Win gets ’Lopes into playoffs

The Antelopes celebrate one of two touchdowns scored by J.J. Igims (pictured above with football), who also rushed for 134 yards in the win over South Allegheny that puts Avonworth in the WPIAL playoffs. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

By JIM RUMBLE

The Avonworth Antelopes football team secured a spot for the upcoming WPIAL playoffs with a win in their final regular season game last Friday. J.J. Igims rushed for 134 yards and ran for two touchdowns to lead the 'Lopes past the Gladiators on the road 31-20.

"It was a good win for us tonight," said coach Derek Johncour. "Our defense forced some turnovers, we put up 21 points in the first quarter and that helped us out a lot."

Avonworth went right to work on the game's opening drive, moving the ball 69 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. A key play in the drive was a 30 yard scamper by Igims on fourth down to maintain possession on offense, and Igims consummated the drive with a 5-yard TD run. Jason Novosel followed with the extra point kick to put the the Antelopes in front 7-0.

South Allegheny was held to a three-and-out possession before Avonworth began their next touchdown drive from their 25 yard line. Igims ran the ball three straight times including a third down run of 20 yards, but the highlight of the possession was a pass completion from Derek Johncour to Turner Grau for a 35 yard gain to the Gladiators’ 8. Igims ran the ball into the end zone on the next play, and Novosel converted on the extra point kick moving Avonworth to a 14-0 lead.

The next score for the Antelopes actually occurred barely into the second quarter, but that was set up late in the first when Dmitri Bocchino recovered a fumble at the Gladiators’ 34 yard line.

Avonworth mixed it up on offense, but the eight play drive was capped by a 17-yard TD pass from Johncour to Jax Miller on the third play of the second quarter. Novosel added the extra point kick to put the 'Lopes in front 21-0.

Joe Bevilacqua recovered a South Allegheny fumble at the Gladiators’ 36 on the ensuing possession, but Avonworth was not able to capitalize.

South Allegheny took over possession on their 34 yard line and stayed with the run, ending the 5-play drive with a 20 yard TD run followed by the extra point kick to trail 21-7.

The Antelopes fumbled the ball on their next possession, and the Gladiators were back on offense in good position at the Avonworth 33. South Allegheny followed with runs of 10 and 22 yards respectively to reach the Avonworth 1, but good team defense kept the Gladiators out of the end zone. South Allegheny lost yardage from there, and Nick Weiser broke up a fourth down pass that would allow the 'Lopes to maintain a 21-7 lead at the half.

The Gladiators began the third quarter on offense, but Bocchino's second fumble recovery helped set up the next score for the Antelopes. Johncour completed a pass to Noah Clickett for 39 yards, and Avonworth finished the drive with Novosel's 32-yard field goal to lead 24-7.

South Allegheny responded with a 75 yard kick return for a touchdown and tacked on the extra point kick to trail 24-14.

A couple of key runs by Johncour on the next possession for the Antelopes helped set up Avonworth's next score, a 4-yard touchdown run by Miller, followed by Novosel's kick to up the lead to 31-14 with 6:03 remaining in the third quarter.

The Gladiators put together a 15 play drive in the fourth quarter and completed a 24-yard TD pass that would wrap up the scoring in Avonworth's 31-20 victory.

At the beginning of the season the 'Lopes were scheduled to play Vincentian this weekend, but the football program there was dropped which will allow Avonworth some time to rest before the WPIAL playoffs begin next weekend.