Class 1A Playoff Football: Abingdon-Avon scores late to grab win over Annawan/Wethersfield

By Aaron Frey
For The Register-Mail
Abingdon-Avon senior wide receiver Clay Slagel breaks away from the Annawan/Wethersfield defense for a long run after a pass reception during the Tornadoes' 14-8 win over the Titans in the opening round of the Class 1A playoffs on Friday, Oct. 29. 2021 at Don Viar Memorial Field.

ABINGDON  — Parker Darst laid the boom to help the Abingdon-Avon football team avoid an early boot from the Class 1A playoffs.

The Tornadoes senior defensive back broke up a fourth-down pass in the final minute as top-seeded A-Town survived 16th-seeded Annawan/Wethersfield 14-8 in a first-round game Friday night at Don Viar Memorial Field.

“Coolest moment of my life,” Darst said. “That was probably the best hit I’ve ever had.”

With the Titans (5-5) facing fourth-and-5 from the A-Town (9-1) 24-yard line with 41 seconds left, A/W quarterback Dillon Horrie ran a bootleg to his left. A-Town linebacker Parker Stoneking didn’t bite on the fake, and Horrie threw a pass intended for Cole Troxell just short of the marker. Right as Troxell was about to haul it in, Darst lowered his shoulder and delivered a ferocious hit, knocking Troxell backward, jarring the ball free and securing A-Town’s first postseason win since 2014.

“We’re two-reading on that, so I'm just reading both receivers,” Darst said. “I saw (Troxell) run his out route, so I stepped up, saw the ball coming and hit him as hard as I could.”

The Tornadoes advance to face the winner of Saturday’s game between No. 8 Gilman Iroquois West and No. 9 United.

Darst’s stop on the final drive came after A-Town scored the tie-breaking TD with 4:30 left on a 24-yard pass from Easten Schisler to Clay Slagel. Darst made a key 13-yard catch on third-and-13 earlier in the series before Schisler (9 for 12, 130 yards) lofted a perfectly thrown ball to Slagel in the left side of the end zone.

“We went in a formation we usually run out of, so they weren't expecting the pass and (the coaches) just called my name,” Slagel said. “Easten made a perfect throw.”

‘A grind-it-out game’

The Tornadoes pulled out the victory despite being held to their lowest in-game point total this season (A-Town had a 1-0 forfeit victory). They managed just 185 yards on 36 plays from scrimmage, including only 27 total yards on 12 first-half snaps.

A/W finished with 264 yards (151 rushing, 113 passing) on 54 plays from scrimmage in a contest that was a slugfest from the start.

“It was going to be a grind-it-out game, and that's exactly what it was, right?” Annawan/Wethersfield coach Tony Gripp said. “Just one more play went their way, and that's what decided the game. I'd be shocked if A-Town didn't make some noise (in the playoffs).”

Schisler’s big scramble 

A-Town’s first TD — a 4-yard run by Drake DeJaynes midway through the third quarter for the game’s first score — came after Schisler extended the series by rushing for a first down out of a punt formation.

Facing fourth-and-5 from A-Town’s 42, Schisler jogged to his right, saw an opening and took off for the chains. He punted out of a similar look on the Tornadoes’ first two series.

Slagel and A-Town coach Rick Quinn said it gave a boost for a Tornadoes team that had just two first downs prior to that.

“We kind of put that in this week. We had seen something (the Titans) do on their punt, and (Easten’s) a great athlete and a great punter, so why not?” Quinn said. “I honestly don't think we ran it right. I don't think our protector got out there like he was supposed to. But sometimes athletes are just athletes, and E finished the run, got us a first down and we were able to capitalize.”

Hook ‘em

A-Town sophomore Kellen Hook preserved a scoreless first half by making an interception at the goal line on the final play after A/W had driven to the Tornadoes’ 14-yard line. Hook also made a pair of first-half catches for 18 yards.

“Kellen is a great, great player. We think he's going to be an awesome player for us in the future,” Quinn said. “He has great hands. I would say him or (Parker Stoneking) have the best hands, depending on who you ask. He's shifty enough, got enough speed, he runs all his routes really well and he's a great safety. He’ll come up and tackle, reads the ball well. He’s a good player.”

‘I just froze’

Quinn was back on the sidelines after missing A-Town’s last week’s loss to United because he was suspended for getting ejected during the Tornadoes’ Week 8 win at Knoxville.

“I’m going to be honest with you, that was a very helpless feeling,” Quinn said. “I apologized to the guys this week. I put these guys in a bad situation, and we talk all the time about not being selfish. I told them that was selfish of me.”

Quinn said he watched the United game from a distance up on a scissor lift.

“I couldn't see anything, that's the kicker,” Quinn said. “I just froze.”

Box Score

ABINGDON-AVON 14, ANNAWAN/WETHERSFIELD

A/W 0 0 8 0 — 8

A-A 0 0 8 6 — 14

Third quarter

A-A — DeJaynes 4 run (Stoneking pass from Schisler), 5:51 

A/W — Dickerson 1 run (Dickerson run), :32.7

Fourth quarter

A-A — Slagel 24 pass from Schisler (Schisler pass failed), 4:30

ABINGDON-AVON (9-1)

Rushing — DeJaynes 9-13, Darst 4-7, Webb 1-6, Schisler 10-29. Total 24-55.

Passing — Schisler 9-12-0 130. Total 9-12-0 130.

Receiving — Slagel 4-51, Stoneking 2-48, Hook 2-18, Darst 1-13. Total 9-130.

First downs — 10

Punts-Avg. — 2-23.0

Penalties — 5-35

Fumbles-Lost — 2-0

ANNAWAN/WETHERSFIELD (5-5)

Rushing —Dickerson 15-49, Horrie 22-96, Troxell 3-6. Total 40-151.

Passing — Horrie 9-14-1 111. Total 9-14-1 111.

Receiving — Troxell 7-66, Hornback 1-33, Songer 1-4. Total 9-113.

First downs — 14

Punts-Average — 1-33.0

Penalties — 6-35

Fumbles-Lost — 3-0