AVON — With a swift swing of his right leg, Avon’s Nyles Edwards erased six years of season-opening losses to Hamilton Southeastern. The junior kicker booted a 25-yard field goal with 6.1 seconds remaining in the fourth after two consecutive HSE timeouts, sending the visiting Royals home with a 17-14 loss.
“They were icing me an I just prayed and I thought “I can hit this and I’ve hit it a thousand times and I’m going to win the game for us,’” Edwards said. “I just went crazy. It was the best moment of my life.”
Edwards also excelled punting the ball, a fact that caught the eye of Avon coach Mark Bless.
“His punting was fabulous tonight,” he said. “We had confidence in him, but when you are iced twice, you never know for sure. So, I’m very proud of Nyles for getting he job done along with the entire PAT team.”
But Edwards wasn’t the only special teams player that contributed to the Orioles’ win. Another junior, David Griffith, lifted Avon back into a tie at 14-14 with 4:07 remaining in the fourth.
Standing 52 yards away from the endzone, Griffith fielded a Royals punt and took it the distance with as the Avon crowd exploded into a frenzy.
“I have to give the rest of it up to my team. I had confidence out there, everybody had confidence out there and we never backed down,” Griffith said. “We all believed in that punt return and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
It was the spark Avon needed after a rough start to the second half.
The Orioles sputtered out of the break, committing a slew of penalties that included a pass interference call that handed HSE a first-and-goal on the Orioles’ 5-yard line.
Royals quarterback Ross Risley took it in on a sneak, putting HSE up 14-7 with 10:48 to play.
Those mistakes, while expected in the first game of the season, nearly cost Avon the game and Bless certainly took notice of the errors.
“We have got to clean up those penalities,” he said.
But it was a costly penalty by the Royals that kept Avon’s final drive alive. On third-and-9 at the HSE 47-yard line, an interception of Avon quarterback Cole Johnson was taken away for a roughing the passer call.
That allowed the Orioles to continue down the field, culminating with Edwards’ field goal for the win.
Johnson, a free safety last season, performed well after stepping back into the quarterback role. Although he had two interceptions on the night, the senior rushed for 87 yards and completed 11 of 24 passes for 101 yards.
Johnson finished the Orioles’ opening drive of the night with a 14-yard TD pass to Nolan Wulle.
With Avon up 7-0, and playing stiff defense, the Royals went into their bag of tricks to tie the game. Linebacker Bryan Roberts lined up in the backfield and heaved a 63-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Wright with 5.6 seconds left in the first quarter.
Bless could not have been more pleased with how his team overcame the ups and downs of their first contest and found a way to victory.
“When you fight through some adversity and win a game towards the end, at the end of the game you win it, you grow quite a bit as a team,” Bless said. “A lot of times you do not face that until midseason or the end of the season. So, we feel blessed that we came out with the win and that we were able to grow a little bit as a team.”