Avon rolls past Wall to reach Class 9B title game
By OWEN REITZEL
AVON — Avon’s defense forced six turnovers and junior running back Devin Tolsma scored four touchdowns to lead the No. 2 Pirates to a 40-14 win over No. 3 Wall in a Class 9B semifinal football game Saturday.
Avon (11-0) takes on top-ranked Hamlin for the championship at 11 a.m. Friday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.
Tolsma had 20 carries for four scores and 219 yards rushing, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Avon senior running back Brandon Kocmich has run for over 1,700 yards this year. Kocmich’s success has allowed Tolsma to benefit as opponents generally key on the senior.
“He’s a good running back he gets downfield,” said Tolsma. “But when he gets shut down, somebody has to step up. He blocks for me and I block for him. It’s a win-win situation.”
Avon head coach Tom Culver said teams have keyed on Kocmich, opening the door for Tolsma.
“That’s been the theme in the playoffs,” said Culver. “They’ve gone hog-wild on trying to stop him, but Devin is no slouch and you can’t key on one guy.”
It was the Pirate defense that dominated the first half, forcing three Wall fumbles and an interception returned for a touchdown.
“Turnovers take you out of every game,” said Wall coach Kent Anderson. “In a game like this you can’t have turnovers. They are a very fine and outstanding football team. They took advantage of our turnovers and got us quick.”
The Pirates have given up just 22 points in three playoff games.
“Our defense has been really playing well this year, so hopefully we can keep it up for one more game,” Culver said.
After an exchange of punts to open the contest, Avon had the ball on its own 37-yard line when Devin Tolsma broke loose and scored on the first play. With a successful two-point conversion, the Pirates led 8-0.
Wall (10-1) took the kickoff and marched to the Pirate 27-yard line, but Avon’s defense came up big on fourth-and-1 and broke up the Eagles’ short pass. A 12-play drive followed for Avon, capped when Kocmich dived in from two yards out, giving the Pirates the 14-0 lead.
The Eagles committed their first turnover with 11:53 left in the second quarter as Avon recovered a fumble at the Wall 26-yard line. Six plays later, the Pirates took advantage as Tolsma scampered into the end zone from 15 yards out to give Avon the 20-0 lead with 9:42 left until intermission.
The Eagles looked to get back into the contest as Eagle senior quarterback Lane Blasius hit senior tight end Ben Linn on a 33-yard pass, but the Eagles fumbled on the next play and Avon took over.
Wall fumbled for the third time in the first half, and three plays later, Tolsma scored his third touchdown to give the Pirates a 26-0 advantage.
The fourth turnover for the Eagles came on their next series as Kocmich intercepted a Blasius pass and ran 33 yards for a touchdown.
Wall took the kickoff and went on an eight-play drive, which ended when junior running back Carson Johnston on a 2-yard run, bringing Avon to a 33-7 at halftime.
Tolsma scored once more in the third quarter, while Wall scored on a safety in the third and a 45-yard run by Johnston in the fourth.
Johnston led the Eagles, who had 311 total offensive yards, with 145 yards rushing on 15 carries. Blasius was 6-of-13 passing for 114 yards. Les Williams led the Wall defense with 13.5 tackles.
Kocmich had 26 carries for 140 yards rushing for the Pirates, who never attempted a pass and had 426 total yards. Tolsma also led the Avon defense with 16 tackles with 3.5 fumble recoveries. Jacob Knodel had .5 of a fumble.
First Quarter A: Devin Tolsma 63 run (Brandon Kocmich run)
A: Kocmich 2 run (conversion failed)
Second Quarter A: Tolsma 15 run (conversion failed)
A: Tolsma 32 run (conversion failed)
A: Kocmich 33 interception return (Kocmich kick)
W: Lane Blasius 9 run (Les Williams kick)
Third Quarter A: Tolsma 11 run (Kocmich kick)
Fourth Quarter W: Carson Johnston 45 run (Williams kick)