September 18, 2010
Late turnovers fatal for Homer
Defense dictated the outcome as Marcellus Central extended its football winning streak to four games over Homer Central on Friday night.
Clinging to a 13-12 fourth quarter lead, senior safety Chaz Hayes picked off his second pass of the night at his own one-yard line and returned the errant Thomas Austin toss 99 yards to put visiting Marcellus on top 20-12 with 8:22 remaining.
That timely theft by Hayes, who also thwarted a Trojan scoring drive in the second quarter with a pick at the Mustangs’ 10-yard line, helped Marcellus pull away for a 33-20 Section 3 Class B West Division victory over the Trojans at a packed Butts Field.
Both teams are 2-1 in division and overall play.
“I felt good back there all night,” said Hayes. “I knew my assignments and we all worked hard. We recognized what they (Homer) were doing and where they were going. We had a good week of preparation.”
The next big play came after an exchange of punts and the Trojans trailing 20-12 with 2:57 left in the game. Austin completed a short pass to Zach Hatfield who was hit immediately. The ball popped out at midfield and Eric Lester scooped the ball up and raced 50 yards for the Mustang touchdown and a 27-12 advantage.
“Two big defensive plays turned the tide,” Marcellus coach Joe Fiacchi said. “We were fighting tooth-and-nail with Homer over who would take the lead.
“Chaz is our best deep centerfielder,” he continued on safety Hayes. “He anticipates very well. He made a great play. Eric made a great play as well. He’s a great athlete. Our defense has been our team so far. The offense is sputtering, but getting better every week.”
Homer didn’t panic and responded with a four-play scoring drive. Austin tossed his third touchdown pass of the game, an 18-yard floater to Hunter Osborne. The same combination accounted for the two-point conversion and the Trojans trailed 27-20 with 1:52 to go.
Homer went for the on-sides kick. The ball bounced around before Marcellus recovered the ball at their own 39. Senior tailback Rick Alfreds took the hand-off and appeared to be stopped after a four-yard gain as the Trojans tried to force a fumble. Before the whistle blew, Alfreds broke out of the pack and raced 61 yards for the clinching touchdown.
The Trojans’ last gasp came with 1:16 left. Austin tossed his third interception of the game as Nick Nye made the theft at the Mustang 35 and returned the ball to the Homer 29. Quarterback Kyle Hastings took a knee twice to run out the remaining time.
“IT WASN’T FOR a lack of effort from our kids,” Homer coach Gary Podsiedlik said. “Number Four (Hayes) is a great athlete for them. He kept his eyes on the quarterback. It doesn’t matter what level you are playing at, the quarterback’s eyes don’t lie.
“The Lester kid made a great heads-up play by scooping up the ball and running,” he continued. “You play to the whistle and he did the right thing by running and it paid off. Hatty’s (Hatfield) back was to me so I didn’t know if it was a catch or not. I just saw the ball pop out.”
The first half was a defense-dominated 24 minutes. The Trojans allowed 34 Mustang rushing yards and a 30-yard pass completion. The Mustangs allowed 72 rushing yards and 25 passing yards in the first half.
After Homer’s opening game drive stalled, Dyson Sprouse held the Mustangs to one play as he picked off Hastings pass at the 42-yard line and returned the ball 14 yards to the Mustang 14. Andy Parker was the leading rusher throughout the game for the Trojans. He gained 102 yards on 22 carries. The drive ended with Austin flipping a seven-yard touchdown pass to Hatfield (5 catches-46 yards) on fourth down for the 6-0 lead with 5:27 left in the first quarter. Despite the three picks, Austin had a good day completing 13-for-17 passing attempts for 108 yards.
Marcellus took advantage of good field position to take the lead at 7-6 with 37 seconds left in the quarter. Alfreds (12 carries-109 yards) capped the six-play drive with a five-yard dash to paydirt.
Homer pinned Marcellus deep in their own territory in the final three minutes of the first half. Osborne returned a R.J. Linder punt 18 yards to the Mustang 20. Four plays later, Austin tossed a four-yard scoring strike to Hatfield. The two-point conversion failed, but the Trojans led 12-7 with 2:23 left in the half.
Hayes fumbled on the kickoff return and Brent Fox recovered for the Trojans at the Mustang 33. Hayes atoned for his miscue by intercepting Austin at the 10. He returned the ball to the 37 and a Trojan personal foul penalty gave the Mustangs an additional 15 yards to the Trojan 48. Homer’s Tyler McMullen was ejected form the game at the end of the play and he will now sit out the Trojans’ next game per Section 3 rules.
HASTINGS’ ONLY completed pass went to Hayes who got all the way to the Homer 18 before being tackled. Hastings was sacked by Andy Parker and Fox for an eight-yard loss and the Mustangs were also guilt of holding which pushed then back to the Trojan 36. Hastings threw an incomplete pass and then fumbled the ball on the next snap, but he recovered his own bobble. Hayes was tackled for a 15-yard loss on the final play of the half.
With both defenses in control in the third quarter, Marcellus got the lead back for good late in the third quarter. Duncan Merritt capped a six-play, 33 yard drive with a three-yard run for his quarterback spot. The conversion failed, but the Mustangs led 13-12 with 29 seconds left in the quarter.
That score was no indication that the fourth quarter would provide so much excitement.
Defensively, Homer held Marcellus to 172 yards in total offense (142 rush, 30 pass) and that included the late 61-yard Alfreds dash. The Mustangs surrendered a few more yards, 237 (129 rush, 108 pass), but made the three interceptions, one fumble recovery, five quarterback sacks and some other key defensive stops be more than enough to score a much needed victory.
“We’ll bounce back from this,” Podsiedlik said. “We’ll use this as a learning experience. The kids will work hard again this week and we’ll get ready for Chittenango.”
Homer will return travel to Chittenango Friday for a 7 p.m. non-league clash.
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