WPIAL Football Team of the Week: Week 14

Monday, December 2, 2019 | 10:35 PM

For four weeks during the WPIAL football playoffs, Avonworth rode the Jax tracks to the school’s first district championship in 60 years.

Senior running back Jax Miller rushed for 910 yards and scored 11 touchdowns in four Antelopes postseason victories, including a 28-6 triumph over previously undefeated Washington in the WPIAL Class 2A championship game.

But in Avonworth’s first-ever PIAA football game, the Antelopes took some of the workload from Miller and went for a stroll down Park Avenue on their way to Hershey after a 33-21 win over previously unbeaten Wilmington.

“We knew Wilmington would be focused on Jax in the running game, so we added a few quarterback runs that would take the load off of him,” Avonworth coach Duke Johncour said.

They added more passes, too, from senior quarterback Park Penrod.

“Park has been consistent all year long, and really the only game he had less of a workload was the WPIAL championship,” Johncour said. “It was kind of hard to go away from something that was gaining five or more yards each carry from the wildcat.”

Penrod connected on 9 of 14 passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns.

“We knew Park had to play a great game, and he stepped up for sure,” Johncour said. “They had nine committed to stopping Jax once their safeties read run and he had to throw the ball effectively which he did.”

Penrod also supplied the exclamation point and the game’s final points with a fourth-quarter 1-yard run.

Two of the touchdown receptions were thrown to senior Theo Newhouse, who hasn’t seen a lot of targets lately with the Antelopes running wild in the wildcat.

“Theo had a great game,” Johncour said. “He also had a minimized role last week with only one catch. He stepped up when his number was called.”

Even though his workload was reduced this week, Miller still had a big game running the ball and also scored for the ‘Lopes.

“We still used the wildcat because he is hard to stop when the ball is in his hands,” Johncour said. “They did a nice job containing him, but he still had 140 yards rushing.”

While the Avonworth offense is averaging over 36 points scored in their five playoff wins, the defense is yielding less than 11 points per postseason game.

“Our defense has played great each week and Friday was nothing out of the ordinary,” Johncour said. “We held an extremely talented Wilmington team to 21 points and forced them to sustain long drives.”

That defense will be challenged Friday afternoon at Hersheypark Stadium when they face two-time defending PIAA 2A champion Southern Columbia.

Like Avonworth, the Tigers are also 15-0 and outscored their 13 opponents through the District 4 playoffs by a combined score of 708-26.

This is Southern Columbia’s 18th trip to the PIAA championships, where it has amassed a record nine state titles. This is the first PIAA finals trip for Avonworth.

“Familiarity and experience does have its benefits, but the game will still be 48 minutes long,” Johncour said. “Southern Columbia is a great team.”

Win or lose in the state title game, this has been a dream season for Avonworth. Johncour feels everything the Antelopes have accomplished this year has been a total team effort.

“The key to our success has been unselfish play and next man up,” he said. “Our players have stepped up and stepped in all season and they play as a family, together and for each other.”

2019 Trib HSSN football teams of the week:

Week Thirteen – Gateway

Week Twelve – Clairton

Week Eleven – Belle Vernon

Week Ten – South Park

Week Nine – Shaler

Week Eight – Cornell

Week Seven – Pine-Richland

Week Six – Baldwin

Week Five – McGuffey

Week Four – Canon-McMillan

Week Three – Freedom

Week Two – Central Valley

Week One – Moon

Week Zero – New Castle


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