WINSTED >> There will be no league championship banner coming to Avon High this fall. And the chances to the Falcon football team qualifying for the CIAC’s Class L tournament are now slim.
But one thing is for certain. The 2013 Avon High football team plays 48 minutes of hard-nosed football. Earlier this year, the Falcons scored twice in the final 26 seconds to steal a victory away from North Branford.
On Saturday, the Falcons nearly erased a 22-point deficit but Gilbert/Northwestern’s Seth Dayton intercepted an attempted two-point conversion pass with no time left in the game to seal Gilbert’s thrilling 34-33 decision over Avon.
Avon scored the last 21 points of the game and scored a touchdown with no time left on the clock on a one-yard run from quarterback Noah Hahn. The touchdown cut the Yellowjacket lead to one point.
Avon High coach Jim Caouette didn’t hesitate. The Falcons were going for the two-point conversion and the win. He didn’t like his team’s chances of stopping the speedy Tony Ortiz in overtime where each team gets the ball at the 10-yard line for four downs. But on the two-point conversion play, Dayton stepped in front of Jimmy Murphy and intercepted the ball the pass from Hahn in the end zone to seal the victory.
With a win, Avon (5-3, 4-2 Pequot West) could have clinched a share of the Pequot West championship. Instead, Gilbert (6-1, 4-0 Pequot West) has its Pequot West championship hopes in their hands. They need to beat Nonnewaug (2-5) and Housatonic/Wamogo (0-7) to win its first outright league title since 1975.
Ortiz, Gilbert’s star running back, ran for a game-high 160 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. But it was Yellowjacket QB John Lippincott and receiver/defensive back Seth Dayton with some huge plays to secure the win.
“It was a tremendous team effort,” Lippincott said. “We knew teams would key on Tony. That just leaves other players open to make plays.”
“I’m so proud of these kids,” Caouette said. “We’ve taught them to compete for 48 minutes and when you do that, you’ll be in the football game.”
As a defensive back, Lippincott batted away a potential touchdown pass in the end zone in the first quarter. In the second quarter as quarterback, he found Seth Dayton behind the Avon defender for a 52-yard touchdown pass. He also pitched the ball to Matthew Nieves as he was being tackled and Nieves scored on a 6-yard run to give Gilbert a 20-6 halftime lead.
The Yellowjackets had this game in their hands and Avon nearly stole it away.
Gilbert scored touchdowns on its first two drives of the second half to take a 34-12 lead. One 11-play, 50-yard drive ate up six minutes while a 14-play, 80-yard march ate up another six minutes.
But Avon was able to score quickly behind Hahn, who completed 13-of-21 passes for a career-high four touchdown passes and 215 yards. Before the final drive of the game, Avon ran only 10 offensive plays in the second half and scored three times.
Gilbert/NWR took a 34-12 lead with 9:19 left in the game when Tony Ortiz fumbled the ball forward and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown.
The Falcons scored quickly in a little over two minutes on a five play drive over 52 yards. Hahn found Dylan Marquis behind the secondary for a 30-yard touchdown pass. Marquis caught a two-point conversion to cut the lead to 34-18 with 7:09 remaining.
Avon forced Gilbert to punt and on the next possession, Avon’s Jimmy Murphy scored on a 70-yard touchdown reception from Hahn. It was a simple short pass and at one point, four Gilbert defenders surrounded Murphy but he wouldn’t go down. With the extra point, the Gilbert lead was cut to seven, 34-27 with 4:45 remaining.
On its next possession, Gilbert was facing third down and one on its own 29-yard line. But Gilbert quarterback John Lippincott had to field a high snap, which disrupted the play and Murphy sacked Lippincott for a nine-yard loss.
After a punt, Avon took over on its own 46-yard line with 2:49 remaining. Hahn completed a 19-yard pass to Murphy to the Gilbert 35. A pass interference call on Gilbert moved the ball to the 20.
After Hahn was sacked for a 7-yard loss, back-to-back 11-yard runs from Murphy and Hahn pushed the ball to the five-yard line with less than a minute to go. With 19 seconds left and the ball on the Gilbert 3-yard line, Avon called its last time out.
Murphy tried to drive up the middle and nearly reached the goal line. Fortunately for Avon, the clock was stopped because Murphy’s helmet came off during the play. With six seconds left, Avon lined up and Hahn raced around the end to the right side, diving and hitting the pylon in the end zone to tie the game with no time left on the clock.
Gilbert held the Falcons to just 19 yards rushing on the ground in the first half and just six points. In the second half, Avon adjusted and began to get Murphy the ball with some short passes. Murphy caught five passes for 115 yards and caught four in the second half for 104 yards.
NOTES: Avon forced three Gilbert turnovers. Luke Meaney and Marquis each intercepted a pass while Jamie Dlugolecki recovered a fumble. … Nick Zacchio blocked a Gilbert extra point in the second quarter. … Gilbert sacked Hahn three times. … For the second time this season, Hahn threw for over 200 yards. He had a single game school record 280 yards in a loss to Valley Regional/Old Lyme in September.
Gilbert/NWR 34, Avon 33
Avon (5-3) 6 0 6 21 — 33
Gilbert/NWR (6-1) 0 20 7 7 – 34
A: Stephen Griffin 31 pass from Noah Hahn (kick wide), 5:36
G: Tony Ortiz 57 run (Joe Columbie kick), 11:47
G: Seth Dayton 52 pass from John Lippincott (kick blocked), 7:32
G: Matthew Nieves 6 run (Columbie kick), 2:30
G: Dayton 1 run (Columbie kick), 4:50
A: Dylan Marquis 8 pass from Hahn (pass fails), 3:19
G: Ortiz 1 run (Columbie kick), 9:19
A: Marquis 30 pass from Hahn (Marquis pass from Hahn), 7:09
A: Jimmy Murphy 70 pass from Hahn (John Burdick kick), 4:45
A: Hahn 1 run (pass fails), 0:00
RUSHING: Gilbert/NWR – Tony Ortiz 23-160, John Lippincott 13-21, Seth Dayton 5-6, Matt Nieves 3-9; Avon – Noah Hahn 9-9, Jimmy Murphy 10-52, Stephen Griffin 6-20, Teddy Allmendinger 7-9
PASSING: Gilbert/NWR – John Lippincott 6-11-2, 132; Avon – Noah Hahn 13-21-0, 214
RECEIVING: Gilbert/NWR – Nick Pedrolini 1-7, Seth Dayton 3-62, Paxton Lewis Franklin 1-9, Ben Schiffer 1-54; Avon – Justin Reichler 2-21, Stephen Griffin 2-30, Jimmy Murphy 5-115, Dylan Marquis 3-43, William Rydingsward 1-5
PUNT RETURNS – Avon – Allmendinger 1-7; KICKOFF RETURNS – Avon – Murphy 1-22, Marquis 2-29, Reichler 1-7, Sean Del Gallo 1-12; Gilbert – Dayton 1-37
INTERCEPTIONS: Luke Meaney (A) 1-10, Marquis (A) 1-0; FUMBLE RECOVERY: Jamie Dlugolecki 1-0; SACKS – Reichler (A) 1-13, Anthony Malarney (G) 1-6, Paxton Lewis Franklin (G) 1-8, Earl May (G) 1-7