AVON >> Ellington Somers’ football program has never had any luck playing against Avon. In eight previous meetings since the programs were founded, the Knights had only won one measly game.
The gloomy skies above gave no indication that Saturday would be any different.
Yet the Knights found themselves awash in good fortune. Tipped passes fell into their hands. Penalties mostly went their way. Their star opponent was forced from the game with an injury. They played as if they had 12 men on the field.
Perhaps they did.
Mark Hickman scored four touchdowns, including a 35-yard Hail Mary play to end the first half as the Knights defeated Avon 28-14 in a Pequot Uncas game at Avon High School Field.
It was the final meeting of the two schools before Avon heads to the CCC. More important, however, it was Ellington/Somers’ first game since the tragic death of former all-stater Austin Tautkus, wh0 died after an ATV accident over the summer.
“We really went through a lot during the summer and this means a lot to these kids,” Ellington/Somers coach Sean Byrne said. “This a place Austin loved to play. He always made big plays against Avon. I think he was with us today.”
His players were convinced.
“Everything we’ve been working for, everything we’ve been doing has been for Austin,” said Hickman, who caught eight passes for 115 yards. “I knew him personally. He was one of my best friends. Him passing away was big on the team, big on us. And this (win) was really for him. We worked our ass off for him.”
It looked like Saturday would be the same-old story for Ellington/Somers. Avon struck on its first drive with a 51-yard touchdown run by Ian McDonald.
But the quarterback, who had already run for 101 yards on three carries, didn’t make it out of the first quarter. He injured his right hand and never returned after being waylaid by Ellington/Somers’ Wellington Siva with on a long run that was called back due to a penalty.
“I was thinking of Austin the whole time,” said Siva, a sophomore who also had an interception. “He hated this team. He didn’t like Avon. I just had Austin in my head and I just tackled him.”
McDonald spent the rest of his game with his hand wrapped in ice. According to the Collinsville Press, McDonald could miss at least six weeks.
“It was a good hit,” Ellington/Somers coach Sean Byrne said. “We always preach pursuit of the ball and not giving up on plays. He came all the way over from safety and made the play. Unfortunately, he got hurt. You don’t like to see that.”
But the momentum did swing wildly Ellington/Somers’ way from that point forward, especially at the end of the half.
With 5.6 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Ellington/Somers’ backup quarterback Nathan Lajoie uncorked a bomb to the left sideline. Avon’s Jake Corrigan leaped to bat it away, but instead tipped it into the hands of Hickman who caught it and danced into the end zone to tie the score.
“While I was running something in my head just said ‘Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Come back for the ball,'” Hickman said. “And I swear it was Austin talking to me.”
Upon scoring, Hickman genuflected then raised his finger to the sky, a scene he would repeat three more times.
Hickman caught a 70-yard touchdown pass from Christian Rider on just the second play of the third quarter and then ran 70 yards for a touchdown shortly thereafter. His fourth TD came on a short run in the fourth quarter.
Teddy Allmendinger led Avon with 129 yards on 25 carries, a career high according to the Collinsville Press. He scored on a short run for the final points.
A–Ian McDonald 50 run (Alden Getz kick)
E–Mark Hickman 35 pass from Nathan Lajoie (Julian Herms kick)
E–Hickman 78 pass from Christian Rider (Herms kick), 10:58
E–Hickman 72 run (Herms kick)
E–Hickman 4 run (Herms kick)
A–Teddy Allmendinger 5 run (Getz kick)
Records: Ellington/Somers 1-0, Avon 0-1