KENNETT SQUARE - Last year was an ugly one for the Avon Grove High School football team. Not only did they win just one game, the Red Devils weren't even competitive most times they took the field as they lost by an average of 28 points a contest. They also gave up 40-plus points in seven of their 10 games.
With all that said, second-year head coach Doug Langley and his players went to work this past offseason in an attempt to erase those painful memories from a year ago.
It didn't take long for the Red Devils to prove to themselves what can be accomplished through hard work.
Avon Grove opened its 2013 season on Friday night in impressive fashion as they went on the road and stunned Kennett by a score of 7-6.
In the process, they spoiled a jam-packed and standing room only crowd full of Kennett supporters that had turned out for the first-ever night game at the school.
Avon Grove (1-0) played tough and smart football on this night to shock a Blue Demons squad that had its best season in school history a year ago, coming within just one victory of reaching the district playoffs.
The Red Devils were outstanding defensively. On the other side of the ball they did their damage through the air. Senior quarterback Tanner Peck was fantastic, completing 13-of-21 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown.
The big story of the game was the play of his favorite target, sophomore receiver Beau Kush. A standout lacrosse player who helped lead Avon Grove to the district title and state semifinals last spring, Kush came up huge as he hauled in nine catches for 129 yards and the Red Devils' lone score of the hard-fought battle.
With Kennett leading 6-0 late in the first half, Peck and Kush hooked up on a key third-down completion, resulting in a 10-yard touchdown reception by Kush with 2:08 left in the second quarter that gave Avon Grove a 7-6 lead that it would never relinquish the rest of the way.
'Tanner and I made that play happen on the spot,' said Kush. 'We audibled on the ball to a smoke screen, and it worked.
'This was such a big stage tonight having NBC10 here and such a huge crowd. What an awesome win for our team, especially coming off such a rough season last year. For us, this wasn't an upset. I'm sure to some people it was, but we know how hard we've worked to get better.'
Kennett (0-1) was led by senior quarterback Jordan Jones, who rushed for 67 of the team's 183 yards on the ground. But the Blue Demons were unable to come up with points, and were sloppy with the ball, putting it on the turf a total of six times, luckily for them losing it only once.
The Blue Demons went in front 6-0 with 11:52 to play in the second quarter when Jones tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Brett Rose. However, Rose missed the ensuing extra point attempt, which came back to haunt Kennett in the end.
Late in the game, Kennett had one final chance when they took over possession of the ball at their own 18-yard line with 2:04 remaining. On their first play, though, they bobbled the snap and lost a few yards in the process. The next play, Jones threw a completion to Rose on a screen, and then Rose cut inside to try and make some extra yardage. However, Avon Grove's Bashom Haith made a big hit on him, knocking the ball loose, and the Red Devils recovered to put the game away.
'I'm heartbroken,' said Kennett coach Scott Green. 'We had so many people come out to this game tonight, our first night game, and we didn't give our fans anything to cheer about.
'I feel terrible about the way we played. I'm sick to my stomach right now. Every time we had some momentum offensively, we took two steps back. We didn't play consistently at all.'
Avon Grove got a strong game from junior Taylor Kim, who led the team with 65 yards rushing on nine carries. Jake Parola added 27 yards on eight carries.
Defensively, the Red Devils got sacks from Zack Mann and Andrey Green and held Kennett to only 41 yards through the air.
On Avon Grove's lone scoring drive late in the second half, they marched 58 yards in one minute. Kim had a key 31-yard run on the drive.
Avon Grove played smart. Leading 7-6 midway through the fourth quarter, they got the ball back at the Kennett 43-yard line with 6:57 to go after forcing a punt. The Red Devils, with a big offensive line, started pounding the rock and burning valuable time. Kush had a pivotal run for a first down on third-and-three, and Kim also picked up a key first down to help the drive continue to kill clock before it eventually stalled out.
'We really didn't know what we were going to get tonight to be honest with you,' said Langley, Avon Grove's coach. 'Last year was tough, and this is huge for these kids after what they went through a year ago.
'Kennett did some different thing offensively, running zone, read sweeps and things like that. Our kids played a very tough and physical football game.'
Avon Grove 7, Kennett 6 Avon Grove 0 7 0 0 -- 7
Kennett 0 6 0 0 -- 6 Scoring K-B. Rose 13 pass from J. Jones (Kick failed)
AG-Kush 10 pass from Peck (Scarpato kick)
Team Totals AG K First downs 13 9
Yards rushing 95 183 Yards passing 166 41
Total yards 261 224 Passing 13-21-0 3-8-0
Fumbles-Lost 3-0 6-1 Penalties 5-25 3-25
Punts-Avg. 4-29.7 4-37.5 Individual Statistics
RUSHING - Avon Grove: Kim 9-65; Parola 8-27; N. Jones 4-3; Kush 1-3; Green 1-1; Peck 10-(-4). Kennett: J. Jones 20-67; Turner 5-48; B. Rose 3-46; Clarke 5-22.
PASSING - Avon Grove: Peck 13-21, 166 yds, TD. Kennett: J. Jones 3-8, 41 yds, TD.
RECEIVING - Avon Grove: Kush 9-129, TD; J. D'Aquanno 2-22; Parola 1-13; Radecki 1-3. Kennett: B. Rose 2-18, TD; Turner 1-23.
SACKS - Avon Grove: Mann, Green. Kennett: Petrick 2, Tomasetti 2.
INTERCEPTIONS - None.