AVON — Opportunities presented themselves to both the Avon Pirates and the Centerville Tornadoes as they opened South Dakota State 9B Playoff football Tuesday night, but it was the Pirates who emerged and took advantage to claim a 60-20 win over the Tornadoes in Avon.
The tide turned when the Tornadoes, who trailed 14-6 and were driving forward in Avon territory, turned the ball over on an interception to Brandon Kocmich at the Pirate 5-yard line.
Already backed up, the Pirates were stopped by the Tornado defense for a 4-yard loss. Avon gained a whisper of breathing room on a run of two yards by captain Taylor Hento, and then Kocmich burst through the middle of the line and past the Tornado secondary for a 97-yard touchdown gallop.
The run by the 6-2 junior gave the Pirates a 20-6 lead with 9:35 to play in the first half and had Avon off and running for good.
“It was tiring, but at that point, we just decided to do our jobs,” Kocmich said of the run. “The line did a great job of blocking and opening up the hole.”
“On the play with the loss, we had a backside guy miss a block,” Avon head coach Tom Culver said. “We came back with the same play and everybody did what they were supposed to.”
Mistakes plagued both teams in the early going, leaving the upper hand yet to be claimed.
The Pirates had a possible game-opening touchdown run called back by a penalty and then fumbled on their second possession, setting up the Tornadoes first score.
Centerville took possession and quickly passed their way down the field.
Tornado quarterback Seamus O’Malley hooked up with Ty Knutson for completions of seven and 22 yards and hooked up with Logan Hunter for 22-yard gain. The visitors capitalized as O’Malley rifled a pass into Josh DeRaad at the goal-line for a 13-yard touchdown.
DeRaad’s touchdown cut Avon’s early lead to 8-6, but the Pirates and Kocmich responded by returning the kickoff 89-yards for a touchdown and a 14-6 home lead.
After Kocmich’s 97-yard TD run, the Pirates scored 24 points in the final 4:48 of the half to take a sudden 44-6 lead into the break.
Logan Mudder flipped a short pass to fullback Kole Beeson who had no one around him and scampered 27 yards for a score.
Kocmich tacked on touchdown runs of 12 and 14 yards, and the tailback had five first-half scores.
Devin Tolsma opened the second half with a 28-yard sweep and touchdown, and the Pirates increased their lead to 52-6.
The Tornadoes battled the running clock and scored two 4th-quarter touchdowns — one on a 10-yard run from DeRaad and on a hookup from O’Malley to Knutson of 21 yards.
Avon closed out the 60-20 final with a 36-yard touchdown run by Tolsma.
The Pirate coach was pleased with the way his young team, now 6-3, changed the game.
“This is the first playoff game starting for a lot of these kids, and they made some mistakes,” Culver said. “These are talented kids and they were able to turn it around.
“Centerville came to play and they threw a lot of different things at us,” Culver added. “It took a little while for the kids to adjust and to adapt.”
The Tornadoes (5-4) wanted to take a physical effort at the Pirates, and they were successful until the game got away from them.
“I was very pleased with the effort we came out with,” Centerville head coach Pat Sees said. “We had some execution issues early, but the kids continued to play hard.”