September 3, 2009
Purple Tigers, Trojans face off
Optimistic outlook for Homer
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
The Cortland High and Homer Central football teams, seen during their September 2008 matchup, will go face-to-face for the 32nd time Friday night at Butts Field in Homer to get the season underway.
By TOM VARTANIAN
As much as things change, some things never change.
That could well be the case as Homer Central takes the football field for the first time in the 2009 season Friday under the George W. Butts Field lights. The Trojans kick off the season at 7 p.m.. by hosting local rival Cortland High, a series that Homer leads 16-14-1 but has seen the Purple Tigers win the last two years and three of the past four encounters.
It is also a milestone as Homer’s Gary Podsiedlik enters his 20th season as the Trojans head coach and 27th year as a coach with the program. The Trojans are coming off a 4-5 overall season, 3-2 Class B West Division action one year ago.
With 20 returning players on his 36-man roster, Podsiedlik is as optimistic as possible though there are questions to be answered.
“From top to bottom, we are more mentally-prepared than ever,” Podsiedlik said. “Our effort has been there and the guys are working hard. We have done a lot of conditioning and we are getting all the final things we need to be ready for Cortland.
“It has been nice preparing for this game without any distractions,” he continued. “The kids aren’t in school yet, so they don’t have that the worry about. It should be a great night with the hall of fame inductions at halftime. I hope we have a nice crowd because it will be a great environment for high school football.”
Offensively, Homer has a returning quarterback in senior John Sciera (6-foot, 170 pounds) and a mostly veteran offensive line in front of him. Even though the graduated Joey Rivers set some new school passing records, Sciera saw some valuable playing time. He completed eight-of-16 passing attempts for 175 yards. Sciera threw two touchdown passes and one interception. He also ran for one touchdown.
“John is more comfortable knowing that he is the starting quarterback this season,” Podsiedlik said. “He has matured a lot and he is holding the ball better, waiting for his receivers to get open. He is very good with the sprint-pass package and will be a threat to run the ball.”
Backing Sciera up are starting tight end Zach Hatfield (junior, 6-2, 200) and junior Connor Ferrito.
That offensive line has returning seniors Ryan Murray (5-9, 200) and Adam Gordon (6-0, 246) back at left guard and right tackle, respectively, plus junior Joe Marchetti (6-2, 195) back as the right guard. Senior center John McCall (5-8, 164) saw playing time last year as did senior Carter O’Gorman (6-4, 215) who is the left tackle. Murray and O’Gorman are team captains this season along with returning junior fullback Andy Parker.
Backing these lineman up is returning senior Bret Eccleston (6-5, 302), who play guard or tackle on either the left or right side. O’Gorman is the back-up center along with junior Nate Parker. Juniors Tyler Signor and Ryan Alexander could also step in at the guard position with returning senior Mike Cornelius, junior Jamison Howell and junior Tyler McMullen available as tackle.
Hatfield, as previously mentioned, is the starting tight end with junior Brent Fox, junior Frank Davis and returning senior Josh Iloff in back-up roles.
Parker (5-10, 190) will have help from returning senior James Cochran, newcomer senior Owen Perry (6-2, 205) and senior Nate Crawford in the wings.
The tailback has long been a spotlight position for Homer. In 2009, it will be tailback by committee. Junior Logan Hall (5-9, 165) will get the starting nod against Cortland, but you could see any or all of these guys at some point. Those expecting time include juniors Frank Davi, Davis, Zerek Zimmerman, plus returning seniors Zandrew Zimmerman, Eli Kabat and Jake Morris.
Returning senior Jaydon Kiernan (6-2, 162) will become the new wide receiver while junior Cody Sandy (5-7, 155) steps into the starting role as the flanker/halfback. Juniors Hunter Osborne and Jordan Pettit, along with returning senior Chris Dewey will back up Kiernan as the “X” while the Z-back back-ups include Ferrito, returning senior Demitrius Nelson, Zerek Zimmerman, returning senior Chris VanCise and senior Vanze Zachary.
“We will stick with a multi-offense,” said Podseidlik. We will mix the power game and with play-action sets. We can have a nice variety because of the players we have. There are a lot of combinations we could use.”
Defensively, the Trojans will stay with the 3-5 formation, but that can be switched up to a 4-4, 5-3, 6-2. The combinations are stunts are endless for Podsiedlik.
“While the offense can really stay the same game in and game out, the defense really needs to fit the opponent,” Podsiedlik explained. “You really take what will work best in that situation. Of course, our big goal is to force turnovers on defense to keep the ball in our possession.
Perry as earned the starting noseguard spot with Gordon at tackle and Fox the end as the down-three linemen. Cochran and Cornelius will back-up Perry. Cornelius, Cochran, O’Gorman will join Eccleston as subs for the defensive line. Signor, McMullen and Howell are also in the wings.
Hatfield will be the strong outside linebacker with Hall the starting weak-side outside backer. Cochran, Zerek Zimmerman are their back-ups, along with Kabat and McCall. The strong inside backer is Andy Parker with Crawford the weak-side inside backer. Murray is the middle linebacker. Fox can fill-in at any of the three positions with Alexander, Nate Parker, Davis and Marchetti available.
There will be rotation in the secondary as well. Sandy and Kiernan can play the strong-side cornerback with Nelson and Osborne splitting the weak-side corner. Sciera can play safety as can Nelson. Ferrito can handle any of the three secondary spots. Pettit, Zachary and Iloff are also available at any of the three positions. Zandrew Zimmerman and VanCise could play the strong-side corner with Davi and Dewey on the weak-side. Davis and Morris could also see time at safety.
One of the spots that could a lot more consistency in 2009 is the PAT/field goal duties. Both Ferrito and Pettit have done a very good job this preseason. Pettit, Fox and Osborne have been working at kick-offs while Ferrito and Davis have been punting. The holders on the PAT/FG squad are Sciera and Nelson while the long-snappers have been O’Gorman and Osborne.
As for the return game, Nelson is the deep man on kickoffs with Hall and Ferrito the two guys flanking him. Nelson is also the punt return guy with Sciera, Hall, Ferrito and Morris as back-ups.
As for the competition in the B-West division, every game will be tough.
“Westhill is loaded again,” said Podsiedlik. “Solvay will be improved and Marcellus is still a title contender with with Fiacchi at quarterback. Skaneateles is another improved team.
“The non-league schedule isn’t any easier,” he added. “We open with Cortland, who continues to get better. They are working the shotgun formation on offense and will stretch the defense by passing the ball even more the year. They are also very aggressive on defense. We then face state runner-up Oneida and close out the regular season with Phoenix, who has a new coach this season.”
TROJAN TIDBITS: The pre-season awards have been handed out. The Blue Pride Top Dog Award for most off-season training points goes to Zerek Zimmerman with 75 credits. Big Dog Awards go to those next in line in off-season points. They include Zach Hatfield, Andy Parker and Brent Fox. Blue Collar Awards went to Owen Perry (line) and Parker (non-line). The “Czar 68” Award, named after Brian Czarnecki was presented to Carter O’Gorman and Ryan Murray Both are keeping their normal number, but will have a 68 sticker on their helmets. The top fundraiser in Blue Pride Card sales was John Sciera and earning the game captain honors against Cortland for preseason work was Zach Hatfield.
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