October 26, 2009
V-V-S able to answer late surge by Trojans
Rich Barnes/contributing photographer
Homer Central’s James Cochran (32) and Brent Fox pull down V-V-S quarterback Tyler Mautner for a sack during Saturday’s Class B playoff game. Host V-V-S pulled out a 21-14 victory.
VERONA —Heart and determination brought Homer Central to within four minutes of a big come-from behind football victory Saturday.
Trailing 14-0 entering the midway point of the third quarter, quarterback John Sciera’s record-setting arm guided the Trojans downfield for two scores and a 14-14 deadlock with 8:44 remaining. Unfortunately, fourth-seed Vernon-Verona-Sherrill killed the visitor’s momentum with a crucial 10-play, 65-yard drive of its own. With 4:17 left, junior varsity call-up Matt Sliker scored on a four-yard run, his second touchdown of the day, as the Red Devils pulled out a 21-14 Section 3 Class B quarterfinal victory over the fiesty fifth-seeded Trojans.
Sliker rushed for 36 yards on eight carries for one touchdown and caught a 36-yard pass from Tyler Mautner for another six points after being called up from the junior varsity team for the playoffs.
“We just brought Matt Sliker up this week,” Red Devil coach Gary Oliver said after his Red Devils (7-1) advanced to the semifinals. “We put him into the game in a spots and he really came through.
“Homer was a tough team,” he continued. “We got up by two scores and they (Homer) didn’t stop. They tied the game up. We got a couple of key first-downs in our last drive and punched it in for a little breathing room.”
“Great heart on both sides of the ball,” Homer coach Gary Podsiedlik said after his team’s 4-4 season came to a frustrating conclusion. “V-V-S came out and capitalized on some of our mistakes and we got down by a couple of scores.
“We didn’t quit,” he added. “We proved to ourselves and we had to understand that to beat a good team like this V-V-S team, we had to be physical. We did that. It was really a great high school football game.”
Sciera was solid for the Trojans as the senior completed 15-of-28 passing attempts for 181 yards. That gave Sciera 1,317 passing yards this season, breaking the single-season mark set of 1,223 yards set by Joey Rivers last year.
“Joey was a great quarterback,” Sciera said. “I really learned a lot playing behind him last year.
“It was a goal of mine to break some records while helping our team win games,” he continued. “Coach (Tom) Cottrell had confidence in me this season and I was glad I was able to back it up. I also couldn’t have done it without great receivers like Hatty (Zach Hatfield), Connor (Ferrito), Hunter (Osborne), Cody (Sandy), Demitirus (Nelson) and Andy (Parker). Andy was a great receiver out of the backfield. He could block, run and catch the ball and that was so important from our fullback spot.”
BOTH DEFENSES controlled play on muddy Sheveron Field during a rainy first half. V-V-S caught an early beak when Hunter Osborne fumbled the first Colin Way puny at the Red Devil 44, but the Trojan defense sent the Red Devil offense back to the sideline in three plays for the second straight series.The first big break came early in the second quarter when Dan Walts blocked Frank Davis’ punt. Davis recovered the ball at the Trojan 20-yard line and ran eight yards, but was tackle well short of the first-down marker.
After getting a first down at the Trojan 18, Sliker touched the ball for the first time and gained eight yards. A second Sliker eight-yard burst got the ball to the Trojan two. Dylan Guider carried the ball the rest of the way and V-V-S had a 7-0 lead with 7:53 left in the first half.
Homer still could not put a drive together, but neither did V-V-S. Cody Sandy intercepted a Mautner pass with 1:28 left in the half to stop one Red Devil possession and the half ended with Homer at midfield.
The Red Devils had perfected the “pooch-kick,” a high, 20-yard kickoff, and Cole Barbano was perfect in its execution to start the second half. Homer’s Parker slipped in the mud trying to get to the ball and Red Devil Louis Boice won the race to the ball and recovered at the Trojan 40-yard line. Though they didn’t score on the possession, it kept Homer pinned in his own end of the field and the Red Devils got the ball on their next possession at the Trojan 49.
Mautner engineered a six-play drive that ended with a 36-yard scoring pass to Sliker for a 14-0 lead with 5:59 left in the third quarter. The scoring play began with a fake hand-off to Sliker, who then slipped into the flat to receive the pass. Sliker outraced the Trojan coverage to the end zone.
Undaunted Homer roared back. The drive started at the Trojan 39. Sciera completed a second-down pass to Osborne for 21 yards. After four-yard run by Logan Hall (20 carries-82 yards). Sciera flipped a 15-yard pass to Nelson for another first down. After another incompletion, Sciera and Osborne hooked up for a 20-yard pitch-and catch to the Red Devil one-yard line, Hall rushed the final yard for six points. The two-point conversion failed as Homer pulled to within 14-6 with 3:32 left in the quarter,
A nice kick return by Sliker gave V-V-S the ball at the Homer 45. Mautner drove his team to the Trojan 21, but his third-down pass to the end zone and picked off by Nelson. It was the sixth pick by the senior in 2009.
SCIERA MARCHED the Trojans 80 yards in 12 plays, the final one an 18-yard touchdown toss to Nelson. Sciera flipped the two-point conversion pass to Hatfield and the game was tied 14-14 with 8:44 left in the game.
All the momentum was with the Trojans, but V-V-S didn’t fold. The Red Devils went 65 yards in 10 plays for the winning score.
Homer had a chance to end the drive early when Mautner scrambled for six yards and fumbled the ball. Boice was in the right spot and fell on the loose ball to keep the Red Devil drive alive. Way (10 carries-27 yards) got a crucial four-yard gain on fourth down to keep the drive moving. Guider (19-97) broke loose for a big 34-yard gain to the Trojan seven. Sliker got the next to carries, the final one for the four-yard touchdown burst with 4:17 remaining.
The Trojans were 65 yards away with plenty of time remaining, Sciera completed three-of-four passing attempt as the ball moved to the V-V-S 30. Sciera ran for five yards to the Red Devil 25, but three straight incompletions ended the drive with 2:09 to go.
V-V-S got one first down and forced Homer to use its final two timeouts before punting the ball back to the Trojans with five seconds remaining at the V-V-S 49. The game ended with a six-yard completion to Nelson and V-V-S had survived to advance to a semifinal match-up with top-seed Westhill.
“It was a tough loss, but a successful season, in my opinion,” Sciera said. “We played hard every game and never gave up. We did a lot of good things and there are many good pieces in place for more success next year.”
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