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Kocmich, Pirates run past top-ranked Gregory

Avon senior Brandon Kocmich (2) breaks a Gregory senior Derek Stukel’s attempt to tackle during a high school football game Friday during the eighth annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes SoDak Bowl at Bob Young Stadium in Sioux Falls. (Brooke Cersosimo/Republic)

SIOUX FALLS — Avon racked up 331 rushing yards to run past Gregory 34-14 Friday afternoon during the opening game of the Eighth Annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes SoDak Bowl at Bob Young Stadium in Sioux Falls.

The victory is an upset as Avon, the No. 4-ranked team in Class 9B, topped Class 9AA’s top-ranked Gregory. Gregory (1-1) won last year’s contest.

“It’s a big confidence booster for us,” Culver said. “You beat a team like Gregory, which manhandled us last year and were just head and shoulders better than us, and that happens our confidence is sky high. But we’ve got to make sure we don’t let down now.”

Avon senior Brandon Kocmich led the way with 226 yards rushing with three touchdowns and added a passing touchdown to Cody Namminga.

Culver credited his offensive line for improving throughout the week and allowing the Pirates’ run game to flourish.

“Our linemen did a great job, and they came a long ways from last week,” he said, adding his players handled the heat of an afternoon game well. “We knew that if we’re going to have success, they were going to have to play well.”

Senior offensive lineman Jacob Reeves said his job is made easier by the speed of Avon’s backfield — which includes Kocmich, junior Devin Tolsma and junior Logan Mudder.

“It really helps that we have great backs,” said Reeves, adding it was a big Great Plains Conference victory for his team. “We have to block low and hard to do well, and I think it was an overall good job.”

The Pirates (2-0) opened the game with two scores in the first half. Kocmich scored in the first quarter on 39- and 80-yard touchdown runs.

“(Gregory) was really good at closing if you tried to run laterally when we watched the tape from last week’s game versus Colome, and that’s why we decided we’ve got to run right at them,” Culver said. “We used our speed to the outside and kind of mixed it up.”

The Gorillas got things rolling late in the first half, scoring on a 15-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Kurt Braun to senior tight end Andrew Taggart.

After trailing 14-8 at the half, Gregory tied the game on a 1-yard run from senior running back Derek Stukel with 3:58 left in the third.

But Avon retook the lead 11 seconds later on a 65-yard pass play to Namminga for a score. The Pirates scored twice more in the fourth quarter on runs by Tolsma and Kocmich to secure the win.

“They are a talented group of kids and they executed today,” Gregory head coach Brian Allmendinger said. “For us, on offense and defense all game long it was undisciplined play.”

After two road games, Avon stays home Friday to host Scotland, while Gregory hits the road to play Kimball/White Lake Friday in White Lake.

NOTES — Gregory starter senior running back Brody Boes, an all-state honorable mention player last season, was injured in last week’s game against Colome and did not play Friday. Senior running back Paul Taggart was also injured and did not play.

First Quarter

A: Brandon Kocmich 39 run (Devin Tolsma run)

A: Kocmich 80 run (conversion failed)

Second Quarter

G: Andrew Taggart 15 pass from Kurt Braun (Gavin Thomas pass from Braun)

Third Quarter

G: Derek Stukel 1 run (run failed)

A: Cody Namminga 65 pass from Kocmich (Logan Mudder run)

Fourth Quarter

A: Tolsma 7 run (conversion failed)

A: Kocmich 59 run (conversion failed)

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.