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Avon Lake defense sinks Sylvania Southview for a 26-0 win in the first round of OHSAA playoffs

The Shoremen held Southview to just 36 yards of offense in the game
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Avon Lake Sylvania Southview football Owen MacMillan

AVON LAKE, Ohio – Avon Lake dominated in every facet of the game to blank Sylvania Southview 26-0 in the first round of the OHSAA Division II, Region 6 playoffs.

Avon Lake held Sylvania to an astounding 36 yards of total offense and -13 rushing yards for the shutout.

“Our defense does a fantastic job of getting prepared,” Avon Lake coach Matt Kostelnik said. “We were slanting really, really well tonight. We were able to get cross-face and get some penetration in the backfield. If we can force the ball outside out linebackers to a really great job of cleaning up.”

That defensive clinic came against a tricky offense which had averaged 32.7 points and over 270 yards per game.

From the beginning of the game, it was clear that the Shoremen defense was too aggressive and too fast for the Cougars, shutting down Sylvania’s first two drives - which came back-to-back after a muffed punt by Avon Lake senior Pierden Pepe.

Pepe, an all-state defensive defensive back last year who missed the second half of this season with a broken collar bone, made up for that miscue immediately by intercepting a pass from junior Avery Offenburg on fourth-and-long.

“I needed to knock the rust off a little bit,” Pepe said.

Pepe locked down Sylvania’s best athletes on the outside, helping the Shoremen keep the Cougars’ longest passing play to just 16 yards.

“It’s tough to simulate what Pepe brings to the table, he was an all-state corner coming back and you know just that Italian swagger he has,” Kostelnik said. “He just brings a different level to the game, I mean he had one interception and he was already running his mouth at his teammates. It’s a fun swagger he brings.”

Sylvania switched between two quarterbacks in Offenburg and sophomore Will Mayzes, as it has all season, but neither was able to find much success. The Cougars repeatedly tried to find the outside with quick screens and sweeps, but the Shoremen were more than capable of setting the edge and swarming to the ball.

“We overcome teams with our speed, and we definitely did that today,” Pepe said. “Everyone flies to the ball, one guy holds him up and then we all get there.”

Offenburg finished the game 3-of-11 for 25 yards and two interceptions, while Mayzes was 7-of-9 for 24 yards.

The Avon Lake offense was forced to punt on its first drive, and then held to field goals on its next two drives, which were made from 37 and 26 yards out by junior Ian Walsh.

But senior quarterback Jeremy Dzik was able to thrive under pressure on the final two drives of the second half to send the Shoremen into halftime up 19-0.

“I picked number three because I love third down a lot,” Dzik said. “It’s my favorite down honestly, it’s just all backs against the wall, you’ve gotta get it. I just like making big plays.”

Dzik was 16-of-26 for 200 yards and two touchdowns on the night.

“Jeremy played a great game, he really led out there,” Kostelnik said. “Stood in the pocket and took some hits and was able still to deliver the ball down the field. We gotta protect him a little bit more.”

The Shoremen felt the absence of starting running back Wade Nelson, who was injured last week and replaced by sophomore Anthony Benedict.

Benedict stands at just 5-foot-8 and 153 pounds, but he ran hard and often for the Shoremen in his first career start, finishing the game with 80 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

With this win Avon Lake, the region’s No. 6 seed, moves on to the second round, where it will go on the road to face No. 3 Toledo Central Catholic, which is coming off a 69-7 first round win over Ashland.

“(Next week) we are gonna see a similar style defense, just kind of a bigger, better version of it,” Kostelnik said. “So we can’t leave points on the board.”