For a team that features a prolific offense, it was the Avon defense that stepped up Friday night in a 24-14 victory over Tiffin Columbian in the Cleveland Browns High School Game of the Week, presented by PNC Bank.
The Division II regional semifinal saw Columbian outgain Avon 363-209, but four forced turnovers made the difference for the Eagles.
On a team that has explosive players on the offensive side of the football, linebacker Kevin Maloney showed why defense is important this time of year, as he was in on all four of the turnovers. He intercepted a pass in the first half, recovered two fumbles and then, forced a crucial second-half turnover as well.
“Kevin Maloney played his tail off tonight," Avon coach Mike Elder said. "He's only a junior, and I think this kid is special. If you look at his body type, he looks like an outside linebacker at the college level.”
Quarterback David Zeh was named Game MVP after guiding an offense that was not playing at its usual level.
“Offensively, we have to do better, but our defense played great tonight,” Zeh said. “It has been one week at a time for us and now, it is on to next week.”
With good field position from the turnovers, the Eagles were able to open a 17-0 lead in the first half before Columbian found the end zone just before halftime, making it 17-7.
Following a scoreless third quarter, Avon put the game away when Zeh found Chris Maxwell on a fourth-and-one that made it 24-7 with just over five minutes left in the game.
“They say defense wins championships and offense sells tickets," Elder added. "We did just enough on offense to get by, but our defense was outstanding tonight.”
With the victory, Avon will play Toledo Central Catholic in next week’s Division II regional final. The game site will be determined by the Ohio High School Athletic Association on Sunday.
The Cleveland Browns Game of the Week program is presented by PNC Bank, in association with Russell Athletic and The Ohio Army National Guard.