Avella uses fake punt, interception return to rock Monessen

Friday, September 11, 2020 | 11:38 PM

The game could not have started any better for Shane Swope and his debut with the Monessen Greyhounds. However, things turned in the second quarter and left Swope looking for answers.

Avella (1-0) executed a fake punt late in the first half and carried the momentum from that play to a 20-7 victory over Monessen at Memorial Stadium Friday night. The win was the first for Avella in the Tri-County South since October 19, 2018 against Mapletown and the first over the Greyhounds since 2017.

Gabe Lis lofted a pass on fourth and 11 from punt formation to Tanner Terensky for a 27-yard gain. On the next play, quarterback KJ Rush found Terensky for a 23-yard touchdown. The extra point was missed but the momentum carried the Eagles into the second half.

“We actually practice (fake punt) every Thursday,” Avella assistant coach Zack Zebrasky said. “Our head coach Ryan Cecchini was not here tonight, and that is something I have always wanted to run. It was a spur of the moment play call. We were trying to put them on their heels and get a spark to lead us into halftime.”

On the Eagles’ second possession of the third quarter, Rush hit Lis for a 40-yard gain on the first play. Avella baited the Greyhounds (0-1) into three offsides penalties on the next four downs. In the middle, Rush gained 19 yards on a quarterback keeper. Thanks to those big plays and the three penalties, the Eagles were at the Monessen 6-yard line.

“We just have to keep our composure. It’s the M.O. of what everyone expects,” Swope said. “We had something go wrong and the wounds came open. A lot of our penalties were self-inflicted. Those are the things we need to clean up.”

Two plays later, Rush scored on a 1-yard run. This time, Robbie West’s kick was good and Avella led 13-7.

The Monessen defense stiffened on the Eagles’ next possession and finally looked to get the offense in gear. They took over at their own 22 with 10:54 left in the game after stopping Avella on downs. After a personal foul penalty on the Eagles set Monessen up at the Eagle 13, the Hounds went backwards. Three plays lost 10 yards and gave the Greyhounds a fourth and 20.

Freshman quarterback Shane Swope’s pass was intercepted by Terensky and the senior corner went 94 yards for the game-sealing touchdown.

“One thing about Tanner is he is a quiet but phenomenal athlete,” Zebrasky said. “You don’t hear a lot about him, but his attributes — running fast, jumping high, hands like velcro — he can do it all. He was a star out there tonight.”

Monessen opened the game by scoring on its first possession. It was a nine-play, 70-yard drive that was capped by a Isaiah Beltram 3-yard touchdown run. Everything looked like the Greyhounds were well on their way. However, the fake punt and mounting penalties hurt the Hounds on this night.

“We’re super young, but that’s not an excuse,” Swope said. “We had five freshmen play significant snaps. We have to play under control. Everybody knows the stigma that we don’t get calls here, but we can’t let things come down to that. When we play with composure we play fine.”

The Greyhounds were called for 20 penalties in the game, several of which were defensive offsides, procedure penalties on offense and illegal motion.

Monessen will try to right the ship next week hosting Bentworth while Avella hosts Jefferson-Morgan.

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