Football season ends for Antelopes

The Avonworth defense takes down a Freedom runner in a disappointing 24-21 loss for the Antelopes last Friday. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

By JIM RUMBLE

The football season has ended for the Avonworth Antelopes, who lost in the first round of their WPIAL playoffs at Freedom this past Friday.

After overcoming a couple of turn-overs that led to a couple of scores by the Bulldogs, the Antelopes were not able to take advantage of several opportunities late in the fourth quarter on their way to a 24-21 loss to end their season.

"Could-a, should-a, would-a," said 'Lopes coach Duke Johncour. "We didn't make the plays we needed."

Freedom was able to dominate the line of scrimmage, rushing for 369 yards including three touchdowns. The win for the Bulldogs was their first home playoff game victory in school history.

Avonworth quarterback Derek Johncour was 15-30 passing for 274 yards while Turner Grau had eight catches for 157 yards in the loss.

After missing a 39-yard field goal on the game -opening possession, Freedom was able to capitalize by forcing a fumble on Avonworth's first play from scrimmage and recovered the ball at the 'Lopes 41 yard line.
The Bulldogs began the drive with an 18-yard pass completion and finished the 4-play possession with a 16-yard touchdown run followed by the extra point kick to lead 7-0.

The Antelopes came back with a drive that moved 66 yards in 7 plays for a touchdown. The possession included four passes from Johncour to Grau, who concluded the drive with a 21-yard over the shoulder catch for the score. Jason Novosel converted on the extra point kick and the teams were knotted at 7-7 with 3:25 remaining in the first quarter.

It took approximately 1:16 from the scoreboard clock for Freedom to retake the lead. A first down run picked up 11 yards to the Bulldogs 36 before the Freedom QB bolted 64 yards for a touchdown. The extra point kick put Freedom in front 14-7.

Avonworth could not get in gear offensively on their next possession, but the defense came up big on the next possession by the Bulldogs forcing a fumble that was recovered by Pat Gannon at midfield.

Johncour completed a 39 yard pass to Grau down the left sideline, and Miller ran the ball for a 9 yard gain to the Freedom 2. Miller ran the ball off the left side into the endzone, and Novosel followed with the extra point kick to pull the 'Lopes back into a tie at 14-14 with 9:48 left in the second quarter.

Both teams possessed the ball one time each with similar times of possession through the remainder of the quarter and the score remained 14-14 at the half.

The third quarter began with a costly turnover by the Antelopes, a fumble that was recovered by the Bulldogs at the Avonworth 36.

Freedom picked up a first down and was facing a third down and 8 situation when the quarterback broke loose for a 22-yard TD run. The extra point put the Bulldogs in front 21-14.

Avonworth seemed to be stuck in neutral as their next two possessions failed to move the sticks and ended with a punt on fourth down. Meanwhile, Freedom continued to have success running the ball, particularly late in the third quarter as they reached the Antelopes’ 15. A holding penalty against the Bulldogs moved the ball backwards, but they were able to cash in on the second play of the fourth quarter with a 41-yard field goal to extend their lead 24-14.

Avonworth was able to answer back on their next possession with a 5 play drive that moved 74 yards to the endzone. Miller moved the chains with an 11 yard run before catching a pass from Johncour that covered 60 yards to the Bulldogs’ 3. Miller ran the ball in from there, and Novosel's kick brought the Antelopes to within three at 24-21 with 9:20 left in the game.

Avonworth was able to stop a four minute possession by Freedom that ended with a punt on fourth down, but the Antelopes were going to have to start on offense from their 10 yard line.

Big plays came on the drive including a 19 yard reception by Grau, a run of 25 yards by Miller coming on a draw play and a pass completion of 18 yards from Johncour to Andrew Tedesco to reach the Bulldogs 18. The drive ended, however, with Freedom taking over on downs at the 'Lopes 16 with 2:09 remaining on the clock.

Avonworth would get a second bite of the cherry when their defense forced a fumble four plays into the Freedom drive that was recovered by Jordan Rapp at the Bulldogs 30 yard line with 1:05 to go.

A tying field goal was a possibility to consider but the Antelopes seemed confident in going for the win.

“We put it on the kids’ shoulders that got us here and went with our offense,” said Johncour.

Unfortunately, four consecutive passes fell incomplete and after a change of possession, Freedom took a knee to run out the clock.

Johncour spoke to his team afterwards, thanking his seniors for their contributions.

He then added, “Young guys, get ready to work -- we’re going to have a good thing coming back.”