Any talk about Avon Lake football and the conversation almost always gets around to all the great tailbacks the Shoremen have had over the years.
Players like John Schroeder (4,743 career yards), Mike Mansnerus (3,854), John Berner (3,240) and Bobby Doyle (3,224) have helped build the Shoremen’s tradition of big-time backs and have been instrumental in the Shoremen’s success over the years.
It might be time to add a new name to the list.
“I just want to carry on the legacy,” said Konner Riggs, the Shoremen’s feature back this season. “There’s a lot of big names to live up to. I’m just trying to fill my role and do what I can.”
“He’s just a different dynamic as a playmaker,” second-year coach Matt Kostelnik said. “It’s always great to have on your team and on your offense — that consistency.”
Riggs, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior, has wanted to be a Shoreman ever since he first started watching Avon Lake games when he was young. His father, a police officer in Avon Lake, took him to his first football game when he was 7 or 8 years old.
“He’s always worked the games,” Riggs said of his father. “He’s always brought me up here. Everything from the announcer’s voice to coming out here during warm-ups, I remember like it was yesterday. It’s always something I’ve been looking forward to.”
Through three games this year – all wins — and off a 1,200-yard season a year ago, Riggs has proved he belongs in the discussion of elite Avon Lake backs. Riggs rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns to open the season at Elyria, then had 263 and four touchdowns against North Olmsted. He added 159 yards in last week’s huge 31-28 win over Avon.
“It was awesome,” Riggs said. “Five, six years, we’ve been down, losing to (Avon). They’ve been our rival now. It felt great to put it to them like we did a couple years ago (in the playoffs).”
“Any time you can get that signature win, it feels great,” said Kostelnik, who’s a little weary of the so-called trap game coming up this week at winless Westlake. “We’re just watching (film of) Westlake right now. Westlake can put up points when they don’t shoot themselves in the foot a little bit. They can score so we really have to focus on defense this week, and on offense, we have to control the ball.”
That’s where Riggs comes in. His running has not only been a weapon, it’s also opened up Avon Lake’s passing game. Senior quarterback Jack Mikolich is off to an impressive start, as well, throwing for 450 yards and six touchdowns while completing 65 percent of his passes.
“We made more of a commitment during the offseason,” Kostelnik said. “We’re going to feature Konner more in our offense and let Jack settle in — and Jack has delivered. He was 9-of-14 last week but he was 100 percent on his throws against North Olmsted as far as his decision-making.”
Still, Riggs’ ability to pick up the tough yards has been huge.
“Konner worked hard in the offseason,” Kostelnik said. “There were a couple things we wanted to tweak in his game and it really just came down to where his shoulders point, square and where he’s hitting the hole. He’s committed to doing that. We’re seeing now the extra few yards. He was getting 3 hard-fought yards last year. This year it’s 4 or 5.”
Of course, as usual with the Shoremen, it all starts up front with the offensive line. This year that’s seniors Jackson Armbrecht (left tackle), Ryan Beckman (left guard), Noah Welsh (center), Tyler Barone (right guard) and RJ Prusha (right tackle) who have been paving the way for Riggs. Senior Christian Cabot, junior Max von der Lieth and sophomore Alex Padgett are the first linemen off the bench.
“The line’s played exceptionally well right now,” Kostelnik said. “The O-line is another year older, they’re mature — a lot more mature than last year. Up front, they’re really moving people and doing what they need to do.”
Riggs says his faith in the line is unwavering.
“For sure,” he said. “They’re all seniors. We’ve been together since about fourth grade. I trust them all, they’ve all been great.
“We’re all great friends off the field. We’ll hang out — Fridays, Saturdays and every Sunday — we’ll watch the college games, the NFL games. We’ll go over to one of our houses to eat all the food. It’s always a good time.”
Of course, that faith works both ways because the line understands if it does its job, Riggs will do his.
“He’s Mr. Consistent,” Kostelnick said. “It’s really nice to know if we run our zones, he’s going to get us 3 or 4 yards.”
Which is all Riggs wants. He doesn’t care how many yards or touchdowns he ends up with.
“I’m not really looking at my personal stats this year,” he said. “I just want to do the best I can. However I can help the team, coach can use me.”
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