AVON, Oct. 26 – Under the buzz of portable lights that surrounded the Avon High football field, the Falcons seized control of their own championship destiny Sunday night against Ellington/Somers.
On its first four carries with the ball, Avon scored two touchdowns and the Falcon defense stopped the Purple Knights three times inside the 20-yard line in a convincing 48-20 victory.
The win leaves defending Pequot Uncas champion Avon (5-2, 5-0 Pequot Uncas) in command with just three Uncas games remaining against three teams with a combined record of 2-16. Ellington slips to 5-2 and 5-1 in the division.
Junior QB Andrew Livingstone made his first-ever varsity start in place of David Wyrick, who sprained his thumb a week ago. Livingstone completed 8-of-10 passes for 101 yards and three TDs, two to Vince Savarese. Livingstone also returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown.
Ross McDonald rushed for a career-high 127 yards and an 86-yard TD run early in the first quarter while teammate Mike D’Onofrio rushed for 95 yards and three TDs on 12 carries.
“We came out hard in the first half and that set the tone for the rest of the game,” D’Onofrio said. “The offensive line every week they have been getting better. Without them, I am nothing so I give all the credit to them.”
For the fifth time in the last six weeks, the Falcons rushed for over 276 yards as a team.
“We can really run the ball,” said Wyrick, who played at defensive back and kicked extra points with his hand wrapped up in a hard bandage. “The offensive line has come a long way. It’s unbelievable how it is helping us out.”
On Avon’s third play, D’Onofrio broke free up the middle for a 39-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead. When the Falcons got the ball back, McDonald broke through the line of scrimmage, broke through an attempted tackle and sailed up the middle for an 86-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 lead with 4:48 left in the first half.
The Falcon defense had its moments as well. On Ellington’s first possession, the Knights drove the Avon 14-yard line. But the Falcons held and Ellington turned the ball over on downs.
Trailing 14-0, the Knights took over on the Avon 34 after intercepting Livingstone. Ellington drove to the Avon 13. On third-and-5, Ellington QB completed a short five-yard pass to Shane Hatheway but linebacker Mike Dugan made the hit to leave the Knights inches short of the first down.
On fourth-and-1 from the eight, Sam Ziter tried to run wide but got hit hard and fumbled. Livingstone recovered the ball to end the threat.
“Defense is what coach stresses most,” D’Onofrio said. “He would rather be a tough defensive team than a team that puts up a lot of points.”
Primarily on the ground, the Falcons marched 92 yards, converting four times on third down to keep the drive alive. Two were 3rd-and-8 situations and one was 3rd-and-7. On third down and five from the Ellington 10, Livingstone found a wide-open Savarese for the touchdown with 5:17 left in the half and a 21-0 lead.
Livingstone’s second TD pass to D’Onofrio, a seven-yard pass with 1:14 left in the second quarter made it 28-0.
Ellington scored on its opening possession of the third quarter to cut the lead to 28-7 but Avon responded immediately. McDonald had a 53-yard kickoff return and D’Onofrio capped off the drive with a 7-yard run for a 34-7 lead.
Ellington’s Cody Anselmo returned the kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. But McDonald returned the Ellington kickoff 31 yards to the Knights’ 45-yard line. Four plays later, it was fourth-and-1 on the Ellington 39.
Livingstone dropped back to pass and found Savarese behind a Ellington defender. Without breaking his stride, Savarese was able to gather in Livingstone’s perfectly thrown ball for a 39-yard TD pass with no time left in the third quarter and a 41-14 lead.
Livingstone’s 45-yard interception return closed out the scoring for the Falcons.
NOTES: Wyrick was 6-for-7 kicking PAT. ... He made several tackles at defensive back. He even lined up at wide receiver on offense. ... Avon has Pequot Uncas games remaining with Canton (1-5, 1-4), Stafford (1-4, 1-3) and Gilbert (3-3, 1-3). ... The win lifted Avon into the fifth spot in the Class M playoff rankings. The top four make the CIAC playoffs.