‘Lopes win again, hold off Neshannock

After what Avonworth varsity football head coach Jason Kekseo called a "great week of practice," the 'Lopes found themselves in a back-and fourth-battle last week against the Neshannock Lancers.

The first half of the non-section game was close. It wasn't until late in the third quarter that the 'Lopes took control of the game.

Avonworth did, however, win its first away game of the season 34-19, advancing to 2-0 overall on the year.

Quarterback Tom Turnbull had a great game, completing 10 passes on 15 attempts, picking up 143 yards and a touchdown through the air, and rushing for another. Jimmy Zubik had another steller performance, adding a total of three touchdowns and 93 yards on 19 carries. Chad Stewart had three receptions for 53 yards. Wide receiver Ryan Schmid added three receptions for 35 yards.

Defensively, the 'Lopes were led by Eddie Kurtz, who had seven tackles and recovered a fumble for a touchdown. Ben Kramer had seven tackles and two sacks. Schmid, Andrew Niklaus and Zubik added one interception each. Andrew Puciata had five tackles and a fumble recovery.

It did not take long for the 'Lopes offense to warm up, as they scored on their second drive of the game following Niklaus' interception. The interception ended the Lancers’ opening drive and gave Avonworth great field position.

The 'Lopes started out on Neshannock's 19-yard line. The drive did not seem to be going anywhere and Avonworth was faced with a fourth-and-10 when Turnbull completed a 13-yard pass to Schmid. The completion extended the drive and gave Avonworth a first-and-goal on the 6-yard line. Zubik picked up one yard on a hand-off up the middle on first down.

A face masking penalty on the Lancers on the next play gave Avonworth a new set of downs from the 3-yard line. The 'Lopes capitalized on the mistake, with Zubik taking a hand-off to the left side of the offensive line and in for the score. First-year kicker Houston Hunt could not add the extra point, making the score 6-0 with 4:39 left in the first quarter.

Neshannock's next drive did not last long. After two running plays that picked up a first down, the Lancers had the ball on their own 47-yard line. On the third play of the drive, the 'Lopes’ defense forced a fumble. Kurtz picked up the bouncing ball and took it all the way into the end zone. This time Hunt split the uprights on the extra point, and the 'Lopes led 13-0 with 3:28 left in the first quarter.

The Lancers’ next drive ended with a touchdown. The 'Lopes’ defense had a chance to end the drive early, but an encroachment penalty on a fourth-and-1 gave the Lancers an automatic first down, extending the drive.

On the opening play of the second quarter, Neshannock trimmed the lead to seven on a 28-yard pass to a wide open receiver in the middle of the field. The extra point was no good, and the score remained 13-6 with 11:54 left in the second quarter.

Avonworth responded with a touchdown drive of their own, with Turnbull leading the 'Lopes down the field with his arm. Turnbull went a perfect four-for-four on the drive, completing passes to four different targets. Zack Wasko opened the drive with a 5-yard reception from Turnbull. Zubik was able to pick up a first down on two consecutive runs. On first and 10, Turnbull completed a 12-yard pass to Kramer, moving the ball into Neshannock territory.

A false start on the next play moved the 'Lopes back five yards, but that didn't slow down Turnbull. On a first-and-15 he hooked up with Chad Stewart, who made a terrific grab near the sidelines for a 22-yard completion.

After two more runs, Avonworth was faced with a third-and-9 and again the 'Lopes came up big. Schmid did a great job of going up and grabbing the ball on a 10-yard reception from Turnbull. The catch gave Avonworth a first down on the Lancer 12-yard line.

On the next play Zubik took a pitch to the left side, cutting back to the middle, getting into the end zone on a 12-yard run for his second touchdown of the day. Hunt added the extra point, making the score 20-6 with 7:12 left in the half.

And again Neshannock was able to answer the 'Lopes’ touchdown with one of their own. The Lancers started out at their own 30-yard line, but were able to drive all the way to the Avonworth 18-yard line before getting into the end zone. The Lancers’ quarterback faked a hand-off and kept the ball himself on an 18-yard touchdown run. The extra point was good and again Avonworth's lead was down to seven with 3:59 left in the second quarter. The teams went to the locker room for half-time with the score 20-13 in favor of Avonworth.

Neshannock fumbled on their first play from scrimmage in the second half. Avonworth recovered the fumble, but Turnbull threw his first interception of the year to turn the ball back over to the Lancers.

The Lancers completed a 48-yard touchdown pass with 6:59 left in the third quarter, cutting the 'Lopes’ lead to one. The extra point was blocked and the score stood at 20-19. It would be the last time Neshannock would score in the game.

On the ensuing kick-off, Zubik returned the ball to Lancer 25-yard line, but fumbled, turning the ball over to Neshannock. The Lancers could not capitalize though, and were forced to punt. After another good return by Zubik, Turnbull connected with Stewart for 23-yards, which gave the 'Lopes a first down at Neshannock's 11-yard line.

Facing a third-and-6 on the 7-yard line, Turnbull rolled out to his left side and kept the ball himself, running it into the end zone. The extra point was good and the score stood 27-19 with 1:17 left in the third quarter.

Puciata recovered a fumble on the Lancers next drive, giving the Antelope offense a chance to seal the deal.

Turnbull completed a 23-yard touchdown pass, his first of the year, to Zubik on a screen play. Hunt added the extra point and, with 10:31 to go in the fourth, Avonworth led 34-19.

The 'Lopes’ defense went into lock-down mode for the rest of the game. Schmid and Zubik both added interceptions along the way to the 'Lopes’ second win of the year.

Kekseo said after the game that he took pride in the level of senior leadership on the team, noting that this year's seniors are picking up where last year's left off.

The 'Lopes play in their first section game tonight against Brentwood at Lenzner Field.

"It's time to focus on the conference," Kekseo said.

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