Season openers are a funny thing in sports. Even after weeks (if not months) of preseason training and practice, one never knows just how their team will respond when they line up and face someone different on the other side of the ball in a game that means something.
For Avon head football coach Mark Bless, week one proved to be an affirmation as to what he and the coaching staff had been seeing well before their season opener against the Plainfield Quakers. Hard work, dedication and veteran leadership came to the forefront as the Orioles blew by the Quakers 41-0 at Hendricks Regional Health Stadium last Friday night.
The Orioles scored touchdowns on their first four drives of the game as senior quarterback Brandon Peters connected with Andrew Griffin on a 19 yard touchdown strike to begin the scoring early in the first quarter. When all was said and done, Peters and Griffin connected three times for touchdowns with Griffin finishing with 114 yards on 6 receptions. Peters found junior tailback Corey DuPriest on a screen pass for another Avon touchdown and senior wideout Harrison Weber on a 49 yard bomb down the sideline. The heralded Michigan recruit finished 15 of 21 for 247 yards with 5 touchdowns and no interceptions on the night.
While much of the early damage was created through Avon’s precision passing attack, the Orioles did rush for 170 yards on the night with DuPriest running the ball 10 times for 81 yards including a 15 yd touchdown scamper to close out the scoring for Avon in the fourth quarter.
While the offense was a model of precision and efficiency throughout the game, the defense played a huge part as well limiting the Quakers to 95 yards total offense while keeping Plainfield off the scoreboard in the shutout victory. The Orioles sacked Plainfield senior quarterback Colin Nysewander 3 times on the night. Twice by senior defensive lineman A.J. Elcock. Excellent defensive line pressure and linebacker play stymied the Quakers all game long.
After the win, the Orioles remain ranked 6th in the latest AP Class 6A football rankings and will face a bellwether matchup tonight when they make their first road trip of the season to play number one ranked and defending Class 6A champion Ben Davis.
Tonight’s game will mark the fourth time in a little under two calendar years that these two teams have faced one another with the Giants winning the previous three contests. Last season, Avon and Ben Davis played each other twice. The Orioles scheduled the Giants as a non-conference regular season opponent losing at Avon 57-27. The two teams met again in the sectional championship game and while the game was more competitive than their previous two matchups, the Giants came away with the 34-27 win on their way to their 8th Indiana state football championship.
While the Giants are the number one team in the state this week, they have questions of their own that will be answered tonight. A week one 63-0 blowout of Arsenal Tech showed that the Giants still have plenty of offensive firepower and defensive might to boot. But head coach Mike Kirschner’s squad will now face an offense that will provide just as much of a challenge as their own and a defense that thrives on pressure and big plays.
Gone from last years state championship team are starting quarterback Kyle Castner who signed to play football at Columbia this fall. The Giants used four different players at quarterback last week. Senior Alphonso Howard and junior Azjai Cooper split time as the Giants signal caller against the Titans. Each completing 6 passes for a total of 197 yards and each threw a touchdown pass. The Giants finished with 263 yards through the air against Tech including 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions combined on the night. The Giants spread the ball around completing passes to 9 different receivers.
While Ben Davis may be platooning at quarterback to start the season, senior Chris Evans returns as a multipurpose threat running and catching the football. Evans, another Wolverine recruit, ran for 112 yards and 3 touchdown on only 4 carries last Friday. The Giants rushed for 280 yards on 36 total carries with Jeremiah Whitthorne rushing for 63 yards on 8 carries and a touchdown while Jalyn Robinson had 3 carries for 43 yards.
The Giants lost two Division I blue chippers in DL Norman Oglesby (Cincinnati) and LB Asmar Bilal (Notre Dame) off of last years squad but showed no signs of letting up on the defensive pressure as Ben Davis sacked the Titans quarterback Jimmy Gates 7 times by a combined 8 different players. They will be put to the test tonight by Peters who continues to impress in his elusiveness and awareness in the pocket.
It’s a major early season test for both teams and could once again be a preview of a possible sectional rematch.
Join me and my broadcast partner, the Indiana Football Hall-of-Famer, Dave Shelbourne for all the action of Avon Oriole football on Audio Sports Online. The pregame show begins at 6:30 PM with the Mark Bless Show where we will hear from the head coach of the Orioles himself followed by the kickoff between the Orioles and Giants at 7:00 PM.