October 19, 2013
CHS can’t spoil Homer perfection
It wasn’t easy, but Homer Central accomplished an elusive and prestigious football goal Friday night.
Junior tailback Alec Bush ran for two touchdowns and junior all-purpose back Jayden Gavidia ran for one score and caught a touchdown pass as the Trojans retained the Home-Cort Jug with a 34-6 Section 3 Class B West Division victory over visiting Cortland High on Senior Night at George Butts Field.
Beating arch rival CHS capped an undefeated 7-0 regular season for the Trojans, who knocked off all six West Division foes on the schedule.
Cortland winds up 3-3 in league play and 3-4 overall, but will still head into the Class B playoffs next week. The fourth place Purple Tigers are expected to take on East Division champion Cazenovia next Saturday.
Homer will now prepare to host Camden in first-round playoff action this coming Friday at Butts Field.
Finishing unbeaten is a milestone Homer’s senior captains and their teammates will long remember, this being the first undefeated regular season for Trojans since 1986.
“It’s nice to get the win over Cortland for the win to make us 7-0,” senior lineman Shaun McGrath said. “For us on the line it has been about communication. We are all friends. We talk to each other in a positive manner. We keep each other fired up and ready to play. We’re looking forward to the post-season season and will get ready to face Camden here.”
“It’s a great feeling to go undefeated,” versatile senior Jake Casey said. “We have all worked hard to get to this point.”
“I am pumped to be a part of this,” senior starting linebacker Matt Norris added. “I feel like I have a special place in Homer history now. All of us on this team have that special place.”
AFTER HOLDING CORTLAND’S opening drive, Homer appeared to be stopped on its first possession until a little trickery on fourth down with the Trojans in punt formation. Quarterback Drew Cottrell took the short snap and lofted a 29-yard completion to Connor Simonetta on the fake punt for a first down at the Tiger 25-yard line.
It was the first pass reception for the senior this season, as Simonetta has really become a key member of the Homer secondary and played great defense all season long.
“We’ve been practicing that play all year,” Simonetta said. “We got the right opportunity to run it and it couldn’t go much better than that.”
Senior fullback Chris Brown broke outside and rambled 21 yards on the next play, plus two more yards were added due to a personal foul penalty on Cortland to put the ball at the Cortland two-yard line. Two plays, Bush scored from one yard out for a 7-0 Homer lead with 4:14 left in the first quarter.
Bush would rush for 174 yards on 25 carries to boost his seasonal total to 1,271 yards, the fourth best single-season rushing total in school history. Only Bob Avery (1973), Mark Brenchley (2006) and Dustin Morris (2005) have better single-season efforts.
That would be it for scoring in the first half. Both teams moved the ball between the 25-yard line stripes, but no one would score.
THE TROJANS GOT the ball to start the second half. After three running play, Homer had 2nd-and-nine at their own 49 yard line. Gavidia ran a straight fly route down the left hash marks by the Homer side of the field. Cottrell lofted the ball perfectly. Gavidia caught the pass in stride at the Cortland 20-yard line and pulled away from the Cortland defenders for a 14-0 lead with 10:02 left in the third quarter,
“Jayden ran a great route,” Cortland coach Dave Darrow said. “(Drew) Cottrell threw a great ball. You can’t throw it any better than that. That was just good football. We were in good coverage, but Jayden is just too fast.”
The turning point in the game came with Homer holding the 14-0 lead and Cortland threatening at the Trojan seven-yard line on fourth-and-one in the third quarter. The Tigers were 11 plays into a time-consuming drive when the Trojans were flagged for pass interference on 2nd-and-10 at the 16. The rule changed in high school football this season that the penalty was not an automatic first down, but the Tigers still were in good shape with a 2nd-and two at the Trojan eight.
Whelan was stuffed for a one-yard loss, then caught a third-down pass from Anthony Ricotilli to set up the crucial fourth down play.
Coach Darrow put the ball in Whelan’s hands for the fourth down carry and he followed the best blocker in lineman Paul Sabin, but the Trojan defense held and took the ball back at its own eight yard line. The Tigers had used six minutes of precious game time on 13 plays only to come up empty.
“I KNEW IT WAS fourth down,” Darrow said. “We had to go over our best people and we came up a half yard short. That’s the second time this year that has happened. It certainly would have made things more interesting if we kept the drive going and scored.
“We didn’t cover that fake punt in the first quarter and that was really crucial,” he continued. “We didn’t want to be behind in the early part of the game. It was really two good teams with two good running backs and two defenses that were not giving up a lot of points.”
Three straight hand-offs to Bush gained 74 yards, thanks to a 53-yard dash that ended at the Cortland 18-yard line after a touchdown-saving tackle by Quinn Mulherin. The Trojans continued to pound away on the ground and five plays later Bush bulled in from one yard out for his second score and a 20-0 Homer lead six seconds into the fourth quarter.
Cortland responded with a nice eight-play, 80 yard drive for its lone touchdown. Whelan capped the drive with a two-yard blast for the touchdown. The senior would finish the day with 33 carries for 160 yards and now has 943 rushing yards for the season. Darrow would love to have Whelan crack the 1,000-yard mark.
THE PURPLE TIGERS tried a squib kick, but Brown scooped up the bouncing ball for Homer and returned it to the Homer 47-yard line. After a nine yard run by Bush, Homer went with the direct snap to Gavidia who was line-up in the backfield with Cottrell. Gavidia swept towards the right side and beat everyone to the corner. From there the junior sprinted into the end zone to complete the 44-yard scamper to give Homer a 27-6 lead lead 7:53 to play.
Cortland fumbled the kickoff return and Norris recovered for Homer at the Cortland 11-yard line. Gage Root ran for two yards, but another personal foul penalty on Cortland placed the ball at the Tiger four-yard line. Root took one last hand-off and rumbled into the end zone for the touchdown. Homer now led 34-6 with 7:29 to go.
After Cortland punted, Homer fumbled the back to the Tigers at the Trojan 20-yard line with 4:19 to play. Cortland got to the Homer six-yard line when Ricotilli threw a ball towards the end zone. Simonetta read the play perfectly and made his fifth interception of the season.
“I think we have one of the best secondaries,” Simonetta said. “We all have some quickness and we really know what we are doing. Everyone knows their job and it helps make the defense complete.
“It’s always nice to beat Cortland,” he added. “Tonight was still all about getting the undefeated season. It’s been one game at a time and Cortland was the next team.”
Cottrell took a knee twice to kill the remaining 1:15 on the clock and the Trojans had their perfect season.
CORTLAND WILL NOW now regroup and make plans to face another state-ranked opponent in Cazenovia next Saturday. The Lakers are ranked fourth in Class B, while Homer was ranked seventh.
“The kids haven’t quit all season,” Darrow said. “We’ve lost two games on the last drive and we’ve been shorthanded most of the year. There’s nothing we can do about that. We know we can keep games close. We need that key play. We’ll go to Cazenovia and play our hearts out.”
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