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"GN" picks up huge win versus Avon to keep playoff hopes alive

POSTED November 21, 2010
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

AVON - “That was the best defensive performance I have ever seen,” Gilbert/Northwestern head coach Scott Salius told his team after watching them shut out Avon, the highest scoring team in the Pequot League by a 7-0 score, throwing their playoff hat squarely back in the ring in Class M.

For those in attendance Saturday, it’s kind of hard to argue with the Yellowjackets head coach - his defense was that good.

How good? Lets throw some numbers around.

The Falcons were shut out for the first time since the dropped a 21-0 decision to Cromwell in their season opener in 2008.

“GN” held an offense that averaged 37.7 points per game coming in to just 131 total yards and eight first downs, none in the first quarter.

All-State running back Ross McDonald was held to 42 yards on 14 carries; the senior running back averaged over 150 per game coming in.

Senior wide-out Tyler D’Onofrio caught just one ball all game for 30 yards, well below his 100-plus average.

In a three-hour period on Saturday, the Yellowjackets (7-2) catapulted themselves back into the Class M playoffs and now sit in the sixth position, with the top eight making the postseason.

It sets up an out-of-this-world Thanksgiving Day game against rival Housatonic in Falls Village with a trip to the promise land on the line.

For the Falcons, a regular season that had started slow but picked up steam over the last three games, it’s a crushing defeat that puts them in real danger of winning the Pequot Uncas Division but missing out on the States despite their 8-2 record.

Class L is loaded this year and as of Saturday night, Avon is on the outside in the 10th spot.

Coming into this game, the two teams had both had great seasons and over the past three years, the two schools have scrimmaged each other and the gap between them, which heavily favored the Falcons, was closing.

But a shutout? Nothing in their history suggested this kind of game was on tap.

Since they renewed their rivalry in 2006, the scores read as follows.

30-0 (2006), 34-0 (2007), 49-6 (2008) and 27-7 a year ago, all Avon wins.

Salius is in his third year at the helm of the Yellowjackets and has seen his team improve each and every year, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

“We had a game plan and the players went out and executed it to perfection,” Salius said. “But nowhere in my wildest dreams did I think we would shut them out. I thought it might end up a high scoring affair.”

The game's only score came in the second quarter when the Yellowjackets got the ball deep in Avon territory after a 12-yard punt gave them the ball on the 28-yard line.

Devon Molway, who led all rushers with 116 yards on 25 carries, broke a 21-yard run on a sweep left to give his team a first and goal from the Falcons six.

Three plays later, senior Kyle Jones punched it in from a yard out for the game's only touchdown.

John Ambrozaitis added the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 5:38 left in the half.

On the ensuing drive, the Falcons started to get their offense going when quarterback Colin Pavano hit D’Onofrio for a 30yard gain, inside Yellowjacket territory at the 48-yard line.

On the next play though, Pavano looked to go back to his main target but freshman John Lippincott jumped the route and came up with his second pick of the game.

Neither team got much going the remainder of the half and the teams went into the locker room with the visitors up by that lone second quarter score.

Gilbert/Northwestern got the ball to start the second half and put together a time consuming six-minute drive that ended with a Bobby Lippincott interception that was as good as a punt when it was picked by Colin Moore at his own nine-yard line.

Time after time on Saturday, the “GN” defense was up the task, even when their defense dealt them a bad hand.

The Falcons forced a fumble late in the third quarter and got the ball on their own 40-yard line where they started what looked like a game-tying drive.

Sophomore Colin Moore and McDonald started to find holes and drove their team all the way to the visitor's 10-yard line with a first and goal as the fourth quarter got underway.

Great defense sometimes gets you a break and after the Gilbert defense stopped Moore, Pavano and McDonald, leaving a fourth and goal from the eight, the Falcons were wide right with their field goal attempt.

With every stop, the confidence level on the “GN” sideline was growing.

They would be tested again with just under six minutes to play when McDonald, trying to make something happen somewhere, returned a punt 45 yards, all the way to the Yellowjackets 25-yard line.

Four plays and two yards later, the play went the other way on downs but a McDonald interception at the Gilbert 30 gave the home team yet another shot at tying things.

Once again, the visiting defense was up to the task and forced Pavano into three straight incomplete passes.

Don’t think Salius was relaxing at any point during this one though.

“I kept expecting the big play on the next play,” Salius said. “They have so many players who can break one.”

For Lippincott, who has at least one more game in him versus Housatonic in four days, this one meant everything.

“This sums it all up for me,” Lippincott said. “Even though I didn’t play well at quarterback, the entire team played great on defense.”

From 2-8 in 2008 in his first year, to a potential 8-2 in year three. That’s some kind of turnaround for Salius and his program.

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