August 31, 2012
Homer takes defensive struggle over Cortland
Call it good defense.
Call it opening-game nerves, with a dash of TV exposure thrown in.
Most importantly, though, call it a Homer Central victory and the rights to the Home-Cort Jug.
The Trojans used a tough defense that recovered four fumbles and an offense that was opportunistic, coming through in pressure situations, to score a 16-6 win over host Cortland High in a Class B West Division game that opened the football season in Section 3 and also initiated Time Warner Cable Sports television’s Thursday Night Rivalry series.
“I’ve always had the belief that if you don’t get 21 points you struggle to win,” said Homer coach Gary Podsiedlik, now 14-6 against Cortland High as a head coach. “We didn’t get there, and our defense helped us. The biggest factor was our two outside linebackers. Sean Ferrito (who was named Time Warner Player of the Game) was part-time last year and is a great student of the game. Payten Boice missed all of last season because of surgery and was playing his first varsity game. Both did a good job of containing Cortland, and we played consistently big team defense.
“I think general conditioning made a difference in the second half, and that we were fortunate enough to be in better shape.”
Seniors Ferrito and Boice spearheaded a defense that limited the Purple Tigers to just 19 yards of total offense in the second half and 113 yards all told.
Homer, meanwhile, rolled up 175 yards in what was a ground-oriented game for both teams, with just 11 pass attempts (seven for the winners) between them. The hosts ran just 12 plays in the second half, when the Trojans controlled the ball all but 6:34 of the 24 minutes.
The Purple Tigers rushed for 94 yards (to 138 for Homer), and most of it came on three plays. Senior tailback Andrew Potter went around the right side for 40 yards to the Homer 16-yard line on the first play after the opening kickoff, junior right guard Greg Brown done for the night after injuring his ankle on the play. Junior tailback Zach Whelan picked up 28 yards to the Trojan 28 on the last play of the first half, which ended with the visitors up 10-0.
Potter went for 14 yards on the first play after Homer scored the final points of the game, in a CHS drive that fizzled on downs.
Trojans senior tailback Mark Dove led all rushers with 90 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, while Potter lugged the ball 14 times for 65 yards to pace the Purple Tigers.
“IN THE FIRST half I was slow hitting the holes and tried to pick it up (in the second),” Dove said. “I wish I’d run the whole game like I did at the end. God gave me the talent to play football and I try to use it the best I can.”
“Greg getting hurt on the first play of the game changed everything,” CHS coach Dave Darrow said of the loss of Brown. “We had to change the line. But, no excuses. In a close game, with evenly-matched teams, you make mistakes and you lose. Our defense played well, but we made too many mistakes to win. We changed some personnel and still didn’t get it done. We were a little beat up at the end, when they scored their last touchdown.”
For all of that, it was one of the game’s four completed passes that played a huge part in the final outcome.The Trojans faced a third-and-11 from their own 37 on the second play of the fourth quarter with the score 10-6 and Cortland blitzed, senior quarterback Casey Cleary narrowly avoiding a sack before rolling to his left and heaving a pass downfield that junior tight end Millet DeAngles grabbed at the hosts’ 34 after outleaping a Purple Tiger defender. Six plays later Dove bashed into the end zone from eight yards out to make it 16-6 with 7:24 left after a failed conversion run and seal the verdict.
“I went to the right, then came back and there was a guy there too,” Cleary said in recounting the pass play. “I figured I might as well chuck it up with nothing to lose. Even with an interception it would just be like a punt. I was shocked when Millet made the catch.”
“I wasn’t expecting the ball, but saw that the play was blown up, cut back and knew I’d have to go up for it,” DeAngles said. “I outjumped the Cortland player for the ball, and was just as shocked as anyone that I came up with it.”
“That was just determination, a kid making the play,” Podsiedlik said. “It lets us keep the momentum and not give them the ball back. Plus it deflated them while giving us the idea that ‘OK, this one is going to be ours.’”
“It would have been nice to knock down that pass,” Darrow said. “That was a good play on Casey’s part; it looked like we had him, but he scrambled and did a nice job of making the big play. At that point, 10-6, we still had a chance to win.”
WHOSE GAME IT was up in the air or a good part of the night.
Homer got its first fumble recovery from sophomore linebacker Anthony Basile four plays after Potter’s game-opening jaunt, and after the visitors bogged down on their first series Dove recovered a muffed punt on the Cortland 41. Senior cornerback Pat McMahon got the ball right back for the hosts, intercepting a halfback pass at the Purple Tiger on the next play.
It wasn’t until just 1:29 remained in the first quarter that the scoreboard was dented as Ferrito blocked a Hughes punt, the ball rolling out of the end zone for a safety. A fumble recovery by senior tackle Brad Sciera on CHS’s first play of the second quarter gave Homer the ball at the hosts’ 10, and three plays later sophomore tailback Jayden Gavidia scored from five yards out on a third-down play to make it 10-0 after Cleary and Dove connected on the conversion pass.
Sciera’s recovery sent Purple Tigers senior quarterback Dillon Knecht to the sidelines in favor of junior Caden Giroux for the rest of the game.
Ferrito again stepped up defensively on Cortland’s second possession of the second half, snagging a fumble in midair at the Homer 30. Two plays later Hughes, who had tilted the field with a 52-yard punt after CHS’s first possession of the half, found the end zone after his interception for the hosts’ only points.
The teams then exchanged punts before Homer’s possession that included the fateful pass and led to the final points of the contest. Cortland then bogged down after picking up its first and only first down of the second half on the next possession, and the winners held the ball for the final 4:57 to cement their second win over Cortland in the last three contests.
“We didn’t execute everything we needed to,” Darrow said. It’s hard to pass the ball when they’re sending eight guys. We need to set things up based on running the ball.”
Homer’s players were of course pleased with a league win over their rivals under their belts before any other team in Section 3 has even played a game, Podseidlik gathering them at the 48-yard-line afterwards to signify the 48 minutes of a game and the need to go hard in every one.
“This a great way to start the season,” Cleary said, DeAngles echoing that sentiment and adding that “At this time of the season, a win like this means more than any other game.”
PODSIEDLIK TOOK a pragmatic approach to the situation, noting that “Last year against Cortland (which won 36-21 on the road in a non-leaguer) the kids played out of their minds against a team that was so athletically superior, but we lost our focus for the next week’s game. This year we won’t lose that focus after beating our rival in a league game. The reality is that we can focus now on LaFayette/Fabius-Pompey (in a non-leaguer starting at noon a week from tomorrow).”
“We’re going to learn from this and get better,” said Darrow, whose team has now lost all three of its home games since its new stadium opened last October and visits Solvay this Friday in a 6:30 p.m. start. “We’ll learn to execute better. I’m pleased with the way the kids worked and how they handled themselves. They didn’t give up. We’re going to be all right.”
Homer’s awards for the game will be determined by team vote and announced next week. Hughes won Cortland’s Special Teams Award, a Special Forces camouflage T-shirt. Potter and senior center Kevin Parker shared the Offensive Award while the Defensive Award went to senior middle linebacker Colin Walsh and junior defensive end Zach Whelan.
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