playoff berth since 2012.

Avon’s reward? Reassignment to CCC Tier 3 and additional games with bigger schools.

It doesn’t bother Avon’s Cole Milardo. According to first-year head coach Brendan Smith, Milaro said, “We’re playing real football towns now. We take it as a challenge.”

Avon has just three starters returning on offense and four on defense from last year’s championship team. But the Falcons are looking forward to the season.

“There are some real talented and physical teams on our schedule but we’re up to see what we’ve got,” Smith said. “They see it as a challenge. They just want to do what we do no matter what color jersey they are wearing.”

Avon opens the season on Friday at home against Class S finalist Bloomfield, the defending CCC Tier 3 champion who has won five CCC divisional titles in the last six seasons. The Falcons will face Berlin, which won four consecutive CCC divisional titles from 2016-19 and will challenge Platt for the first time since 1991.

Avon will play Stratford from the Southwest Conference as part of the Connecticut Football Alliance and will face Bristol Eastern for the first time in program history. The Falcons continue facing Farmington, their long-time and larger rival, in week two.

“We’re just excited,” Smith said. “Last year felt like a dream. We had a rough start but you blinked an eye and we’re playing in a playoff game.”

The start of the season was delayed three weeks last year due to COVID infections amongst the team. Once it began, Avon ran their single-wing offense to seven wins and into the Class M playoffs where they dropped a one-point decision to Branford, 7-6.

Quarterback Tabor Engle ran for 1,769 yards and 18 TDs on 272 carries, the fourth-highest rushing total in a single season in team history. Cameron Dawiczyk ran for 520 yards and four TDs on 112 carries.

“Our No. 1 goal is to maintain (what we established) last year,” Smith said. “We set a standard of what we want the program to look like on and off the field. Maintaining and upholding that standard as a core value will be a big thing (for us).”

All-CCC Tier 4 player Connor Lavore will be the primary ballcarrier this season for the Falcons while Mason Eckerlin and Milardo will be the secondary ballcarriers and lead blockers. Those are the three starters returning on offense.

On defense, it is Lavore at defensive end, Eckerlin at safety, Christian Wilson at defensive end and Andrew Sileski at linebacker who return as starters. Wilson was an All-CCC Tier 4 All-Star selection.

Most players will be playing on both sides of the ball.

Junior Tyler Andrews (guard/inside linebacker) and senior wingback Tanner Cote have looked sharp in preseason workouts.

“The defense takes pride on getting to the ball and tackling and the offense will do what we do, pound the rock,” Smith said.

A year ago, long-time coach Jeff Redman, who resigned last spring, wore a baseball cap on the sideline with a simple message – just run the damn ball. Smith isn’t looking to change the philosophy.

Avon High
Head coach: Brendan Smith, first year
Last season:
 7-3, 6-0 CCC Tier 4 champions
Last winning season: 7-3 in 2021
Playoff appearances: 
4, (0-4)
Last CIAC playoff appearance:
League championships: 17. Most recent title: 2021 CCC Tier 4
Opening day record: 31-30. Last win: 2021, Avon 20, N.W. Catholic 15
Social media: Twitter — @AHS_Falcons
Team website: none
Of note: This will be the 62nd season of varsity football at Avon High. … Last season, long-time coach Jeff Redman achieved some firsts in his coaching career. It was the first league championship as a head coach and his first playoff berth. … While running was the preferred method to move the ball last season, QB Tabor Engle did complete 18 of 55 passes for 312 yards and two TDs.  … Smith has been on the Avon High coaching staff for five years and is a Business teacher at Avon High. As it was a year ago, Matthew Redman, jeff’s son, will be the defensive coordinator.

Avon 2022 schedule
Friday, Sept. 9: Bloomfield, 6 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 16: @Farmington, 6 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 25: Stratford, 6 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 30: Bristol Eastern, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 7: @Platt High, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 21: @N.W. Catholic, time TBA
Friday, Oct. 28: @Berlin, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 4: Plainville, 6 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 11: RHAM, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 22: @Lewis Mills, 6 p.m.

2022 Central Connecticut Conference divisions (football)
Tier 1 (8 teams): Conard, East Hartford, Glastonbury, Hall, Maloney, Newington, Simsbury, Southington. Defending champions: Hall and Maloney 6-1
Tier 2 (8 teams): Bristol Central, Enfield, Middletown, New Britain, Platt, South Windsor, Wethersfield, Windsor. Defending champion: Windsor 7-0
Tier 3 (8 teams): Avon, Berlin, Bloomfield, Bristol Eastern, Farmington, Manchester, Plainville, RHAM. Defending champion: Bloomfield 7-0
Tier 4 (7 teams): East Catholic, E.O. Smith, Hartford Public, Lewis Mills, Northwest Catholic, Rocky Hill, Tolland. Defending champion: Avon 6-0

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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