September 10, 2011
Late TD theft wraps up Trojans win
Timely strip by Ritz helps to trip up Warriors 18-10
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Austin Recor (28) of Homer Central turns upfield around the right side as he outruns Westhill’s Dan Gratien (10) and Jacob Nigolian (right) at Butts Field Friday night. Host Homer was an 18-10 winner.
With Homer Central clinging to a two-point lead late in the fourth quarter and visiting Westhill in possession of the football at midfield, the Trojans defense needed to make a big play Friday night.
That’s just what they did.
Junior linebacker Codee Grant led a swarm of tacklers on the Westhill ball-carrier Christian St. Amour and, just before he took the Warrior down, classmate Kyle Ritz pulled the ball away before racing 47 yards for a touchdown that gave host Homer an 18-10 lead with 2:37 remaining in the Section 3 Class B West contest.
Thomas Austin, picked off an errant Westhill pass 20 seconds later to seal the win by that final 18-10 margin as the Trojans improved to 2-0 in division and overall play while presenting head coach Gary Podsiedlik with his 100th career victory at the school.
“It was exhilarating,” Ritz said of his big play. “My friend Codee Grant was in on the tackle. He (St. Amour) decided not to tuck the ball and I pulled it away. I was just running like crazy. I didn’t want to get tackled. I didn’t realize everyone was still at the 50-yard line.”
The strip and recover was similar to the “Rutgers Drill” the Trojans practiced during the pre-season. That hard work paid off.
“Coach P knows what he’s doing,” Ritz said of Podsiedlik. “He’s a great coach. He told me this year to come and be a player. I did what he said. He’s proud of me and that’s nice. It’s going to be a good year.”
“Ritz-y made a great play,” Podsiedlik said of the vital takeaway before a full house at Homer’s Butts Field. “That play was the difference in the game. That’s what we take pride in as a staff. We teach the guys to force turnovers. You use turnovers to make something good happen for yourself. Scooping and scoring is a big thing we taught the guys. It worked tonight.”
As for the 100th win in his 22nd year?
“I’ve been the head coach through the last 100 wins,” Podsiedlik responded. “I know I’ve been a part of about half the wins in the school’s history. I was an assistant for some of Coach (Mike) Norris’ wins (141 career wins) and Bells (Paul Belodoff) was unconscious, we went 20-0 at one point. It was a privilege to be on that staff. It’s a cool thing, but it really all comes down to the kids. They win the games.”
HOMER STARTED OUT strong, taking the opening kickoff and marching 69 yards to the end zone on eight plays.
Senior tailback Austin Recor (27 carries-187 yards) ran the ball much of the series, but it was senior classmate Conner Johnston who swept right and completed the final five yards of the drive. The extra-point kick was partially blocked, but Homer led 6-0 with 8:22 left in the first quarter,
Westhill (1-1) responded with a time-consuming seven-minute drive that took 14 plays and covered 47 yards, stalling at the Trojan four-yard. Collin Henson came on a booted a 23-yard field goal to pull the Warriors to within 6-3 with 1:04 left in the quarter.
The next Trojan drive stalled and Casey Cleary pinned Westhill at its own 10-yard line with a nice punt. Westhill marched 81 yards and chewed up eight minutes and 17 seconds off the clock, but came up empty when Henson was wide left on a 26-yard field goal attempt and the half end with the Trojans clinging to a 6-3 lead.
Westhill began the second half with the ball, but went three and out. Richie Easterly punted the ball to the Trojan 34-yard line where Cleary picked it up and raced 20 yards to the Westhill 46. Three carries by Recor got the ball to the Warrior seven-yard line. Anthony Contento took the next hand-off and swept the right side for the second Trojan touchdown. Homer tried a two-point conversion and failed, but still had a 12-3 lead with 9:09 left in the third quarter.
Both teams were looking for that big play to turn the tide and Westhill made the first move. Jacob Nigolian picked up a Thomas Austin pass at the Warrior 17-yard line and returned it 73 yards to the Trojan 10. On fourth-and goal from the nine, Reed Derrenbacher found Austin Peebles in the left corner of the end zone for the touchdown. Henson added the extra point kick as Westhill made it a game trailing 12-10 with 7:59 remaining in the game.
Homer’s next drive stalled at midfield and the Trojans punted. Starting at their own eight yard-line after Cleary’s punt with 4:21 to go. Westhill took just three plays to reach the 50-yard line. It was a second-and-nine play when Grant and Ritz made their defensive play and gave the Trojans a crucial six points.
ON THE VERY NEXT offensive play from scrimmage for Westhill, Austin atoned for his interception with a pick of his own and his 10-yard return gave the Trojans the ball at the Warrior 39 with 2:17 to go. Westhill had no time outs, but the Trojans still needed at least one first down. Recor delivered that with a two-yard run on fourth down.
“These games haven’t been easy,” Recor said. “We faced two tough opponents. We adjusted to what Westhill was doing tonight and we clawed our way to a great team win.
“We offensive linemen were real soldiers,” he added about his rushing performance. “They believed in me and I believed in them. We got it done together.”
Homer will return Butts Field Friday night for another battle of unbuttons. The Trojans will host Chittenango (2-0), a 25-15 winner over Marcellus, Friday night for a 7 p.m.. kickoff.
“If we let up, we might end up losing,” Ritz said. “We need to keep playing hard. We need to play as a unit. Even if the team is bigger than us, if we keep playing hard, we’ll win.”
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