FREMONT - So many numbers looked good for Columbian in its quest for a Division II regional championship berth.
But the one that looked best at Don Paul Stadium here Friday night was Avon's No. 47.
Kevin Maloney was in the ideal position three times and turned one rare occasion when he was out of position into a plus as well in coming up with four turnovers for the Eagles. The takeaways formed the foundation for a 24-14 win over the Tornadoes.
It marked the second-straight year in which Avon ended an otherwise highly successful season for the Tornadoes. This time, Columbian finishes 11-1 to match the best single-season record in school history.
"You know, for a playoff game, you do about 20 (pregame) interviews and every one of them, I talked about how turnovers will be the difference in the game," Columbian coach Brian Colatruglio said.
"It was two teams evenly matched and you knew it was going to be a close, tight football game," he said. "The turnovers - I think three of the four were inside their 30. Those are just killers."
|Avon 24, Columbian 14|
|Avon||3||14||0||7 — 24|
|Columbian||0||7||0||7 — 14|
|A — Eric Sumislawski 27 field goal, 7:25|
|A — David Zeh 9 run (Sumislawski kick), 7:12|
|A — Ross Douglas 8 run (Sumislawski kick), 6:22|
|TC —Jordan Dye 48 pass from Michael Rohrbach (Derek Dryfuse kick), 1:46|
|A — Chris Maxwell 1 pass from Zeh (Sumislawski kick), 5:15|
|TC — Dye 17 pass from Rohrbach (Dryfuse kick), :58|
|RUSHING: Avon — Douglas 13-41; Zeh 13-10; Mark Kvach 7-7; Ralph Smith III 1-4; Tyler Vaccarella 1-3. Columbian — Jack Jacoby 25-94; Ryan Lynch 17-71; Rohrbach 4-3; Donovan Walker 1-3.|
|PASSING: Avon — Zeh 8-18-0-140. Columbian — Rohrbach 9-21-1-147, Jacoby 2-2-0-35.|
|RECEIVING: Avon — Smith III 3-38; Maxwell 2-77; Braeden Friss 2-23; Douglas 1-4. Columbian — Dye 5-105; Walker 3-31; Vince Anway 1-28; Dryfuse 1-20; Lynch 1-(minus 2).|
Other numbers suggested the Tornadoes had the upper hand. In fact, they bordered on being downright dominant.
Columbian piled up 19 first downs to just eight for the Eagles, and had a 353-205 advantage in total offense.
But in the end, it was No. 47 who made the difference.
Avon led 3-0 after one quarter, thanks to Eric Sumislawski's 27-yard field goal that capped the Eagles' first possession.
The Tornadoes were on the move early in the second period and advanced as far was the Eagle 28. But a holding penalty pushed them back and then, on third-and-17, Maloney picked off a Michael Rohrbach pass and returned it 40 yards to the TC 35.
Quarterback David Zeh twice converted on fourth down. First, he ran 20 yards on fourth-and-8 from the 33. Then on fourth-and-6 from the 9, he scooted in for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead with 7:12 left in the half.
Columbian's Nate Hoyda had the ball knocked loose on the kickoff return and there was Maloney for the recovery at the Tornado 22.
This time, it was Ross Douglas getting a touchdown on an 8-yard run to make it 17-0 with 6:22 still to play. It was the one bright spot on an otherwise long night for the University of Michigan recruit. Douglas had 1,236 yards over nine games but was limited to 41 yards on 13 tries Friday.
"Defense wins championships and offense sells tickets," Avon coach Mike Elder said. "We did just enough on offense to get by, but our defense was outstanding and our special teams were pretty good, too."
Still, Columbian developed some momentum with a three-play, quick score just before the half. Rohrbach hit Jordan Dye for a 14-yard gain. Two plays later, he went to him again on a middle screen that turned into a 48-yard touchdown. Derek Dryfuse's kick trimmed it to 17-7 at the half.
The Tornadoes dominated in the third period, but had nothing to show for it. One possession was a 62-yard drive that stalled when Jack Jacoby (94 yards, 25 carries) was stopped short on fourth-and-2 from the Avon 25.
The other two ended in Maloney retrievals.
Once, Jacoby hit the line on a first-down play from the Eagle 25 and the ball popped straight up. Maloney caught it to end the threat.
There was still time for a rally early in the fourth, and the Tornadoes were doing just that.
Rohrbach's 9-yard pass to Donovan Walker produced a first down and Ryan Lynch's power run of 17 yards was good for another. Lynch had 71 yards on 17 tries.
Then Jacoby hit Dye over the middle for a 15-yard gain to the 20, but Maloney came up with a strip and ran the other way.
"I actually got beat on that play, but luckily I recovered," Maloney said with an embarrassed grin. "It was a seam route and (Dye) beat me. I just went after him and when he was going down, I saw the ball was coming loose."
"Kevin is a kid who is always in the right place and he's a smart football player," Elder said. "Their kid made a nice catch and it looked like they were getting a big first down but the big thing with Kevin, he never gives up on a play. He stuck with it and got a takeaway."
This time, Avon took advantage.
Tight end Chris Maxwell took a short pass from Zeh and turned it into a 76-yard gain to the Columbian 2. Zeh later hit Maxwell for 1-yard TD.
Rohrbach hit four passes in directing a 92-yard drive, including a 17-yard touchdown to Dye with 58 seconds left.
"We got some momentum at the end of the second quarter and carried it over into the third," Colatruglio said. "We just needed to finish a drive. We just need to finish one off.
"The worst part is we were wearing them down," he said. "We were running downhill and wearing on them, but we kept turning it over. We didn't turn it over like that all year."
For his part, Elder said his defense came up especially big.
"People don't know how good that football team is," Elder said of the Tornadoes. "They were 11-0 for a reason, believe me. For our defense to hold that team to 14 points, that was just outstanding. There were times when it looked like they had our number."
But he had No. 47.