WEST GOSHEN—If you play good defense and can run the football, you’re going to win games. The Avon Grove Red Devils checked both boxes Friday night on the road at West Chester East.
The defense was about as stout as you could ask for, completely shutting down the Vikings offense for the vast majority of the game. Kevin Francis, meanwhile, took care of the Red Devils’ offense, rushing for five TDs on the night as the Red Devils (2-3, 1-0) picked up a 42-7 victory over the host Vikings (0-4, 0-2).
“We’ve been playing some really good defense the last three weeks,” said Avon Grove head coach Harry O’Neill. “It started with the second half of the Unionville and we’ve carried it along since. Any time you can force as many three-and-outs as we did, you’re playing tough defense.”
The Red Devils struck first, with Kevin Francis finding the end zone on a 49-yard run barely two minutes into the game, then again on an 8-yarder midway through the first.
West Chester East took advantage of good field position to cut that lead in half. Taking over at midfield, the Vikings marched off a scoring drive capped by a pass from quarterback Ryan Cassidy to Michael Gray, who made a beautiful catch in the back corner of the end zone for the score.
It was the last time the Vikings moved the chains until deep in to the fourth period.
“We all just stuck to the game plan and did what we needed to do with our assignments,” said Devils’ linebacker Dillon Estes. “We’re getting better. We work to improve every week, because every week in the Ches-Mont is a tough game.”
Estes was hard to miss on the field, always seemingly wherever the ball was.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” said O’Neill. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a linebacker play a better game than Dillon played tonight.”
Avon Grove tacked two more scores before halftime—a two yard run from Francis, and a 42-yard strike from quarterback Shane Wolford to Jordan Paone to make it 28-7 at the break.
While positive yards were hard to come by for West Chester East, the Devils’ offensive line was punching open gaping holes for Francis, who had 148 yards on 17 carries…in the third period alone.
“It’s the offensive line, it’s our fullbacks, and even the wide receivers making great blocks,” said Francis. “Then the play we’re getting on defense—the defensive line was amazing today—we’re all kind of feeding off each other.”
Coming out of the break, the Vikings looked like they might get a stop on the Devils first possession, but facing a fourth and four, Francis broke loose for ten yards and a first down, then capped the 73-yard march with a six-yard score. Francis then kicked in the Mercy rule, breaking loose for a 42-yarder to put the score at 42-7.
With the game out of reach, West Chester East mounted a scoring drive with just under four minutes to play, with Lathan Collins running it in from a yard out.
Up next for Avon Grove is Downingtown West.
“West is a perennial District 1 playoff team,” said O’Neill. “We’re the underdogs and we know it, and we’re OK with that role. It’s going to take us playing a perfect game for us to win. But I like the way we’re playing right now.”