AVON, Ohio — The return to the football playoffs for St. Francis de Sales was short lived.
The Knights fell 38-14 on Friday night to Avon in a Division II first-round game. The Eagles advance to play Perrysburg.
“We played a very good football team, and whenever you play a good team on the road, at their place, undefeated, you’re going to have your hands full,” St. Francis coach Chris Hedden said. “I thought we were right in the game.”
St. Francis (8-3) couldn’t overcome two early turnovers, and Avon (11-0) went on to a decisive victory to end the Knights’ first experience in the playoffs since the 2009 season.
The Knights were limited to two touchdowns, the first a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown by Stephen David to give the Knights an early 7-0 lead.
However, St. Francis had trouble with slowing down Avon running back Gerett Choat. The hard-nosed 5-foot-9, 175-pound sophomore found his way to the end zone four times.
Choat, who finished with 152 yards on 18 carries, scored on runs of 10, 2, 9, and 1 yards.
Avon quarterback Tommy Glenn called Choat an “animal” whenever he touches the ball close to the goal line.
“He puts his head down and finds his way to the end zone,” said Glenn, who also threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Braeden Friss.
Choat wasn’t St. Francis’ only problem. The Knights never bounced back after falling behind 21-7 in the first half.
Besides an impressive 23-play, 77-yard scoring drive in the first half, capped by a three-yard TD run from Lamar Carswell, the Knights never established any consistency moving the ball.
“Avon didn’t do anything other than what I thought they were going to do, other than play hard, play the whistle,” Hedden said. “They’re a good defense.”
The Knights’ coach said there’s plenty to be proud of about this season.
“I don’t think anybody in the area thought we’d be 8-2, 6-1 in the TRAC, and making the playoffs,” Hedden said. “If you would have told somebody that at the beginning of the year, they would have laughed. All our kids went out and battled and played.
“It’s a credit to them and to their leadership and their work ethic and buying in to me and our coaching staff. We believed in them, and they believed in us.”
David’s interception came early in the game.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder gave the Knights the lead on the third play when he intercepted a sideline pass by Glenn and returned it 42 yards with 11 minutes, 41 seconds left.
However, any edge the Knights may have had didn’t last long. The Eagles came back on their next possession with a 10-play, 68-yard scoring drive to tie the score at 7. Choat found the end zone on a 10-yard run with 8:38 left in the first quarter. The Eagles capitalized on back-to-back turnovers by the Knights to score two more TDs to go ahead 21-7.
Knights quarterback David Nees fumbled at the Eagles’ 1-yard line, killing a potential go-ahead score midway through the first quarter.
Avon safety Logan Juhl plucked the fumble out of the air a yard into the end zone and raced down the sideline before he was tackled at the St. Francis 37. It only took the Eagles five plays to capitalize as Choat on a two-yard run for a 14-7 lead.
Then David fumbled after catching a pass. Avon capitalized with Choat scoring on a nine-yard run.
The Knights responded with Carswell’s TD to make it 21-14 with 2:37 left in the second quarter.
But the Eagles up-tempo offense moved quickly and Eric Sumislawski booted a 37-yard field as time expired.
Avon scored on its first possession in the second half for a 31-14 lead when Glenn found Friss on a five-yard pass.