BY DAN STICKRADT
BERKLEY — One of the common questions that Auburn Hills Avondale football coach Steve Deutsch faced in the past year was who will replace all-time leading passer Mitch Robinson at quarterback?
The answer to the question has definitely been answered: Spencer Smith.
Smith, a senior, finished 14-for-23 passing for 191 yards Friday and helped the Yellowjackets to their fifth straight win to open the season in the form of a 23-21OAA Blue Division victory in a contest played under a constant drizzle.
Avondale (5-0, 4-0) fended off a late Berkley rally to remain in a first-place tie in the nine-school OAA-White with Birmingham Seaholm and Bloomfield Hills Lahser.
“Spencer Smith did another nice job for us,” said Avondale coach Steve Deutsch. “He made some nice reads and some nice throws. He’s been getting better in his first year as a starter. He’s been one of the consistent players for us.”
“Overall, we are still making too many mistakes,” added Deutsch. “We had a long, 60-yard touchdown called back against Berkley. That’s what so disappointing because I know we can do better. We still have four weeks.”
JT Ozerities (7-yard run), Chase Lalla (1-yard run) and Justin Edwards (7-yard reception from Smith) all had touchdowns for Avondale, the last coming late in the third quarter which gave the Yellowjackets a 23-14 lead.
“Chase Lalla came over from Oxford over Christmas last season and has been a really nice addition for us,” said Deutsch of Lalla, who actually played varsity football as a freshman last fall at Oxford. “And Justin Edwards is another kid that has come on strong. He hadn’t caught a pass all season long. I told him to just be patient and his time will come. He caught a touchdown pass for us and he had four catches in this game. He came through for us when we called his number.”
Lalla had four rushes for 59 yards, as Avondale was held to just 94 total rushing yards. The Yellowjackets top two rushers this season, Joshua Holloman and Michael Robinson, were held to combined 27 yards on the ground but both are battling through injuries.
Avondale had only 285 total yards in the win. Erik Stubbs had five catches for 84 yards and Edwards had four catches for 49 yards for the Yellowjackets.
Julian Pepaj booted a 28-yard field goal in the second quarter and also had a pair of extra points for Avondale, which led 16-14 at the half. Pepaj’s kick put Avondale in the lead for good.
“We are balanced and that’s a cool thing in that sense because we have a lot of guys to go to. We are not one-dementional,” noted Deutsch. “It’s kind of been our mantra all year — it doesn’t matter who has the ball. It’s about Avondale. Once we’re all on the same page, I think we can be a more dangerous football team.”
Lalla and Chase Bracewell had 10 tackles apiece, Dillion Brancheau added nine tackles, Clark Clancy and Mitchell Williams had seven tackles apiece and Tyroca Battle had with a sack and two tackles for loss.
Nick Hudson scored on an 18-yard run and Nick Jones a 48-yard sprint in the second quarter for Berkley. Jones also caught a 13-yard strike from Matt Agbay in the fourth quarter, while Nick Sanford added three extra points for the Bears (2-3, 2-2).
Berkley scored its final touchdown with a 1:47 to play. Avondale recovered the ensuing on-side kick attempt the thwart the Bears’ comeback bid.
“Berkley is a very good football team — better than what their record indicates. Jeff Burnside has done a great job with that program,” offered Deutsch. “They brought it. It was a war in the second half. Their defensive line is very strong. We had a hard time moving the football during the second half.”
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