Avonworth falls to North Catholic

Avonworth quarterback Zach Chandler mixed scrambles with passes in an attempt to get past the North Catholic defense in last Friday’s homecoming game for the Antelopes. Avonworth felt the loss of wide receiver Jamal Hughley in the disappointing 26-14 loss. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

By JIM RUMBLE

With injuries beginning to take their toll, the Avonworth Antelopes football team had their work cut out for themselves heading into their showdown against conference leader North Catholic last Friday. The Antelopes battled to make a game of it against the Trojans at home, but wound up on the short end of it in a 26-14 loss.

"They [North Catholic] made plays. We didn't and they came out on top," said coach Duke Johncour. "We stalled some drives with a couple of penalties and that set us back," he said.

With back-to-back losses for the first time since the 2012 season, the 'Lopes fell to third place in the conference at 4-2, with an overall record of 5-2.

Wide receiver Jamal Hughley's season ended a week earlier with a foot injury, but the 'Lopes did see the return of running back Kevin Simpson, who had missed the previous four games.

After limiting Avonworth to one first down on their game-opening drive, North Catholic put together a 12-play drive covering 75 yards for the game's first score. They steadily moved their offense forward on the ground, but the big play on the drive was a fourth down pass completion of 30 yards that put the ball at the Antelopes’ 22. The Trojans converted another fourth down to move the chains before ending the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run. The extra point kick missed to the right, but North Catholic took a 6-0 lead with 4:26 left in the first quarter.

Avonworth advanced on their next possession from their 30-yard line with runs by Simpson and a couple of quarterback scrambles by Zach Chandler, but the drive ended when a fourth down run came up short of a first down at the North Catholic 20-yard line.

Trojans’ quarterback Erick Taylor carried the ball for a couple of big gains before completing a 17-yard pass to the Antelopes’ 10. The drive ended with a fumble that was recovered by 'Lopes’ defensive back Alex Osborn.

An offensive pass interference penalty stalled Avonworth's next possession and forced a punt before North Catholic would add to their lead. Beginning from their 44-yard line, the Trojans moved into Antelope territory and were facing a third down and 10 when Taylor completed a pass deep down the right side line that resulted in a 46-yard touchdown. North Catholic came up short of the goal line on a run for the two-point try, but moved ahead 12-0 with 5:32 left in the second quarter.

Avonworth went on offense and struck quickly on the first play from scrimmage. Chandler found Garrett Day wide open in the Trojans secondary to complete a 65-yard touchdown pass. Cole Pappas converted on the extra point kick, and with that the 'Lopes would make it to halftime trailing 12-7.

The first possession of the second half is often a pivotal point in these types of games, and North Catholic was up to the task. Starting in good position from their 41, the Trojans moved into Antelope territory, mixing it up on offense. A run that gained 32 yards set up a 1-yard touchdown run and, with a run for the two-point try to follow, North Catholic went ahead 20-7.

"They scored to open the second half and that hurt us." said Johncour.

The teams traded possessions until Quinn came up with an interception for the 'Lopes on the first play of the fourth quarter. Starting from their 15-yard line, Avonworth moved in 13 plays for a touchdown. Key plays along the way were a 22-yard reception by Simpson and a couple first down catches by Cole Jenkins.

The big play, though, was a third down and 20 pass completion from Chandler to Kurt Niklaus of 40 yards that set up Chandler's 2-yard touchdown run. Pappas added the extra point kick to cut the Trojans’ lead to 20-14 with 6:50 remaining in the game.

North Catholic would capitalize after another short kick by Avonworth gave them good field position near midfield. A 39-yard pass completion set up a 4-yard touchdown run for the Trojans that would seal their 26-14 win.

Avonworth will play at South Side Beaver (5-2, 4-2) in a non-conference game tonight at 7 p.m.