Avon Lake putting SWC on notice

At 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds, Avon Lake junior Jacob Sintic isn’t the biggest guy on the Shoremen football team’s defensive line, nor is he the most feared.

But he knows hard work. And, by his estimation, he knows about three moves — a rip, a swim and a spin — that he can employ against an offensive lineman while pursuing a ball carrier.

Last Friday in his Homecoming game at Memorial Stadium against an Amherst team that entered with an identical 4-1 record, Sintic used each move to his advantage in racking up two sacks and four tackles for loss. As a team, every move the Shoremen made was the right one as they raced to a 35-0 victory, their fifth in a row.

The shutout was their third in four weeks. Avon Lake (5-1, 4-1 Southwestern Conference) went in wanting to prove it deserved to be in the conference title discussion and made a bold statement against the Comets (4-2, 3-2 SWC), who had similar plans.

“Our line is just fast,” said Sintic, who has four sacks in his past two games. “I’m the smallest one, and it definitely is tough trying to get through there. For sure (this felt like a statement win), because Amherst is one of the best teams in our conference along with Avon, Olmsted Falls, teams like that. Coming into this game, shutting them out and not even letting them score, it hopefully sends a message to the conference that we’re here, we’re ready and we’re coming for you.”

The Shoremen defense, ranked atop the SWC with 8.6 points allowed per game, has surrendered a total of seven points in four weeks. Against Amherst, it played a big role in taking a 28-0 halftime lead and triggering a running clock midway through the third quarter.

In addition to Sintic’s disruption, senior Jack McCrum also picked up a sack on Comets quarterback Tyler Brezina in the first quarter. Up 7-0 midway through the first quarter, Tanner Russell recovered a Brezina fumble to set up the team’s second scoring drive. In the third quarter, junior Billy Simpson intercepted a Brezina pass near midfield to help preserve the shutout.

Together, Avon Lake’s defense made life miserable for Amherst, which had 36 yards at halftime and finished with 116, a 27-yard run by Aidan Johnson in the fourth quarter serving as its longest play of the night. Brezina completed four of 13 passes for 25 yards.

“(Avon Lake’s) defense is a very good defense,” Comets coach Mike Passerrello said. “Obviously, they showed it tonight and they’ve shown it all season. I don’t think it was anything special that they were doing, they’re just a good defense overall.”

Before the Shoremen took control of the game, it was thought that the Comets would pose similar problems defensively. They entered Friday’s contest as the league’s second-rated scoring defense, allowing 12.2 points per game. And last season, they lost to the Shoremen by just four points, 32-28. All signs pointed to a low-scoring tug of war between evenly-matched teams.

But coach Matt Kostelnik’s offense, guided by junior quarterback Michael Corbo, was just as surgical as his defense. Corbo was accurate from the game’s outset, completing 16 of 19 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns before starters were pulled in the third quarter. He hooked up with junior Mitchell Fedders for a 23-yard score for a 7-0 first-quarter lead, then threw two more touchdowns to senior Nate Sidloski (21 and 24 yards) in the second quarter.

Sidloski led the team with 111 yards on seven catches as Corbo spread the ball around to six different receivers. Junior Jared Krukowski finished with four catches for 32 yards.

“(Corbo’s) definitely coming along,” Sidloski said. “He’s playing outstanding right now. At the beginning of the year he was a young kid, a junior, and he struggled a little bit. But he’s big time right now. He’s making plays throughout the whole game.”

The running game, which made the biggest difference a week prior in a 45-7 victory at North Ridgeville, took a backseat to Corbo’s passing attack, but gained depth with the return of junior Gage Duesler from injury. Duesler (eight carries for 52 yards and a touchdown) partnered with Mason Wheeler (14 carries for 40 and a touchdown) to lead the team. Duesler’s 21-yard score provided the 35-0 margin with 7:06 left in the third quarter.

“It’s been a breath of fresh air,” Kostelnik said. “When you play defense like that, it’s allowed our young offense to mature a little bit, and tonight it really showed that our offense can execute against a good Amherst defense. Again, hats off to our defense. They’re our leaders and we’re going to rely on them going forward.”

In all, the Shoremen finished with 384 yards on a night where they were out to prove their mettle in every phase of the game.

“I think it’s our (most complete victory) so far, but I honestly think we can get better,” Corbo said. “I think if we play great on defense, if we play great on offense, we can take another step next week.”

On Friday, the Shoremen will travel to Lakewood (0-6, 0-5 SWC) for a 7 p.m. game.

For questions about this story, call 440-871-5797.

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