GREENWICH — The first half of Saturday’s showdown between Erickson League football rivals Brunswick School and Avon Old Farms School featured defensive stands and missed opportunities, as the Bruins and Winged Beavers entered halftime scoreless.
The second half was about capitalizing on opportunities.
And Avon Old Farms cashed in on most of their chances.
Avon Old Farms School reached the end zone on its first five drives of the second half en route to recording a 36-17 win over Brunswick.
The victory moved Avon’s record to 6-0 overall and in league play, putting them alone in first place. The Bruins, who celebrated their Homecoming Day, are 4-2 overall and 4-1 in the Erickson League.
Winged Beavers junior quarterback and Stratford native Taisun Phommachanh passed for 263 yards and three touchdowns and also sprinted to the end zone for two more scores to power the visitors. Avon had the ball in Brunswick territory four times in the first half, including three times within the 20-yard line, but was held out of the end zone.
“The mindset of our team has been the people that we play are going to have great athletes like Brunswick does and they are going to do a good job,” Avon Old Farms coach Bill Mella said. “If something doesn’t go our way, which is what happened today, we turn the page and go onto the next play. We need to just keep coming.”
Senior quarterback Nick Henkel, who was pressured by Avon’s defensive line and linebackers during most of the second half, completed 11 of 20 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
“They put a lot of pressure on us and it made us rush things a little bit,” Henkel said. “Hats off to them. They played a great game. At the end of the day, we didn’t punch the ball in when we had opportunities.”
The Bruins, who beat the Winged Beavers last season, scored on their first possession of the second half to take a 7-0 lead, but Avon seized the momentum thereafter.
“The first half defensively we played extremely well,” Bruins coach Jarrett Shine said. “It was a hard-fought first half. We played a very well-coached, great football team. The second half, they dialed it up.”
HIGH SCORING THIRD QUARTER
Following a scoreless first half, the Bruins and Winged Beavers combined for 30 third-quarter points, 20 of which were scored by Avon. Brunswick struck first, with Henkel throwing a 21-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Harrison Caponiti, making it 7-0 with 9:57 to go in the third quarter. Senior running back Michael Gottlieb’s 35-yard run helped key the drive.
“We got a little rush of energy on that play,” Caponiti said. “Henkel chucked it up to me and there was no one there to make a play on it. It was awesome — it was one of the most memorable moments of my career here with the fan section going crazy. I wish we could have kept it going in the second half.”
It was Avon Old Farms that got it going after the game’s initial score. Phommachanh connected with senior Jamal Smith for a 48-yard pass play and one play later, threw a 25-yard scoring strike to junior Marquis Wilson with 8:51 to go in the third quarter. David MacGillivray blocked the point-after attempt, so the Bruins had a 7-6 lead.
It didn’t last much longer though. On Brunswick’s ensuing possession, Wilson intercepted a Henkel pass, setting Avon up at the Bruins’ 14. Phommachanh then threw a touchdown pass over the middle to senior wide receiver and former Notre Dame-West Haven standout Nico Ragaini. A conversion run by Phommachanh gave the Winged Beavers the lead for good at 14-7 at the 8:34 mark.
“At halftime, we talked over what we had to do and we came out with a different type of energy,” Phommachanh said. “Our offensive line played big today. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
Senior defensive lineman Lorry Rogers halted Brunswick’s next drive by sacking Henkel and the visitors took possession and promptly built on their lead. Wilson caught a pass over the middle and darted past several defenders on his way for a 39-yard touchdown, making it 20-7 with 4:08 left in the third quarter.
“We had it in us the whole game, we just had to finish at the goal line,” Wilson said. “We had the will-power in the second half to get it done. The passing game was a huge factor, but our running game opened it up for us to pass. Once we get that first touchdown, our energy and morale is high.”
The elusize Phommachanh scored scrambled for touchdown runs of 17 and 35 yards in the fourth quarter.
“He’s an amazing young man,” Mella said. “He can beat you with his arm or with his feet. You have to have an answer for him one way or another.”
Senior wide receiver Sean Amill scored on a 75-yard reception off a shovel pass from Henkel late in the final quarter.
“Defensively, we have to break down, wrap up, get out and space and make plays,” Shine said. “Offensively, we looked really good at times.”
SCORELESS FIRST HALF
Avon was stopped on the Bruins’ 1 to end the opening half, courtesy of a high snap that led to a 20-yard loss. The visitors also missed a field goal and saw their first drive stall at the 37, following a 12-yard sack by Nick Villis. Jaedon Roberts intercepted a pass in the first half for Avon.
“I was really pleased with our defense and how we put pressure on him (Henkel),” Mella said. “He’s a really good quarterback and I’m excited about seeing what he can do at Yale.”
AVON OLD FARMS OLD FARMS 36, BRUNSWICK 17
AVON OLD FARMS 0 0 20 16 — 36
BRUNSWICK 0 0 10 7 — 17
B — Harrison Caponiti 19 pass from Nick Henkel (Chris Chavez kick)
A — Marquis Wilson 25 pass from Taisun Phommachanh (kick failed)
A — Nico Ragaini 14 pass from Phommachanh (Phommachanh run)
A — Wilson 39 pass from Phommachanh (run failed)
B — Chavez 37 field goal
A — Phommachanh 17 run (Wilson pass from Phommachanh)
A — Phommachanh 35 run (Phommachanh run)
B — Sean Amill 75 pass from Henkel (Chavez kick)