‘Lopes win a close one against Brentwood

Avonworth safety Jim Zubik blows past a Brentwood defender on his way into the end zone after intercepting a pass in the second quarter of the ‘Lopes’ first section game of the year. Photo by Connie Rankin for The Citizen

Avonworth's first section game of the season against Brentwood went down to the wire, and the 'Lopes defense was asked to come up big late in the game.

"It was too close," head coach Jason Kekseo said after the game.

The 'Lopes were able to pull out a win, beating the Spartans 13-6 with a little help from some penalties, and improved to 3-0 on the year, 1-0 in section play.

"We are always judged by how we respond to adversity," Kekseo said. And respond they did. Brentwood started its final drive at Avonworth's 28-yard line, but penalties and the 'Lopes' defense prevented them from evening the score.

Tom Turnbull led the 'Lopes offensively, completing six passes on 12 attempts, and threw his second touchdown pass of the year. Ben Kramer had a 4-yard reception, which resulted in a touchdown. Jimmy Zubik ground out 58 yards on 11 carries. Chad Stewart, who is filling in for an injured Andrew Niklaus, grabbed three receptions and ended the day with 30 yards’ receiving. Ryan Schmid had 31 yards on two receptions.

The 'Lopes' defense scored the other touchdown on an interception that was taken all the way into the end zone by Zubik. Ed Kurtz finished the night with eight tackles and a fumble recovery. Kramer and Zubik added six tackles each. Andrew Puciata had five tackles on the night, and Schmid added another interception.

The Spartans caught Avonworth off guard, recovering an onside kick to start the game. Brentwood lost 50 yards on seven first quarter penalties. Neither team could reach the goal line.

Avonworth threatened to score early in the second quarter. Turnbull completed a 22-yard pass to Stewart, followed by a 27-yard run from Zubik. The 'Lopes had a first-and-10 from the Brentwood 14-yard line, but were unable to capitalize.

The first score of the game came on the Spartans’ ensuing possession. The Spartans quarterback threw a pass deep, down the middle of the field, on a third-and-9. That pass was intercepted by Zubik, who took the ball to the far sidelines and then cut back, beating a number of Spartan defenders in a foot race into the end zone. Houston Hunt added the extra point, and the score stood 7-0 with 7:59 left to play in the second quarter.

The rest of the half was a tug of war match for field position, with the Spartans edging out the 'Lopes just before half-time, but Avonworth's defense stood tall. Brentwood had a first-and-10 on Avonworth's 14-yard line with less than a minute to go when Schmid picked off a Spartan pass in the end zone.

The teams went into the locker rooms for half time with the 'Lopes beating Brentwood 7-0.

Kurtz ended the Spartans’ opening drive of the second half, recovering a fumble after a hard hit on the quarterback by Matt Mamich.

Avonworth took over possession on Brentwood's 34-yard line. After driving all the way down to the 4-yard line, Turnbull connected with Kramer for the touchdown. The point-after was no good, putting the 'Lopes up 13-0 with 9:29 left in the third quarter.

Brentwood's only score in the game came much later, after a long drive that consumed nearly seven minutes of the game clock. The Spartans were able to punch it into the end zone on a third-and-goal from Avonworth's 1-yard line. The score stood at 13-6 with 6:20 left in the game.

The 'Lopes went three-and-out, and Zubik's punt was returned all the way to Avonworth’s own 28-yard line, giving Brentwood great field position and a chance to even things up with four minutes left to play.

The Spartans had a second-and-10 from Avonworth's 15-yard line when A.J. Mang sacked the quarterback for a loss of seven yards. The problems for Brentwood did not end there. On the next play, a pass interference penalty against the Spartans pushed the ball all the way back to Avonworth's 37-yard line and gave them a loss of down.

With less than two minutes left, Brentwood faced a fourth-and-30. In a last-ditch effort, the Spartan quarterback hurled the ball into the end zone, but the pass was broken up by Schmid, ending Brentwood's hopes of tying the game.

The 'Lopes leap to Wilkinsburg tonight to face the Tigers at 7:30 p.m.

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