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IMPERIAL, Pa. — Avonworth defeated Riverside 41-14 Friday night in the WPIAL Class 2A semifinals advancing to the championship game for the first time since 2014.
Jax Miller followed up his 231-yard performance last week against New Brighton with a 254-yard effort on 20 carries. Miller scored four times to help keep the Antelopes undefeated.
Avonworth scored on their third offensive play of the night when Miller ran it in untouched from 39 yards.
Riverside responded with an eight-minute drive that was kept alive by a fake punt from senior Nate Sciarro – the team’s normal punter – picking up 23 yards and set them up in Antelopes’ territory.
A fourth-down play on a jet sweep to Sciarro was stopped in the backfield and the Panthers came up empty.
On the first play of the second quarter, Avonworth quarterback Park Penrod threw an interception on a 50-50 ball down the sideline, picked off by Josh Bishop.
The Panthers methodically moved the ball down the field and once again found themselves inside the 10-yard line on fourth down. This time, Hunter Nulph was stuffed on a fourth-and-one and, again, the Panthers came up empty.
Riverside possessed the ball for 13 minutes on two drives and were unable to score points of any kind both times.
The Antelopes responded with a 96-yard drive capped off by a 51-yard run by Miller on fourth down. The Antelopes took a timeout, came out in the wildcat formation and the star running back did the rest.
Penrod threw his second interception of the half late in the second quarter – Josh Bishop’s second of the game – which gave the Panthers life with four seconds left. A Hail-Mary attempt went unanswered and the teams went into the half 13-0.
Avonworth came out of the locker room hot when they switched over to the wild cat offense. With Miller at the helm, the Antelopes ran it nine times – eight were keepers by Miller – and the drive was capped by a 12-yard run by the big, bruising back.
Riverside’s first possession of the second half quelled any hopes for a comeback when Ben Hughes was picked off by Andrew Tedesco, who returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. In a moment of perfect symmetry, Tedesco is number 27, the return was 27 yards, upping the score to 27-0.
The wild cat struck again when Miller opened the fourth quarter with a 70-yard touchdown run, making the score 33-0, capping his impressive night.
Riverside got on the board early in the fourth quarter when senior quarterback Ben Hughes found Josh Bishop in the front corner of the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown. The ball was tipped, but it fell right into Bishop’s hands, and the Panthers finally had some karma go their way.
The team’s traded touchdowns to start the fourth quarter when Park Penrod found Trevor Faulker for a three-yard touchdown and the Panthers answered on the next possession when Calvin Hughes scored from three yards out.
Riverside’s 14 points in the fourth quarter did little more than raise Avonworth’s 10 points-per-game average on defense and the Antelopes easily advanced to the WPIAL Championship.
Four-year starter Ben Hughes finished the night 9-20 for 173 yards one touchdown and two interceptions. Hughes rushed for 62 yards but unlike last week was scrambling more out of necessity than design.
Penrod finished the night 6-11 for 66 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Riverside’s Josh Bishop had both interceptions while Tedesco and Ian Syam recorded interceptions for the Antelopes.
Miller had 2.5 sacks in the win while junior linebacker Drew Harper added two sacks of his own.