Antelopes begin playoff action

Avonworth’s Jax Miller returns a kick-off 87 yards to make the Antelopes the only team to have led conference leader Shady Side all season. Shady Side came to life in the second half to win the game. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

By JIM RUMBLE

The Avonworth Antelopes football team will be looking to break a two-game losing streak when they play at Freedom in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs tonight at 7:30 p.m.

The 'Lopes had their sights set on knocking off undefeated conference leader Shady Side Academy when the teams met at home last Friday. After leading early in the second half, something no other team has done all season against the Indians, the 'Lopes just couldn't maintain the upper hand.

Shady Side quarterback Skyy Moore gave the Avonworth defense fits, rushing 27 times for 336 yards and four touchdowns as the 'Lopes fell in defeat 28-10.
"He's a special athlete, and when you have a special athlete you put the ball in his hands," said Antelopes coach Duke Johncour.

Avonworth had their opportunities, but for the most part were not able to sustain anything offensively. “They [Shady Side] were good defensively, had a nice game plan. We didn't make the plays we needed to make to win," said Johncour.

The Indians racked up 491 total yards of offense to 147 yards for the Antelopes, their lowest output for the season.

Both teams were forced to punt the ball away on their first offensive possessions, then Shady Side began their second drive from their 14 yard line. The Indians were facing a third down and short when Moore carried the ball on a 78-yard jaunt to the endzone. Shady Side converted the two-point try with a pass reception to take an 8-0 lead with 4:40 left in the opening quarter.

Avonworth couldn't get anything going on the ensuing possession, which began at their 45 yard line. The 'Lopes gambled on fourth and one as quarterback Derek Johncour ran but came up short and that allowed Shady Side to take over on offense at their 46.
Moore had runs of 21 and 16 yards, but the drive ended with a missed field goal from 29 yards out with :12 left in the first quarter.

The next drive by the Antelopes consumed nearly six minutes of the second quarter, but the teams combined for six penalties on that possession, which ended with a punt on fourth down.

The Indians began on offense from their 16 and completed a pass on first down, but a big hit delivered by the 'Lope defense caused a fumble that was recovered by Jax Miller at the Shady Side 40.

Avonworth was able to get down to the Shady Side 16 yard line, and the 11-play drive ended with Jason Novosel's 32-yard field goal, which would send the teams to the half with the 'Lopes trailing 8-3.

The Antelopes bounded into the lead to start the third quarter when Miller returned the second half kick-off 87 yards for a touchdown. Novosel's kick followed to give Avonworth a 10-8 lead.

The Indians responded with Moore running the ball six straight times to complete the 63-yard drive with a three-yard TD run. A pass on the two-point try fell incomplete, but Shady Side reclaimed the lead 14-10 with 9:08 left in the third quarter.

Avonworth went three-and-out on their next possession, and it was at this point that Shady Side took command. The Indians capped a 97-yard drive as Moore raced 37 yards for a touchdown, and with the extra point Shady Side led 20-10 with 3:29 remaining in the third quarter.

Shady Side added another touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a 34-yard run by Moore that helped secure their 28-10 win.

[Editor's Note: The Antelopes' playoff journey was short-lived, as they lost their first round game against Freedom Friday night, Nov. 2. Full story in the Nov. 9 issue of The Citizen.]