Antelopes gamble and lose to conference leader

By JIM RUMBLE

It was a knock-down, drag-out affair when the Avonworth Antelopes football team went on the road to play conference leader East Allegheny last Friday. The Antelopes had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, but went for the upset and failed to convert on the two-point try as they fell to the Wildcats 14-13.

"We were just one play away," said coach Duke Johncour. "It was a great football game."

Quarterback Derek Johncour and wide receiver Turner Grau put up some fantastic numbers despite the loss. Johncour was 15-29 passing for 266 yards and two touchdowns. Grau was on the receiving end of both TD passes with nine catches for 217 yards.

The loss dropped the 'Lopes record to 2-3 in the conference and 2-4 overall.

Avonworth began the game on offense and had a rough start with a couple of issues handling the ball on consecutive plays that lost yardage to force a punt on fourth down. But the Antelopes set the tone early on defense, forcing the first of five turnovers on the ensuing possession by the Wildcats with a fumble that was recovered by defensive back Andy Tedesco. Avonworth picked up a couple of first downs with catches by Grau and Brennan Neidhart, but the drive stalled.

East Allegheny took advantage of a screen pass play that covered 60 yards to move deep into Antelope territory, but the drive came to a halt when Neidhart made a big play defensively, forcing an incompletion on fourth down.

Avonworth went three and out on their next possession and a short punt on fourth down gave the Wildcats possession on their 47 yard line. East Allegheny would take advantage of the short field starting with a pass completion of 22 yards to the Avonworth 31. On the next play the Wildcats struck with a 31 yard TD pass and converted on the extra point kick to lead 7-0 with :06 left on the clock in the first quarter.

The Antelopes defense came up huge once again after East Allegheny moved the ball inside the Avonworth 10 yard line. The Wildcats moved backwards with two consecutive penalties, but the big play came on third down and goal to go when Jake Horigan delivered a big hit following a pass completion to cause a fumble which was recovered by Alex Ifft.

The 'Lopes moved from their three yard line mixing in runs by Jax Miller and a couple of big catches by Grau to get deep into East Allegheny territory. The drive would end unfortunately when Jason Novosel's field goal attempt was blocked from 37 yards out.

Drew Harper followed with an interception with time winding down that would send the teams to halftime with the 'Lopes trailing 7-0.

Both teams turned the ball over in the third quarter, but Avonworth had the best opportunity when a punt blocked by J.J. Igims gave Avonworth the ball at the East Allegheny 12. That possession ended when Johncour's pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted.

Avonworth finally got on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter after taking over possession of the ball on downs at the Wildcats 41. Johncour threw the ball down the right side line on first down and Grau went up and made the catch to complete a 59 yard touchdown. Novosel's kick followed, to tie the teams at 7-7 with 7:25 remaining in the game.

East Allegheny consumed over six minutes on the next drive that moved 65 yards in 10 plays ending with a 7 yard TD pass followed by the extra point kick to reclaim the lead 14-7.

With 1:18 left on the clock, Avonworth started on offense from their 40 with pass completions to Harper and Neidhart to reach the East Allegheny 40. Johncour followed with three straight pass completions to Grau including an 18 yard touchdown pass with :21 left on the clock. The 'Lopes were intent on going for the two points for the win and called two consecutive time-outs, but the conversion failed when Johncour was sacked while rolling out to his right side.

East Allegheny recovered Avonworth's on-side kick attempt to preserve their 14-13 win.