’Lopes lose close one to Serra

Avonworth’s Ryan Felter (No. 73) brings down an Eagle, while Dmitri Bocchino (No. 19) runs in to provide assistance during a disappointing loss by the Antelopes last Friday night.The ‘Lopes led through the first half, only to see their lead slip away. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

By JIM RUMBLE

It was a tale of two halves when the Avonworth Antelopes football team played a conference game at Serra Catholic last Friday.

After securing a 10-0 lead at the half, the 'Lopes were bogged down on offense in the second half as the Eagles came from behind to steal a 16-10 victory. It was a game that seemed destined for the win column for Avonworth, but ended up being their second consecutive loss in as many weeks to fall to 1-2 in the conference.

"Their quarterback made some unbelievable plays scrambling around and finding receivers, " said coach Duke Johncour. "He had an incredible second half and that was the difference in this game."

Avonworth began the game on offense, but it was Serra Catholic who had the best chance to get on the scoreboard early after a short punt by the Antelopes on fourth down put the Eagles’ offense at the Avonworth 35. Serra Catholic completed a couple of passes to reach the Avonworth seven yard line, but a low snap from center in the shotgun formation caused the Eagles to lose yardage back to 18.

Serra Catholic was facing a fourth down and goal from the Avonworth 14, but a high snap from center botched a field goal attempt from 31 yards out.

The teams traded possessions twice more before the Antelopes obtained good field position for their offense on their 45 yard line. Avonworth lost yardage on a first down run, but quarterback Derek Johncour completed a pass on the next play to Turner Grau that picked up 28 yards to the Serra 32. Johncour then scrambled for a short gain, but a personal foul penalty was added to the play when Johncour was hit out of bounds to put the ball at the Eagles’ 13. J.J. Igims carried the ball on two consecutive plays, picking up 12 yards and finishing up the drive with a one-yard touchdown run. Jason Novosel added the extra point kick, and the Antelopes went ahead 7-0 with 10:42 left in the second quarter.

A sack by Ryan Felter with a personal foul penalty tacked on against Serra forced the Eagles to punt the ball away on fourth down to end a short possession.

Avonworth's next drive started in great position at the Serra 37 and produced two first downs with a combination of Igims runs and pass receptions by Grau, but the possession stalled at the Eagles 21 yard line. Novosel entered the game with the 'Lopes facing a fourth down and 20, and he booted a 38 yard field goal to extend Avonworth's lead to 10-0 with 5:28 left in the second quarter.

A combined sack by the Antelopes’ defense forced the Eagles to end their possession with a punt that was short, and Avonworth was again in good position to start their offense from the Serra 49 yard line. The 'Lopes moved the ball with Johncour completing passes to Brennan Neidhart for 14 yards and Alex Osborn for 31 yards to the Eagles’ 4. A run by Igims lost a yard on first down, but the drive ended with three incomplete passes that would soon send the teams to the half with the Antelopes maintaining a 10-0 lead.

Serra got a spark from their special teams to start the third quarter when they returned the kick 72 yards to begin on offense at the Avonworth 27. The big play of the drive was a 21 yard pass completion, but the nine-play possession ended with a 26 yard field goal that cut the 'Lopes’ lead to 10-3 with 8:06 on the clock in the third quarter.

Avonworth went three and out on their next possession before Serra moved 77 yards in seven plays for a touchdown. The big play for the Eagles was a quarterback scramble that resulted in a 32-yard TD pass, and with the conversion on the extra point kick the teams were tied at 10-10 with 4:02 left in the third quarter.

Avonworth couldn't move the ball on their ensuing possession, but they were able to dodge a bullet when Ethan Syam ended a long drive by Serra with an interception in the end zone that kept the teams at 10-10 early in the fourth quarter.

Serra was turned away once again after another long drive that began at their 30 and ended with a fourth down sack by Igims inside the Avonworth 10.

Drew Harper ended another Eagle possession with an interception, but a pass by Johncour was intercepted two plays later, which helped set up the winning score. That would come two plays later on a 39-yard TD pass caught behind the Avonworth defense in the end zone to hand the Antelopes a 16-10 loss.

"That's one we should have won but we let it slip by," said Johncour.