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No. 8 Avonworth outruns No. 4 Apollo-Ridge

| Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, 10:48 p.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Disp
Apollo-Ridge's (86) Alex Smith misses a pass against Avonworth's (11) Jesse Zubik during the first half Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, at Avonworth High School.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Apollo-Ridge's (10) Jesse Zelonka outruns Avonworth's (45) Brandon Wasko during the second half of the football game at Avonworth High School on Friday, September 27, 2013.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Disp
Avonworth's (45) Brandon Wasko dodges Apollo-Ridge's (30) Ben Gembalia during the first half of the football game at Avonworth High School on Friday, September 27, 2013.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Apollo-Ridge's Dillon Tones (2) attempts to hold a grip on Avonworth's Brandon Wasko (45) during the first half of the football game at Avonworth High School on Friday, September 27, 2013.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Apollo-Ridge's Alex Smith (86) scores a touchdown against Avonworth's Josh Drwal (21) during the first half of the football game at Avonworth High School on Friday, September 27, 2013.
Erica Dietz | Tirb Total Media
Apollo-Ridge's Duane Brown (5) gets chased by the Avonworth defense during the first half Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, at Avonworth.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Apollo-Ridge's Tre Tipton gets taken out by Avonworth's Andrew Broadus (2) and (bottom, 11) Jesse Zubik during the first half of the football game at Avonworth High School on Friday, September 27, 2013.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Avonworth's Tyson Kirk (25) dodges Apollo-Ridge's Jonah Casella (35) during the first half Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, at Avonworth High School.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Apollo-Ridge's Duane Brown (5) attempts to take out Avonworth's Luke Bauer (12) during the first half of the football game at Avonworth High School on Friday, September 27, 2013.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Apollo-Ridge's Tre Tipton attempts to get around Avonworth's Brad Mankey during a Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, game.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Avonworth's Jesse Zubik (11) scores a touchdown against Apollo-Ridge's Duane Brown (5) during the first half of the football game at Avonworth High School on Friday, September 27, 2013.

Those who seek anxiety-inducing entertainment might want to start putting the Avonworth/Apollo-Ridge showdown on their list of things to watch.

One year after their overtime thriller, the two teams again traded scores in a wild Eastern Conference game that host Avonworth hung on to win, 35-27, on Friday.

The No. 8 Antelopes (5-0, 4-0) pulled off the upset of No. 4 Apollo-Ridge (3-2, 2-2) to return the favor for a season ago, when the lower-ranked Vikings won, 28-21, with a goal-line stand in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

“We're kind of used to blowing teams out, but we knew this one would be different,” said Avonworth senior quarterback Matt Donovan, who completed 14 of 25 pass attempts for 228 yards and three touchdowns.

Avonworth, averaging 41.8 points per game, converted four of six third downs in the first half. A major reason: Donovan let his receivers turn short throws into big pickups, as he completed 12 of his 19 first-half attempts — most into the flat — for 162 yards.

Moses Giles, junior Tyson Kirk and junior Brandon Wasko — all running backs — made Apollo-Ridge's pass-rushers pay for their eagerness to rush the quarterback. Giles caught four screens to pick up 69 yards, 38 of which came on a touchdown just before halftime.

On fourth-and-10 from the A-R 38 with 26 seconds left in the second quarter, Avonworth went for it. Giles zigzagged through Vikings defenders to reach the left sideline, where he raced the rest of the way to put the Antelopes up, 27-7.

“That one before the half, we're yelling in the huddle, ‘It's going to be a screen,' and still that happened,” Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba said. “There were a lot of breakdowns, and the scary thing is we're a skilled team.”

Kirk caught two screens for 32 yards, while Wasko caught three for 41.

Giles also scored twice on 1-yard runs, and Jesse Zubik opened the scoring with a 5-yard touchdown catch in which he kept his toes just inside the front-right pylon.

“We have a couple wide receivers who are just faster than anyone I've ever seen,” Donovan said.

Avonworth's screen strategy backfired in the second quarter. A quick throw down the line of scrimmage by Donovan fell to the ground, and Apollo-Ridge's Jonah Casella dove on the ball. While the Antelopes disregarded the play as an incompletion, the referees ruled it a lateral.

The Vikings, set up at Avonworth's 26, scored two plays later on a 24-yard fade from Jesse Zelonka to Alex Smith, who made a leaping grab over his defender.

Another turnover set up a scoring opportunity for Apollo-Ridge, as the Vikings recovered a bad snap at Avonworth's 20 midway through the third quarter. One play later, Zelonka completed the first of his three touchdown throws to Tre Tipton, who finished with 11 receptions for 127 yards.

Tipton's third touchdown catch, which capped a 91-yard drive, cut the deficit to 35-27 with 7:55 to play. The Vikings got the ball back one more time but failed to advance past Avonworth's 41.

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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