Antelopes lose momentum against Shady Side

Avonworth’s Jax Miller leaps into the end zone during last Friday’s tough loss to Shady Side. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

By JIM RUMBLE

With two quick scores moving the Avonworth Antelopes football team to an 11-point lead at the half, it seemed as though the team was about to end their two-game slide when they hosted the Shady Side Indians in a non-conference game last Friday. The momentum changed quickly, though, in the second half, where the Indians scored four touchdowns on their way to defeating the 'Lopes 37-28.

"We didn't make the plays we needed to win," said coach Duke Johncour.

Shady Side quarterback Skyy Moore dominated play, rushing for two touchdowns and 199 yards while throwing for three scores.

"He's a special player," said Johncour. "They came out and made some huge plays."

Avonworth seemed poised to get on the scoreboard first when their game opening drive moved inside the Shady Side 10 yard line. With top receiver Turner Grau sidelined for the contest, quarterback Derek Johncour completed passes to Brennan Neidhart, JJ Igims and Jake Harper, but the drive ended when Jason Novosel's field goal attempt from 25 yards was blocked.

The 'Lopes were deep into Indian territory following a short punt by Shady Side on their next possession and a decent return, but Avonworth came away empty handed.

The Indians struck quickly after taking over on downs at their 29, when Moore completed a 69-yard TD pass to a wide open receiver and added the extra point to lead 7-0.

The Shady Side QB made the going tough on the Antelopes’ defense when the Indians started their next drive near midfield, as he had runs of 23, 20 and 13 yards to reach the Avonworth 10 yard line. The 'Lopes were able to clamp down on defense, but the Indians converted on a 28-yard field goal to lead 10-0 with 8:35 left in the second quarter.

Avonworth was able to respond on their next possession, thanks to a 63-yard run by Jax Miller on first down that put the ball at the Shady Side 2. Miller completed the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, and Novosel kicked the extra point to cut the Antelopes deficit to 10-7.

A sack by Pat Gannon helped put a stop to the Indians’ next drive and an extremely short punt allowed the 'Lopes to begin on offense from the Shady Side 34 with 3:41 remaining in the half. The big play on the possession came on a third down and 13 situation when Johncour completed a pass of 19 yards to Miller at the Indians 10. Igims ran around the left side for an 8-yard touchdown, and Novosel followed with the kick to put Avonworth in front 14-10.

With :40 left in the clock, Igims recovered Avonworth's on-side kick at the Shady Side 31 yard line. Johncour completed a pass on first down to Neidhart for 21 yards and closed the deal two plays later when Neidhart caught the ball and reached inside the front left pylon for an 11-yard touchdown. Novosel tacked on the extra point kick that would allow the Antelopes to lead 21-10 at the half.

The lone score in the third quarter came on Shady Side's second possession when Moore completed a 42-yard TD pass followed by the extra point to trail 21-17.
The Indians jumped back in front on the first play of the fourth quarter when Moore ran the ball in from the 2 yard line then added the extra point kick to lead 24-21.

Avonworth responded nicely on their next possession, moving 63 yards in four plays for a touchdown. A 20-yard catch by Neidhart and a 29-yard catch by Harper put the ball inside the Shady Side 5, and Miller completed the drive with a run around the left end for a 4-yard touchdown. Novosel's kick put the Antelopes back in front 28-24 with 11:06 left in the fourth quarter.

Dmitri Bocchino recovered a pooch kick by Avonworth after the touchdown, but the drive never materialized.

The 'Lopes forced a punt by the Indians to end their next possession, but a roughing the kicker penalty that seemed questionable gave the Indians new life on offense. They completed a 45-yard TD pass on first down and converted on the kick to take a 31-28 lead with 6:13 remaining.

Moore iced the victory for Shady Side with a 33-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to put the final score at 37-28.

Avonworth (2-3, 2-5) plays at South Allegheny (1-4, 1-5) tonight at 7 p.m. to close out the regular season and can clinch a spot for the upcoming WPIAL playoffs with a win.