Ian Syam scores 6 TDs in 1st half as Avonworth runs over Mt. Pleasant

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Friday, November 12, 2021 | 10:57 PM


Ian Syam had himself a Friday night, running for the length of nearly 212 football fields while playing in just half of a WPIAL playoff game.

He touched the ball only nine times and was tackled on just three occasions.

The Avonworth senior running back electrified the home crowd, rushing for 244 yards and scoring six touchdowns — all in the first half — to lead the third-seeded Antelopes to a 49-7 rout of No. 6 Mt. Pleasant in a WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinal.

“This was a first for me,” Syam said. “I was thinking, ‘This is crazy. My linemen, paving the way for me, leaving me holes so wide that I was untouched for like 70 yards.’ ”

The 5-foot-7, 170-pound Syam scored for Avonworth on runs of 20, 21, 10, 73, 76 and 18 yards seemingly before Mt. Pleasant could blink.

Luke Hilyard’s 28-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the second quarter accounted for the Antelopes’ only other score before the game was played with a running clock in the second half.

Avonworth scored on every first-half possession, taking advantage of big plays and Mt. Pleasant mistakes.

While galloping to the end zone on one of his longest touchdown runs of the night, Syam said he turned back to check how far he was in front of the pack and wondered if it was real.

“I was saying to myself, ‘This is crazy. It’s surreal. Especially in a playoff game,’ ” Syam said. “You know, it’s not like (Mt. Pleasant) wasn’t just anybody. They’re a playoff team for a reason.”

When Avonworth coach Duke Johncour was informed of Syam’s numbers, he gave a look of surprise.

“He had more than nine carries, didn’t he?” Johncour said. “Nine carries? Wow.”

Avonworth (9-2) advances to the semifinals against No. 2 North Catholic (11-0) on Friday at a site and time to be determined.

“Our kids executed well, and they followed the gameplan on both sides of the ball. We were well-prepared, and they played hard,” Johncour said.

Could Avonworth be on track for a repeat of its 2019 WPIAL championship season under Johncour when Syam was a sophomore?

“We’re pretty good. I’m looking forward to next week,” Johncour said.

North Catholic advanced to the semifinals with a wild, 48-41 victory over No. 7 Keystone Oaks, a team Avonworth defeated in the regular season, 35-0.

Mt. Pleasant coach Jason Fazekas following the conclusion met briefly with his players, many of whom remained huddled on the field, before briskly heading to the locker room.

“What are you going to say? They’re a good football team. We didn’t play very well,” he would say later. “We didn’t make it easy on ourselves. Give them credit because they earned the win. They’re very good.”

With Avonworth in total control at halftime, Fazekas implored his players to not quit.

“I’ve got to watch the film because I didn’t expect it to be like this,” he said. “I knew they were good, but they really jumped on us. Once it snowballs like that, it’s really hard to stop. I told them, ‘You’ve got to finish the game, you’ve got to play.’ But it’s really hard to make adjustments or do anything when you’re getting out-physical-ed.”

Junior running back Robbie Labuda had 101 yards on 20 carries. Fazekas kept Labuda in the game until he reached the 1,000-yard mark for the season.

“He’s a good player for us,” Fazekas said. “We’re going to need him again next year. He deserves everything he gets and he’s got the respect of his teammates and vice versa.”

Mt. Pleasant (6-5) played much of the game with freshman quarterback Cole Chatfield running the offense in place of ailing junior Tyler Reese.

The Vikings haven’t been to the semifinals in 25 years, advancing in 1996. They earned their first playoff victory since 2014 by beating Burrell in a first-round game a week ago.

After that WPIAL title in 2019, Avonworth missed the playoffs last year. The Antelopes were playing in their first playoff game this season after earning a first-round bye.

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