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Ava football fans who made the long trip to Oregon County last Friday night were treated to an excellent football game, and came away with the bonus of a win as the Bears defeated the Thayer Bobcats 30-16.
A week ago the Bears threw only one pass in the entire game, but Friday night the run-oriented Bears scored two touchdown passes and added a 2-point pass conversion.
On the night, quarterback Garrett Baird completed seven of 14 passes for a total of 91 yards.
Ava rushed for 235 yards and had total offense of 326 yards on the night.
Ava led Thayer 15-8 at halftime, but the Bobcats took a 16-15 lead halfway into the third period.
Ava came back, however, after a 25-minute injury delay and regained the lead, 23-16, on a 13-yard touchdown run by senior Taylor Coonts and the 2-point conversion pass from Baird to Kevin Philpott.
Then, late in the game, Coonts ran 94 yards on two consecutive plays to expand Ava’s lead, and the kick by Brock Mitchell set the final score at 30-16.
Following Thayer’s go-ahead touchdown at 6:16 in the third quarter, Ava began the ensuing drive at the Thayer 44-yard line.
On 3rd-and-17 following a sack of quarterback Baird, senior Brett Lambert caught a pass at the Thayer 13-yard line where he was hit immediately and knocked unconscious for a brief time.
Coaches and medical personnel kept him still on the playing field after he regained consciousness, while waiting some 20 minutes for an ambulance to come from Alton. After the 25-minute delay, play resumed with the Bears looking 4th down-and-3 at the Thayer 13-yard line.
It was from there that the Bears scored to go ahead to stay.
By the time the ambulance arrived, Lambert was conscious and talking, and had full body movement, but was forced to lie still until he could be completely immobilized for the trip to the hospital for evaluation.
Coach Dan Swofford said Lambert was released from the hospital around 2 a.m. Saturday, and is fine, but will not play this week as a precautionary measure.
With 9½ minutes left, Thayer received an Ava punt and began a drive at the Bobcat 38-yard-line.
On second-and-goal at the Ava 5-yard line, Thayer’s Cameron Carey ran the ball in for an apparent Bobcat touchdown, but a flag was thrown for a false start and the ball was backed up to the 10-yard line.
The Bobcats got back to the Ava 3-yard line, but on fourth-and-goal at the 3, Ava’s Austin Clayton shot through the line to trip Carey up at the 6 where Ava would take over on downs.
On second-and-10, Coonts got the call and sprinted 56 yards to the Thayer 38. When the sticks were set, Baird handed the ball to Coonts once again, and he ran the rest of the way, 38 yards for the touchdown with 1:38 left. Mitchell’s kick completed the scoring.
Ava got on the board first with 55 seconds left in the first quarter on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Baird to Philpott. Mitchell’s kick put the Bears up 7-0.
Fifteen seconds later, on Thayer’s first play of the drive, Carey ran 60 yards for the touchdown, and also added the 2-point conversion to put the Bobcats up by one, 8-7.
It remained that way until, with 15 seconds left in the second quarter, Baird passed to Coonts for a 9-yard touchdown play, and Baird ran the ball in for the 2-points to put the Bears back on top, 15-8 at halftime.
Thayer would regain the lead at 6:16 in the third quarter when quarterback Jared Foley ran the ball in from the 11-yard line. The Bobcats would have settled for a tie at that time, but on the kick attempt the snap was fumbled and holder Lucas Risner ran the ball in for the 2-point conversion, putting the Bobcats up 16-15.
This was actually Thayer’s second touchdown of the 47-yard drive, but the only one that counted. Just 12 seconds earlier Carey had scored on a 1-yard run, but the play was brought back because of a Thayer holding penalty.
The injury to Lambert on the ensuing Ava drive put a new charge in the Bears and sparked two more touchdowns by Coonts who had three on the night.
Coonts carried 16 times 155 rushing yards, and contributed his three touchdowns.
Defensively, senior Charles Bruton had 15 tackles and one interception, and junior Jeff Smalley had 11 tackles.
Philpott also had an interception for the Bears on Thayer’s final play of the game.
The Bears are back on the road again this week for the second of four consecutive trips. This time the destination is Salem.
It will be Salem’s Homecoming, so the Tigers will be charged and ready to play ball. Coach Swofford says Salem is a “solid football team” that is getting better each week. They have lost to Thayer and Mtn. View-Liberty this year.
Swofford says this will be two equally matched teams, and it should be a good ballgame to see.
On Oct. 8 the Bears will travel to Mtn. View Liberty for a game that could determine the conference title.