After starting the season 1-2, Class 6A No. 7 Avon came into Friday night’s game versus 5A No. 8 Westfield riding a three-game winning streak.
The Orioles made it four in a row after they built an early lead and forced five Shamrock turnovers to win 35-20.
The tone was set from the opening kickoff, as the Orioles (5-2) forced a fumble and turned the field position into points when Michigan-bound quarterback Brandon Peters found Andrew Griffin for a 16-yard touchdown. Avon was just getting started. By the time the first quarter finished, the Orioles built a four-score lead.
Junior Bryant Fitzgerald led the charge, returning an interception 72 yards for a score and running in a 1-yard touchdown on the Orioles’ next possession.
Avon coach Mark Bless praised Fitzgerald’s ability on both sides of the ball.
“Every week he gets better,” Bless said. “He’s a playmaker, and he certainly proved it tonight.”
Peters found Jordan Peterson in the end zone before the end of the first quarter, finishing the opening period with 97 yards passing.
Westfield (4-3) responded in the second quarter when senior quarterback Ryan Pepiot found Evan Manley on a 32-yard touchdown pass.
After a torrid start offensively, the Orioles fell silent in the third quarter, going three-and-out on their first two possessions. Peters failed to complete a pass until Avon’s third series of the third quarter. He completed only two passes in the second half.
“I think we put him in a little bit of a bind, being a little paranoid from the wind, and I think sometimes he’s got to be able to play, but in the long run he made the plays he needed to,” Bless said.
Meanwhile, Westfield slowly inched its way back into the game. Pepiot capped an 11-play drive with a 5-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter. After Avon was unable to gain traction on offense, Westfield worked its way down to the goal line before fumbling. Avon recovered to maintain a 15-point advantage heading into the final 12 minutes.
Westfield climbed to within eight points with 8 minutes to play after Pepiot found Manley for the second time on a 26-yard score. Pepiot finished 16-for-34 with two touchdowns. He also threw three interceptions.
After another Shamrocks stop on defense, Avon linebacker Brody Gude intercepted a Pepiot pass, and soon after, Fitzergald broke free for a 57-yard touchdown run to seal Westfield’s fate.
“(The win) boosts our confidence going into the tournament,” Fitzgerald said. “In two or three weeks, its tournament time. We needed a game like this to show us what type of team we are.”
Meanwhile, Westfield has dropped three straight after winning its first four.
“We’re disappointed about the big hole we dug from the turnovers,” Westfield coach Jake Gilbert said. “You can’t beat anybody when you’re minus-5, let alone a good team like Avon. Avon’s got a great team. If you’re going to turn it over that many times, you’re going to lose.”
AVON 35, WESTFIELD 20
Avon — Andrew Griffin 16 pass from Brandon Peters (Sam Pirino kick)
Avon — Bryant Fitzgerald 72 interception return (Pirino kick)
Avon — Fitzgerald 1 run (Pirino kick)
Avon — Jordan Peterson 23 pass from Peters (Pirino kick)
Westfield — Evan Manley 32 pass from Ryan Pepiot (Alex Bales kick)
Westfield — Pepiot 5 run (Bales kick missed)
Westfield — Manley 26 pass from Pepiot (Bales kick)
Avon — Fitzgerald 57 run (Pirino kick)
Rushing — Westfield: Pepiot 11-37, Brandon Karsnick 19-99 Avon: Darian Love, 9-35, Bryant Fitzgerald 11-97, Corey DuPriest 7-50, Peters 1-1.
Passing — Westfield: Pepiot 16-34-3 Avon: Peters, 7-15
Receiving — Avon: Griffin 4-48, Peterson 1-23, Matt Moore 1-41, Bryant Fitzgerald 1-14 Westfield: Max McCool 9-92, Evan Manley 3-68, Karsnick 2-46, Milo Beam 1-10.