The 2017 season was Ava’s best in 10 seasons under coach Dan Swofford. But a season-opening setback against Buffalo showed the Bears only hard work would lead to a repeat performance.
“It kind of woke us up. It was probably a good thing for us to have that happen,” Swofford said. “We’ve gotten better each week. You couldn’t ask for anything better than that.”
Since that loss, the Bears have won seven in a row, earning their second straight South Central Association title. The somewhat undersized defense has pitched four shutouts, and the offense has made all the right adjustments, even mid-game.
“Our offensive coordinator, Coach [Joe] Shantz, does some crazy things. He’ll come in at halftime and create new plays,” senior quarterback Caleb Johnosn said. “If he sees something that’s gonna work, he’s gonna make a new play and we’re gonna run it. And it’s gonna work every time.”
Ava has pounded the rock and turned into a yearly contender in Class 2. Bears seniors even admit they did not foresee their own success when they showed up before freshman year.
“I played in seventh and eighth grade and it was just something to do,” senior running back Stephen Copeland said. “Now, it actually means something, so it’s pretty fun.”
Before Senior Night, KOLR10 asked Johnson and Copeland about their best memory playing at Ava. To our initial surprise, they brought up last season’s only loss.
“I’m gonna have to say the Lamar game last year,” Johnson said. “The fourth quarter came, we were down by 6 with two minutes left. It’s a different kind of adrenaline. It’s crazy. You’re just thinking, ‘We have a chance at beating the No. 1 team in the state.'”
“I remember thinking, ‘We can play with them,’ then we did play with them, something people didn’t think we could do,” Copeland said. “That’s the highlight of my career.”
The Ava seniors hope their biggest highlight is ahead of them, perhaps a playoff rematch with the seven-time defending state champs.