By Bryan Ault
INDIANAPOLIS – Avon head coach Mark Bless was pleased with the way his team executed against Columbus North on Friday night, scoring a 48-14 victory over the Bulldogs – and his own brother – during the second game of the Horseshoe Classic at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“I’m glad it’s over, not the outcome, just the matchup,” Bless said of the matchup against Columbus North head coach Tim Bless. “I did not look forward to this game. I’m glad our players prepared well and executed well. Obviously, we had some breaks early and we had momentum. I was very impressed with the way our guys played tonight on both sides of the ball.”
Avon’s starters wasted no time getting down to business. Tyler Anderson returned the opening kickoff to the Columbus North 46-yard line. Junior quarterback Henry Hesson was 3-for-3 on the opening drive, connecting with senior running back Jalen Love under heavy pressure for an early touchdown with 9:46 remaining the first quarter. “It felt really good,” Hesson said of the first offensive series. “It was a great atmosphere. It was good to get out with the boys and see what we could do.”
Columbus North responded well for the start of the ensuing possession. A big pass from Mitchel Collier to Blake Huffman on a trick-play and a couple of nice runs set up the Bulldogs deep into Avon territory. However, a muffed handoff by quarterback Hunter Huser was fumbled and recovered by Avon linebacker Clayton Peters and returned for a touchdown. Huser was picked off by Avon junior cornerback Antwain Wade, who returned it to the Orioles’ 18-yard line. Three plays later, Hesson connected with Remington Gall for an eight-yard touchdown pass, giving the Orioles a 21-0 lead. Another big return from Anderson, this time on a punt, gave Avon strong field position inside the red zone. Columbus North defensive back Avrin Holt broke up a would-be touchdown pass, forcing Avon to a 25-yard field goal. Avon led 24-0 with 11:06 remaining in the first half.
A 62-yard touchdown carry from running back Crishon McCray extended Avon’s lead to 31-0. After a quick three-and-out, Avon defensive back Joseph Sargent blocked a punt, giving the Orioles strong position at the Columbus North 10-yard line. Hesson cashed in, this time connecting with Joe Hall for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Waid picked off Huser for the second time around midfield, giving Avon nice field position with a two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the first half. Hesson hit wide receiver Carmelo Mitchell for 31-yards, but the drive stalled. Nick Bandy kicked a 28-yarder through the uprights to put Avon up 41-0 heading into the second half.
A fumbled toss play by Columbus North was scooped up by defensive back Austin Mayo, who took it to the house midway through the third quarter. The Bulldogs got on the board with three minutes left in the third period when running back Blake Huffman broke loose for a 62-yard touchdown. On the following series, Columbus North linebacker Royce Lofton recovered a blocked punt, and the Bulldogs punched it in for a two-yard touchdown with 10:33 left in the game.
Hesson was 7-for-9 for 101 yards and two touchdowns in the first half and exhibited poise and accuracy under pressure; a fact not lost by head coach Mark Bless.
“I thought Henry played really well,” Mark Bless said. “He had some good checks out of some plays. I thought he commanded the field very well.”
“I came in this game real confident, and I was confident in my receivers,” Hesson said. “I just found them and they made some plays.”
Mark Bless looks forward to next week’s game against Ben Davis. The Giants had a narrow loss against a talented Brownsburg team on Friday night.
“The good thing is we’ve got film, we’re healthy,” Bless said. “Our number ones only played a half, so we have to make sure they are ready to play four quarters next week.”
Columbus North will face cross-town rival Columbus East next week. Bulldogs head coach Tim Bless said he intends to watch film, seek the positives and build on Week One’s tough game. “It’s not how you want to open a season, but when you are playing a team that is physically superior than you, it’s a rough night,” Tim Bless said. “I know our tailback is a warrior, I know he fought his tail off. We’ve got a Division I football player in Mitchel Collier, and I know he played his tail off, and I’m sure others as well. That’s where we have to build from the positives and obviously correct the mistakes and be a better football team in week two than we were in week one.”