September 13, 2008


Botched play stuns Trojans


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Homer Central quarterback Joey Rivers (10) fires a pass to receiver Kane Hartnett at Butts Field last night. Though Rivers passed for a school-record 310 yards, visiting Chittenango pulled out a 29-28 win.

Staff Writer
Jonathan Stevens threw two second-half touchdown passes for Chittenango Friday night, but it was actually a botched extra-point attempt that lifted the Bears to a 29-28 comeback football win over Homer Central at George W. Butts Field.
Though Jake Bicknell bobbled the snap on the extra-point kick attempt by Zach Drake, the holder kept his composure and won a race to the corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion to rally Chittenango (2-0) from a 28-14 deficit to a 29-28 lead with 8:17 left in the fourth quarter of Friday’s non-league clash.
It was the second straight frustration loss for the 0-2 Trojans, who were coming off an overtime setback to rival Cortland High last weekend.
“We did have do settle down after halftime,” said Chittenango coach Jack Hayes. “Homer is a good team. They did what they had to do to get back in the game. We just did not get it together when they switched to the shotgun. They have some good players in Rivers, (Kane) Hartnett and (Brandon) Simonetta.
“We went back to what was working for us and that was our ground game,” Hayes continued. “The game got out-of-hand with the penalties, but our kids dug in. We regrouped and came back to win for the second straight week. I’m proud of our team and we have another big opponent in Chenango Forks next week.”
“You have to do what you have to do,” Homer coach Gary Podsiedlik said. “Our running game is not where it should be right now. Since we are so well-respected for our running game, it is helping our passing game. The boys are handling that shotgun formation well. That gave us a chance to win.”
“Stamina wise, we were fine,” Podsiedlik continued. “Chittenango made the most of a botched play. Those are the kind of things that win games. Turning negatives into positives are often the differences in games.”
Overshadowed in the Trojan loss was a school-record performance by senior quarterback Joey Rivers, who completed 19-of-41 passing attempts for a single-game record 310 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The previous record was 219 yards by Joe Sheridan against Dryden in 1964.
“The linemen made their blocks,” Rivers said. “The receivers got open and I was able to get them the ball. We just need to come out with some wins in the end. That is what’s important.
“I’m not really any more comfortable in the pocket this year,” Rivers added. “It’s just the fact that I have more experience this year. I have more confidence in my linemen. I know I need to be more of a leader out there this season.”
“Joey made the passing game work because he started running the ball,” Podsiedlik said. “We convinced him that his running would prevent teams from keeping seven or eight guys back in coverage. It was his running and his ability to read the defense better and not keep going to one receiver that made him so successful tonight. Joey has learned to look at the progression of his receiving options so much better.”
CHITTENANGO LOOKED unstoppable in the first quarter. The Bears took the opening kickoff and marched 64 yards in 12 plays with Justin Pistello scoring on a one-yard plunge for 7-0 lead with 7:19 left in the quarter.
After an exchange of punts, Homer had its second drive ended on a leaping interception by Andy Moth at the Chittenango 49. Three hand-offs to Pistello, the last a 20-yard scoring run put the Bears in front 14-0 with 1:51 left in the quarter.
Homer (0-2) used the rest of the first quarter and the start of the second quarter to generate a 13-play, 73-yard scoring drive. K.J. Reese capped the drive with a one-yard run, but the kick failed as the Trojans trailed 14-6 with 9:30 left in the first half.
The defenses took charge for most of the quarter. With Chittenango driving, Homer forced a fumble by Pistello that was recovered by Kyle Griffin at the Trojan 11.
Rivers engineered a seven-play drive that tied the game at 14-14. Zach Hatfield (5 catches-82 yards) caught two passes for a total of 33 yards before a 35-yard strike from Rivers to Brandon Simonetta (6-115). With a first down at the Chittenango 21, Rivers fired a bullet to Hatfield for the touchdown. The two-point conversion pass to Kane Hartnett was good and the games was tied with 2:36 on the clock.
Chittenango drove to the Homer 27, but the drive stalled and Homer used one play to run out the first half. Rivers had 160 passing yards to offset 106 rushing yards by Pistello at the break.
The third quarter began with Homer coming out with the shotgun formation and three receivers split to one side, one running back and one wide out to the other side. The opening drive started at the Trojan six-yard line with Rivers accounting for all but 11 yards of the 94-yard scoring drive that left Chittenango reeling.
Rivers ran for 31 yards and completed 3-for-5 passes for 52 yards. Reese added an 11-yard run on the fifth play of the drive. Rivers capped the drive with a 27-yard scoring pass to Brandon Simonetta as Homer took the lead with 8:17 left in the quarter. Simonetta caught the conversion pass for a 22-14 advantage.
THE NEXT FIVE offensive series, three for Chittenango and two for Homer, ended with lost fumbles. Aleks Glover, Griffin and Rivers recovered the Bear miscues.
The last fumble by the Bears came at their own 25 and a subsequent unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave Homer the ball at the Chittenango 12. Two runs by Reese, the final from one yard out, put the Trojans in front 28-14 with 3:40 left in the quarter.
Any momentum the Trojans had was lost in just two plays. After a nine-yard run by Kyle Mills, Jonathan Stevens flipped a pass to Andy Moth, who followed his blockers for a 57-yard touchdown as the Bears closed to within 28-21 with 2:40 left in the quarter.
Homer closed out the quarter driving to the Chittenango 27-yard line. On the next play, Reese race to the 18, but a personal foul on Homer brought the ball back to the 33-yard line. After a one-yard Rivers run, an illegal procedure penalty and sacked killed the drive and Glover punted from the Chittenango 49. Mills returned the punt to the Bears 42 and, nine plays later, Chittenango was in the Trojan end zone again.
The big play was a Mills 22-yard run to the Trojan 15, the touchdown came on a Stevens to Moth 11-yard toss. Drake was lined up for the extra-point kick, but Bicknell made the most of his bobble and beat the Trojans to the end zone for the two-point conversion and the winning points.
After an exchange of punts, the Trojans had one last chance with 3:09 left in the game, but needed to march 92 yards and a block in the back penalty. Again the aerial route was the most successful, but it was also the final mail in the coffin. After completing 5-of-10 passes during the drive and some successful runs, the Trojans were at the Chittenango 21 with 21 seconds left. Rivers avoided the rush, but his pass was picked off by Bicknell at the Chittenango seven with 16 seconds remaining to end the game.
Homer will now look to regroup as the Trojans travel to Westhill, another 0-2 team, for their Section 3 B West opener next Friday night.