FOOTBALL: Avondale’s Mitchell saves day in 21-19 win over Lahser |
BY DAN STICKRADT
AUBURN HILLS — Forget All-State. Auburn Hills Avondale is now in better hands and Mitchell Williams is the new agent in town.
The junior two-way lineman came through in the clutch Friday, blocking both a third-quarter extra point attempt to go along with batting down a two-point conversion pass with 55 seconds remaining in leading host Avondale to a thrilling, 21-19, victory over Bloomfield Hills Lahser in a Division 3 pre-district.
Avondale (9-1) will visit state-ranked Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in a district championship game next weekend, a rematch of a 2010 district final where St. Mary’s posted a 71-49 triumph.
Trailing 21-13, Lahser drove 82 yards in 12 plays and closed to within two points when Spencer McCourt hit Colin Feilla on a 15-yard pass down the middle, where Feilla extended his arms over the goal line.
The ensuing extra point was turned aside by Avondale’s Mitchell and the onside kick attempt was recovered by the Yellowjackets.
Mitchell’s ball-hawking style instincts came through in the clutch.
“I watched his eyes and because I wasn't to him, I just jumped up looking for the swat,” said Williams of blocking the two-point conversion pass. “You can practice all you want on plays like that, but in the moment, your instincts really take over.”
Avondale coach Steven Deutsch made Williams a varsity starter two years ago when Mitchell was a freshman and he is now becoming a rising star in the trenches.
“You can't say enough about him,” said Deutsch of Williams. “He's been the heart and soul of both the offensive and defensive lines. I've been telling people that he's one of the best defensive linemen around. He's only a junior, and he’s a third-year starter. He does so much for our team.”
Avondale never trailed, putting together nine-play, 70-yard drive that was capped by Michael Johnson’s 6-yard run up the middle with 7:55left in the opening quarter.
A fumble recovery allowed Lahser to put together a scoring drive on its third possession of the game. Quarterback Spencer McCourt found a streaking Trey Justice for a 56-yard scoring toss down the middle with 1:36 to go in the opening frame.
Avondale scored again in the second quarter, this time with Johnson scoring on a 29-yard sprint where he cut through a bevy of traffic before reaching the end zone with 10:02 left in the second quarter.
Again, Lahser was able to come back to within 14-13 when Feilla hauled in a 48-yard strike from McCourt with 6:19 left in the third quarter. Avondale’s Mitchell came through with his first key play when he got a hand on the extra point, keeping the Knights (6-4) at bay.
Avondale’s third touchdown came with 6:59 left when Spencer Smith scampered home from 12 yards out on a quarterback keeper to put his team up eight points at 21-13.
Johnson, who has fought through injuries all season, finished the night with 179 yards on 23 carries. Joshuwa Holloman added 107 yards on 18 carries, Chase Lalla had four touches for 52 yards and Smith also had 52 rushing yards on eight carries for the Yellowjackets.
The loss ended an era for Lahser, which will merge with Bloomfield Hills Andover next school year.
“I think the kids are heartbroken,” said Lahser coach Dan Loria. “I know they had their hearts set on winning this game and making a run to the Final Four or to Ford Field, but it’s games like this that they’ll look back on later in life and realize what type of football game this was (tonight).
“I think a game like this really shows what kind of character our guys have,” continued Loria. “You have to give it up to Avondale. This was a great night of high school football. These guys met every expectation I had for this team.”
McCourt finished 17-for-42 for 313 yards for Lahser, which had negative rushing yardage for the game. Feilla caught eight passes for 123 yards for the Knights.