Antelopes secure big win in second half

By JIM RUMBLE

It was week zero in football around the WPIAL last week, but after a rocky start for the Avonworth Antelopes, they appeared to be in midseason form when they played at Neshannock last Friday.

"It was a good win, but it was not a great start," said 'Lopes coach Duke Johncour.

Quarterback Derek Johncour threw four touchdown passes on the way to a 347-yard passing performance as the Antelopes wore down the Lancers 49-21. Jax Miller ran for 148 yards and scored three rushing TDs, and Turner Grau was on the receiving end of nine passes for 209 yards and three touchdown catches.

"We have kids that can make plays," said Johncour. "Derek had a great game and was able to extend plays."

Avonworth put themselves in a hole early after Neshannock returned the game opening kick 91 yards to the ‘Lopes’ 3-yard line. The Lancers got into the end zone from there, but the extra point kick was blocked to put the score at 6-0.

Neshannock executed a pooch kick on the ensuing kick-off, but the Lancers were able to recover a fumble on the play that allowed them to start back on offense at the Avonworth 34-yard line. The drive moved down to the 6-yard line before a fourth down and goal situation was snuffed out by Pat Gannon, who tackled the Lancers’ QB rolling out to the left at the 2-yard line.

The Antelopes mixed it up on offense to reach midfield, and the 10-play drive culminated with a short pass from Johncour to Grau that resulted in a 44-yard touchdown. Jason Novosel followed with the extra point kick to put the 'Lopes in front 7-6 with 4:19 left in the first quarter.

Neshannock moved 65 yards in four plays on their next possession to retake the lead. A 38-yard run on first down moved the Lancers inside the Avonworth 30. The drive ended with an 18-yard touchdown run, followed by a pass completion on the 2-point conversion that gave Neshannock a 14-7 lead.

Avonworth responded on the next possession with a nine-play drive that moved 63 yards to the end zone. Johncour made a couple of key completions to Jake Horigan and Drew Harper along the way, but the big play came on a third and one with Miller breaking tackles on the way to a 30-yard touchdown. Novosel's kick put the teams even at 14-14 only two plays into the second quarter.

Three first down pass completions fueled the next possession for the Lancers, but their 10-play drive was capped by a quarterback keeper from inside the 1-yard line followed by the extra point kick for a 21-14 lead.

The scoring continued when the Antelopes moved 65 yards in five plays on their next possession.

The highlight of the drive was a 44-yard catch and run by Grau to the Neshannock 10-yard line.

Miller finished the drive with a 4-yard run for the touchdown, and Novosel converted the extra point kick that put the teams back into a tie at 21-21.

Horigan made his first of two interceptions of the night on the next possession by the Lancers with a scrum breaking out after the play on the Neshannock sideline.

Both teams were assessed personal foul penalties before Avonworth took over on offense at their own 38.

The 'Lopes continued to mix it up on offense, but the 12-play possession concluded with Johncour completing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Nick Weiser. Novosel's kick allowed Avonworth to go into halftime leading 28-21.

It was all Avonworth in the second half.

The 'Lopes moved 68 yards in 10 plays for a score to begin the third quarter. Miller completed the possession with a 5-yard TD run, and Novosel added the extra point kick to put Avonworth in front 35-21.

Ryan Felter came up big with a tackle for a loss on a fourth down and one situation that ended the ensuing drive by the Lancers at the Antelope 36.

A 19-yard run by Miller and a 30-yard reception by Grau highlighted Avonworth's next possession, and the five-play drive culminated with a 7-yard TD pass from Johncour to Grau. Novosel's kick followed to extend the 'Lopes lead to 42-21 with 3:53 remaining in the third quarter.

Neshannock's next drive ended with an interception by Horigan in the end zone before the Antelopes set out on their final scoring drive.

That drive was fueled by a 16-yard reception by Harper and a 24-yard reception by Ethan Syam. Johncour connected with Grau on a 28-yard scoring strike, and Novosel added the kick to put the score at 49-21.

Avonworth's second half blanking of the Lancers was preserved by Syam's interception in the end zone to complete the 49-21 victory.

"Neshannock is a good team," said Johncour. "It was a dogfight in the first half, but there were a couple of interceptions that were helpful in leading to possession changes."