Avonworth advances to first state championship
Written by: Shane Lux on Friday, November 29th, 2019
For the first time in school history, the Avonworth Antelopes will be playing for a state football championship after defeating Wilmington 33-21 Friday night at Slippery Rock High School.
“It’s uncharted territory now, but it’s exciting,” said Avonworth head coach Duke Johncour. “Our entire community has been following and supporting this team all season. This feels amazing.”
The dynamic duo of quarterback Park Penrod and running back Jax Miller combined for 306 yards of total offense and had a hand in all five touchdowns.
Penrod completed 9-of-14 passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns, while Miller ran for a game-high 129 yards on 28 carries.
When Wilmington’s Caelan Bender scored on a 1-yard run to begin the fourth quarter, it marked the first time all season that Avonworth had trailed in a game.
That didn’t last long.
The “Lopes went on a methodical 11-play 77-yard drive that saw Miler do what he has done all year for the Avonworth.
Miller highlighted the drive with a 31-yard run on the second play, then capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run with 5:27 to play.
“I told Jax it’s time to do what you do and take over,” said Johncour. “He had some bigs and made plays as he’s done all year. That was the first time we were down all season. That shows the resiliency of this team.”
The 2-point pass would fail, but Avonworth recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and took over at the Wilmington 25-yard line.
Six plays later, Penrod punched the “Lopes ticket to Hershey with a 1-yard run giving Avonworth a 33-21 lead with just over two minutes to play.
— Shane Lux (@luxy_aLLin) November 30, 2019
“I give all the credit to Avonworth, they’re a well-coach and very disciplined football team,” said Wilmington head coach Brandon Phillian.
“As you move through the Playoffs, your margin for error shrinks and shrinks. Tonight we made too many mistakes, and it was too much for us to overcome.”
Andrew Tedesco started things with a bang for “Lopes as took the opening kickoff 45 yards to the “Hounds 35-yard line.
Five plays later, Penrod connected with Theo Newhouse for a 10-yard touchdown.
Avonworth, however, missed a golden opportunity to jump out 14-0 as Miller fumbled the ball into the end zone on a 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line following a fumble recovery at “Hounds 28-yard line.
Wilmington then drove 80 yards in 16 plays and tied the game on Bender’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Susen.
— Shane Lux (@luxy_aLLin) November 29, 2019
Going back to work, Penrod threw a 15-yard touchdown to Trevor Faulkner. He also completed passes of 15 and 31 yards to Newhouse on crucial third downs.
“We knew they’d be keying on Jax,” said Johncour. “They were leaving us with single covered on the outside. He threw the ball well tonight with three touchdowns. Park had a big night. Everyone has been saying that last week, all he did was hand the ball off. Guess what? He showed up big tonight every time we needed him.”
Wilmington would again bounce back as Bender scored on an 8-yard keeper capping the short 40-yard drive.
Bender led Wilmington going 6-for-12 for 67 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for 36 yards on 11 carries.
Ethan Susen and Darren Miller came into the game having combined to rush for over 2200 yards, but the pair was limited to 89 yards on 26 attempts.
Taking possession at their 48-yard line 26 seconds to play in half – Penrod completed a 15-yard pass to Jacob Horigan, on the next play he found a wide-open Newhouse for an easy 37-yard touchdown pass with ten seconds to play.
“That was absolutely huge,” said Johncour. “Newhouse was able to get around there corners; it was a great throw and catch. Boy, was that huge.”
Newhouse finished the game with 115 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
Avonworth led 20-14 at halftime.
“That touchdown at the end of the first half was huge, said Phillian. “We had the momentum, but to their credit, they made the plays when they had to, and we didn’t. “
“Obviously, the fumble on the kickoff that could have given us the ball back with a chance to win it will sting this offseason.”
For Wilmington, they were denied a third straight trip to Hershey. However, coach Phillian knows the senior leadership and talent of his underclassman will have Wilmington ready to make another run next season.
“There was a lot of uncertainty about us this season coming in,” said Phillian. “For this group to make it to the western final with three seniors on offense and two on defense speaks volumes about this group of seniors. Even our seniors on the sidelines with their leadership and how they kept this team together, we’ll have us ready next season.”
For Avonworth, they now await Southern Columbia. The Tigers beat Richland 49-27 and won the two previous state championships 48-0 and 49-14 over Wilmington in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Stats Courtesy of Ryan Briggs.
Avonworth 33 Wilmington 21
Avonworth – 7 13 0 13 – 33
Wilmington – 0 14 0 7 – 21
A – Theo Newhouse 10 yd pass from Park Penrod, (Tyler Bryan pat), 9:16
W – Ethan Susen 9 yd pass from Caelan Bender, (Dan Hartwell pat), 8:05
A – Trevor Faulkner 15 yd pass from Penrod, (Bryan pat), 3:38
W – Bender 8 yd run, (Hartwell pat), 0:33
A – Newhouse 37 yd pass from Penrod, (kick failed), 0:10
W – Bender 1 yd run, (Hartwell pat), 11:56
A – Jax Miller 3 yd run, (pass failed), 5:27
A – Penrod 1 yd run, (Bryan pat), 2:09
Rushing: Avonworth – Miller 28-129, Penrod 7-24, Andrew Tedesco 1-0, Alex Ifft 2-(10). Totals: 38-143. Wilmington – Darren Miller 12-59, Susen 14-30, Bender 11-36. Totals: 37-125.
Passing: Avonworth – Penrod 9-for-14, 163 yards, 3 touchdowns, Team 0-for-1. Wilmington – Bender 6-for-12, 67 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception.
Receiving: Avonworth – Newhouse 6-115, Faulkner 2-33, Jacob Horigan 1-15. Wilmington – Susen 4-40, Shane Cox 1-17, Junior McConahy 1-10.
Interceptions: Avonworth – Jax Miller.
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