The Ava Bears were back on the road last Friday night to take on the 0-8 Cabool Bulldogs in The Pit. The Bears came away with a 35-7 SCA win, but most who saw the game would agree the Bulldogs did not look like a winless team on Friday night.
Coach Dan Swofford said his Bears were flat at the onset of the game, and Cabool clearly took away Ava’s inside attack, forcing the Bears to the outside. The result was long gains for Eli Maggard, Stephen Copeland, Kelly McDonald and quarterback Caleb Johnson.
The Bears tallied 403 yards of total offense, including 291 on the ground and 112 through the air.
This week the Bears will host Willow Springs in the final regular season game before starting district play. It will be Senior Night at C.E. Harlan Stadium, with pregame ceremonies scheduled to begin around 6:30. Gates will open at 5 o’clock for Friday’s game.
Senior Kelly McDonald got it going for the Bears when he scored on a 37-yard run at 2:03 in the first quarter. It would be the first of two touchdowns for McDonald, and Caleb Johnson’s kick put the Bears up 7-0.
Sophomore Stephen Copeland, who would be Ava’s leading gainer with 117 yards on nine carries, found running room and sprinted 47 yards for Ava’s second score which came at 8:58 in the second period. Johnson’s kick was blocked.
Cabool converted two fourth down attempts on the ensuing drive and went 60 yards to score on a 2-yard run by Caleb Manning with 2:29 left in the first half. Kaleb Sigman kicked the extra point to pull the Bulldogs within a touchdown at 13-7.
With just under two minutes left on the clock, Eli Maggard pulled in a perfect aerial from Johnson and went 63 yards to score. Johnson ran for the 2-point conversion and the Bears held a 21-7 halftime lead.
The two teams played out a scoreless third quarter, but the Bears would find paydirt twice in the fourth quarter.
Johnson broke tackles and scampered 43 yards to the end zone with 8:33 left, then with 5:53 on the clock, Kelly McDonald got his second score of the night on a 10 yard run. Johnson, who was 3-for-4 kicking, added both fourth quarter PATs.
McDonald carried 14 times for 93 yards and two touchdowns on Friday night. Johnson completed four of five passes for 112 yards, including the TD pass to Maggard.
Defensively for the Bears, Colton Skyles had 12 tackles on the night. Kelly McDonald had 18 tackles, one forced fumble and three tackles for loss.
District pairings will not be released until after Friday night’s games, but Ava is anticipating a No. 3 seed which would allow the Bears to play at home again next week. A likely opponent is Strafford, but the Bears could be pitted against Diamond, or could feasibly turn around and play Willow Springs again.
Analyzing Willow Springs Coach Swofford says they are very physical up front and also have a couple of runningbacks who are very fast. Willow Springs is 5-3 overall and 3-3 in conference play.
The annual Donna Loftin-Cox Memorial Walk will also be held before the game Friday night, with proceeds going toward the annual scholarship for a senior seeking a business-related degree.
The community is invited to come walk the track between 6 and 6:30 and help honor the Ava High School graduate and former business teacher who lost her life to cancer several years ago.