It’s up there on the scoreboard every day at practice as a constant reminder: 27-26 — the score of last year’s playoff opening-round loss to Avon Lake.
Not that anyone on Avon’s football team has forgotten it, certainly not senior captains Todd Torbert and Kyle Kudla.
“Ever since last year and the playoff loss to Avon Lake, it’s been an uphill battle,” Torbert said. “They even have the score up there to remind us of the anger we all felt after that loss.”
“It was great (last week) to win our home playoff game,” Kudla said. “And to go out and win in the fashion that we did. It’s always up there and it’s going to be up there as a reminder. We have to play every play like it’s our last one we’ll play in the playoffs.
“It’s win or go home at this point.”
Avon successfully opened the postseason with a 28-12 win over a tough, playoff-tested Toledo St. John’s team last week. The Eagles take on Highland in the second round tonight at Strongsville’s Pat Catan Stadium. It’s the fifth time the two have met in the playoffs. Avon has won three.
Torbert, a 6-foot-2, 224-pound two-year starting defensive end, and Kudla, an All-Southwestern Conference linebacker at 6-0, 210 pounds, are the heart and soul of the Eagles’ defense.
“When you play a 3-4, you need guys up front that demand double-teams and can keep people off our linebackers,” Elder said. “(Torbert’s) that guy. Not only can he keep people off our linebackers, he can get rid of blockers and still make plays and tackles. As a senior, he’s one of the most important people on our defense.”
Torbert has 46 total tackles — 11 solo – this season, including five sacks and 10 tackles for loss. His older brother Zack was Avon’s leading receiver in 2014 and is now playing for Youngstown State. Torbert is considering offers from Tiffin and Lake Erie College for next year.
Kudla, who will be playing at Hillsdale College next year, leads Avon in tackles with 82, 13 solo. He has seven tackles for loss and three sacks. He will be making his 23rd start for the Eagles tonight.
“Kyle Kudla is the guy that makes all the calls and gets everybody lined up and adjusts everybody,” Elder said. “Again, a kid in the middle for us that brings the toughness element to our team.”
Kudla likes to spread the praise around to the entire defense. He grew up in Avon and remembers sitting in the stands watching and waiting for his time to come.
“We actually have a lot of captains out there,” he said. “Everyone’s a captain in their own way on the defense. If you don’t bring it to that specific spot, bad things will happen. We do pride ourselves on knowing our assignments, hitting our gaps, hitting hard.”
Torbert believes it’s the speed of the defense that gives Avon an edge.
“Our unit is based on speed,” he said. “We have a lot of fast guys from our D-line, which is the fastest we’ve had in a long time, to our linebackers, to our backfield. We’re all just really fast. We fly to the ball. We have the bam-the-ball mentality. Everybody on defense wants to make the tackle. We make the tackle together as a group.”
Whle Kudla knows the team has met some of its goals, he said there is unfinished business.
“During the regular season, we were taking it one game at a time,” he said. “We wanted our main goal — the conference championship — and we got that. Get a home playoff game and we checked that off our list. Now we’ve got bigger goals — regional championship and then a state championship.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.