WINSTED, Oct. 15 – A year ago, the Gilbert/Northwestern Regional football team finished the season with a flourish, winning their final three regular season games to earn its first CIAC tournament bid. The Yellowjackets whipped Plainville to earn a spot in the Class M semifinals.
This season, the Yellowjackets have found their Pequot Conference opponents are not bowing in respect to their previous achievements. In fact, some opponents have taken the Yellowjackets to the woodshed. In shutout losses to Coventry/Windham Tech and Ellington/Somers, Gilbert was outscored by a total of 63 points and they turned the ball over 14 times.
Even in a win over winless Sport Medicine Science Academy a week ago, the Yellowjackets trailed by two points at halftime before settling down to score four touchdowns in a 20-point victory.
Gilbert/Northwestern has learned that respect is not given. It is earned with hard work and effort.
Sophomore Tony Ortiz scored a pair of touchdowns and Devon Molway had a 55-yard touchdown run with 2:24 remaining in the game to lift the Yellowjackets to a thrilling 20-10 victory over Avon at Van Why Field.
Gilbert (3-2, 3-2 Pequot Uncas) had four interceptions and their defense bent but seldom broke. Avon’s all-purpose star Colin Moore ran for a game-high 163 yards on 33 carries. But he was allowed little assistance from his teammates.
A year ago, the Yellowjackets kept Avon out of the Class L playoffs with a 7-0 win in the final game of the regular season. And after getting whipped by Ellington and Coventry, the Yellowjackets had something to prove to the league and themselves.
“We really wanted to show that this was really important to us,” Gilbert quarterback John Lippincott said. “We were going to play 110 percent and we weren’t going to let up. We had two (big) games early in the season and we didn’t come to play in either of them.”
Avon (3-2, 3-2) trailed by six points, 13-8, when they took over the ball with 8:10 remaining on their own 33-yard line. Behind Moore, they marched to the Gilbert 31-yard line. But linebacker Max Chenail nailed Moore for a one-yard loss on second down and the Falcons were called for their fifth false start penalty of the game.
After an incomplete pass, Moore’s five-yard pass to Sean Smith was two yards shy of the first down. Gilbert took over and on first down, Ortiz lost two yards but Avon was penalized 15 yards for illegally grabbing the facemask. On the next play, Molway escaped around the outside for a 55-yard touchdown run with 2:24 remaining for a 20-8 lead.
“This feels awesome,” Gilbert coach Scott Salius said. “The kids were pumped up about this one. They haven’t been this excited to play a game since last year. They really wanted this game.”
This was a battle of will and strength, played out primarily on the ground. Avon attempted nearly two dozen passes but most were in the final two minutes after Molway’s touchdown.
“We were able to find those little chinks in their armor trying to move the ball a little bit and it worked,” Salius said.
Avon marched to the Yellowjacket 29-yard line on its opening drive but junior linebacker Kyle Gain sacked Moore for a 12-yard loss to stop that march.
On Gilbert’s next drive, Molway gained 15 yards on third down to the Gilbert 41. Thanks to some nice blocking, Ortiz cut inside and into open space for a 59-yard touchdown run with 2:36 left in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.
Avon took the lead with a 62-yard, eight-play drive that concluded with Moore scoring from the six and adding a two-point conversion for an 8-7 lead with 9:50 left in the second quarter.
Gilbert ate up much of the second quarter with a 14-play, 72-yard scoring drive, converting twice on third down and scoring on fourth down. With 2:02 left in the quarter, Lippincott found John Ambrozaitis in the end zone but the 18-yard play was nullified by an offensive pass interference call.
That wasn’t a problem. Lippincott found Ortiz, who outleaped a Falcon defender for a 33-yard touchdown pass with 1:48 remaining and a 13-8 lead.
The Falcons nearly scored again. Moore ran for 13 yards on a third down conversion to keep the drive alive. On a key fourth down play, Moore ran 19 yards for a first down, knocking over a Yellowjacket defender on his run.
After calling its final timeout, Avon had the ball on the Gilbert seven with 27 seconds remaining. Lippincott dropped a potential interception on second down and on third down, sophomore linebacker Ryan Ott nailed Jimmy Murphy in the backfield for a four-yard loss. Without any more timeouts, the Falcons couldn’t snap the ball before the clock ran out.
“We struggled offensively,” Avon coach Brett Quinion said. “We have very little team speed so we’re limited to what we can do. We’re strong. But (Gilbert) moved better than we do. My hat goes off to them. They’re a good tackling team, fundamentally sound.”
Moore had 163 yards rushing but his teammates added just another five yards rushing and 28 yards passing.
Ambrozaitis had two interceptions for the Yellowjackets, including one return of 45 yards in the second quarter. Ortiz and Lippincott also grabbed an interception. Gilbert did have three lost fumbles none proved costly
Molway led the Yellowjackets on the ground with 140 yards on 16 carries while Ortiz added 83 yards on six carries. Lippincott completed just 1 of 3 passes but it was the big 33-yard touchdown reception to Ortiz.
It was the first time since 1975-76 that the Yellowjackets beat Avon in back-to-back games.
Gilbert/NWR 20, Avon 10
Avon (3-2) 0 8 0 2 – 10
Gilbert (3-2) 7 6 0 7 – 20
G: Tony Ortiz 59 run (John Ambrozaitis kick), 2:36
A: Colin Moore 6 run (Moore run), 9:50
G: Ortiz 33 pass from John Lippincott (kick failed), 1:48
G: Devon Molway 55 run (J.P. Duluc kick), 2:24
A: Safety. Lippincott takes a knee in end zone, 0:32
RUSHING: Avon – Colin Moore 33-163, Noah Hahn 1-6, Mitch Cappello 1-6, Noah Gilmore 2-2, Chris Suttmeier 1-minus 5, Jimmy Murphy 1-minus 4; Gilbert – John Lippincott 8-2, Devon Molway 16-140, Tony Ortiz 6-83, John Ambrozaitis 2-0, Seth Dayton 4-8, Cameron Carr 2-11, Ryan Ott 1-7
PASSING: Avon – Colin Moore 2-10-1, 9; Noah Hahn 2-15-3, 19; Gilbert – John Lippincott 1-3-0, 33
RECEIVING: Avon – Bobby Duffy 3-23, Sean Smith 1-5; Gilbert – Tony Ortiz 1-33