Big plays power Dukes past Avon

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By DAN GILLES

Morning Journal Writer, Sat, Sep 25, 1999

"AVON -- For a little over three quarters last night, it was anybody's game.

But Wellington was able to break off some big plays and take advantage of some costly penalties, as it turned it up down the stretch on the way to a 22-7 Lorain County Conference win over Avon, putting a damper on the Eagles' homecoming festivities.

The recipient of those big plays was senior fullback Steve Verhoff, who broke off runs of 52, 51 and 22 yards in the second half, on his way to a stellar 192-yard performance on 19 carries.

'That's just a great effort, it really is,' praised Wellington coach Matt Stoll. 'Especially when we're alternating at fullback (with James Mariast), that's saying something. If you were to add in Jimmy's totals, that would surely be over 200 yards. The key to our offense is our fullback.

'We were fortunate to hit the trap there a couple of times and get a couple of long runs,' he added. 'But everything we did tonight was tough. Give Avon and their coaches a lot of credit.'

meyer
Avon guard Dan Meyer, #66, celebrates with his teammates after recovering a Wellington fumble in the first quarter.

With Wellington clinging to a 10-0 lead after three quarters of play, Avon made its long-awaited move to get into the endzone. On the very first play of the fourth quarter, the Eagles finally scored, on a 10-yard completion from Tony Stross to Russ Logan. That play capped a 4-play, 65-yard drive that was keyed by a 45-yard rumble by fullback Justin Carrasquillo. Scott Wicker's point after was true, and with 11:54 remaining in the game, it was 10-7, Dukes.

It took one play to take the wind out of Avon's sails, however, as Verhoff broke off a 51-yard run on the very first play from scrimmage, before he was pulled down from behind on the Avon 12. Four plays later, Verhoff punched it in from five yards out to increase the lead to 16-7. The 2-point pass was intercepted by Mark Toth to keep the score that way with 10:44 remaining in the contest.

Wellington added an insurance score on its very next possession, after holding the Eagles to minus-16 yards on offense. A 22-yard run by Verhoff keyed a 7-play, 40-yard march, that was capped by Mariast's 2-yard plunge for the touchdown. The 2-pointer failed, but with 5:38 remaining in the game, the score was a final.

'We know we can play better,' said Stoll. 'But I'm not making any excuses for us tonight. They (Avon) played hard all night. It was a hard-fought victory, like I thought it would be.

'We weren't too happy with our execution, but give credit to Avon -- they shut down our option and they made it tough for us.'

'I think the story of the game was the fourth quarter,' said Avon coach Lee Powell. 'We put ourselves within striking distance, and, I'm tired of saying this, but we made too many mental errors. I've been saying this week in and week out, that we cannot battle ourselves as well as the other team. And that's what happened in the fourth quarter.'

Avon's defense came out fired up to start the game, as it held the Dukes to zero first downs in the first quarter and caused a turnover. But the offense couldn't get anything going either, and after one quarter, it was deadlocked at zero.

Wellington finally got something going in the second quarter, as it parlayed its first first down into a score as Mariast capped the 8-play, 69-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown run on a third-and-two play with 4:55 left in the half.

A 52-yard run by Verhoff on the opening play of the second half, followed by a 15-yard penalty on an Avon late hit, set up a Wellington score. On fourth-and-8, Ogle trotted on the field and booted a 26-yard field goal to make it 10-0, Dukes, with 9:37 remaining in the third.

'Those personal fouls bother me the most,' said Powell. 'Those aren't needed. We want our kids to be aggressive, but they've got to think. They've got to use their heads.'

Mariast gained 40 yards on seven carries, while Ogle added 36 yards on 13 carries, as the Dukes rushed for 289 yards on the game.

For Avon, Carrasquillo gained 98 yards on 17 carries.

Wellington (4-1, 2-0 LCC) hosts Brookside next week, while Avon (1-4, 1-1 LCC) takes on Oberlin."

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