AVON — By the fourth quarter Friday night, the path to its first sectional title in five years was pretty simple for the Avon football team.
It was either going to stop Chris Evans, or it wasn’t. It was either going to stick the ball in the end zone, or it wasn’t.
Avon accomplished the former, well enough anyway. And the offense came through on the latter twice in the fourth quarter to carry the Class 6A sixth-ranked Orioles to a 27-22 win against nemesis and defending Class 6A state champion Ben Davis.
Avon will host Cathedral in a regional game next week.
“I’m so proud of our players to accomplish what they did tonight in a dogfight battle and with one of their teammates being injured,” Avon coach Mark Bless said.
Bless was referring to a scary situation involving Avon senior defensive back Scott Campbell, who was injured while making a tackle on Noah Thomas with 5:30 left in the first quarter. The game was stopped for about 15 minutes, as paramedics attended to Campbell and prepared him to be taken away in an ambulance.
Bless said after the game that Campbell had lost feeling in his arms while making the tackle attempt, but he’d received an update that he’d regained feeling in his extremities.
“It’s more in the nerves,” Bless said. “It’s not his spine. He has movement and feeling, but has some tingling. He said he never (lost consciousness). He lost some feeling in his arms on contact.”
Avon (9-2) took a 7-6 lead into halftime, though it was a sloppy, sometimes strange first half. Star quarterback Brandon Peters, a Michigan recruit, was just 6-for-27 passing for 57 yards with an interception in the first half. Ben Davis had success bringing pressure while also covering well in the secondary.
“I was really pleased with how we played defensively,” Ben Davis coach Mike Kirschner said.
Avon extended its lead to 14-6 early in the third quarter. Avon’s A.J. Elcock picked off a pass that was tipped by teammate Caven Hunt, and Bryant Fitzgerald ran 15 yards for a touchdown on the next play.
Ben Davis (6-5) then turned to senior running back Chris Evans, also a Michigan recruit. On his fourth of four consecutive carries, Evans raced 33 yards for a touchdown. A successful two-point conversion made it 14-14 midway through the third quarter.
The Giants turned to Evans again on their next drive. The speedy back carried six times for 61 yards to the Avon 9. But the Orioles’ defense stiffened there, and Ben Davis was turned away on fourth-and-goal from the 9 when Elcock sacked Reese Taylor.
“If you can get it to 21-14 there, it might change how Avon is able to do things,” Kirschner said. “But we weren’t able to get anything out of it.”
Avon’s offense took it from there, mixing the pass and run for a 10-play, 80-yard drive. Fitzgerald, a 6-foot, 200-pound junior did much of the damage and capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Fitzgerald, who finished with 173 yards on 27 carries, proved to be a punishing runner on the game-clinching drive. Avon took over at its own 18 with 8:34 left and leading 21-14. The Orioles again mixed in a few passes from Peters — including a key 6-yard gain on third-and-5 — and Fitzgerald’s running. Fitzgerald avoided two defenders in the backfield and raced 34 yards for a score with 2:41 left to make it 27-14.
“Fitz ran the ball extremely well,” Bless said. “We thought our offensive line was able to get some movement for us to be able to pick up some yardage. When the game was on the line, we were able to eat some clock. That is very valuable.”
Ben Davis scored with 13 seconds left on a 3-yard pass from Taylor to Emerson. But the Giants’ onside kick was covered by Avon’s Chad Carmichael, and the Orioles ran out the clock.
Kirschner was asked after the game if Avon had the look of a state title contender. He pointed to Peters as proof, even after the Giants had limited him to a 12-for-35 night and 119 yards.
“He had a tough night tonight, but he’s a major player,” Kirschner said. “If he comes to play next week, they can beat Cathedral. They can beat anybody. I like their team.”
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.
Ben Davis 6 0 8 8 — 22
Avon 7 0 7 13 — 27
Ben Davis – Stori Emerson 35 pass from Reese Taylor (kick blocked)
Avon – Bryant Fitzgerald 18 run (Tyler Shanahan kick)
Avon – Fitzgerald 15 run (Shanahan kick)
Ben Davis – Chris Evans 33 run (Taylor run)
Avon – Fitzgerald 5 run (Shanahan kick)
Avon – Fitzgerald 33 run (kick failed)
Ben Davis – Stori Emerson 3 pass from Taylor (Emerson pass from Taylor)
Rushing – Ben Davis, Evans 27-153, Taylor 15-(-17). Avon, Fitzgerald 27-173, Peters 7-22, Corey DuPriest 2-1.
Passing — Ben Davis, Taylor 12-22-1 133. Avon, Peters 12-35-1 119.
Receiving — Ben Davis, Emerson 7-117, Noah Thomas 3-42, LeShawn 1-9, Evans 1-2. Avon, Andrew Griffin 5-46, Matt Moore 3-35, Fitzgerald 2-21, Jordan Peterson 2-17