The season-opener was a thrilling 9-3 overtime non-league road win by Homer Central over football rival Cortland High, but now the stakes get even higher as the Trojans face a high-powered offensive foe in their home opener.
Homer will play host to Marcellus Friday with a 7 p.m. kickoff at George Butts Field in the Section 3 Class B West Division opener for the defending champion Trojans. It will be Hall of Fame Night as the school welcomes four new members to its ranks at halftime.
The Mustangs dropped a 34-28 West Division decision to Westhill in the Carrier Dome one week ago.
Marcellus played catch-up all night and nearly won despite eight turnovers, something head coach Joe Fiacchi knows his guys can’t do against the Trojans as the teams gather for their 25th meeting.
“You can’t give a team eight extra chances to score,” Fiacchi said. “I really thought our defense played well considering the amount of time they were on the field. It’s time to regroup and get ready for a good Homer team.
“Offensively, we do have some good skill kids,” he added. “We are still looking for some linemen, but we will be ready.”
Fiacchi added that his team likes coming to Butts Field.
“My kids really do like playing there,” Fiacchi said. “It is a great atmosphere. The sounds and the crowd make it a great place to play.”
“Marcellus and Westhill both look fast and strong, but our only concern right now is Marcellus,” Homer coach Gary Podsiedlik said as his team begins a string of six straight league games.
“Marcellus has good depth and they will be real hungry in this game because they do have a league loss. They aren’t going to want a second loss this early.
“Our success last week was from playing mentally tough,” he continued. “We played good defense and we didn’t have a turnover on offense. It’s been a crazy week with school starting up, but we have had a good week of practice.”
MARCELLUS GIVES you a lot of things to look at on offense. The Mustangs will run shotgun, I-formation and power run looks from multiple formations. Fiacchi also always tries to find a gadget play or two to throw at the Trojans every time they meet. everything in this offense runs through senior quarterback Tom Fiacchi (6-foot, 190 pounds).
Against Westhill, Fiacchi ran the ball 21 times for 137 yards and two touchdowns. He completed 14-of-21 passing attempts for 189 yards and one touchdown. Fiacchi is also the Mustang punter-kicker and, if needed, safety. He is the fourth and final son for the head coach who has enjoyed every minute with every one of his boys.
“It does make it special when it’s your final son,” Coach Fiacchi said. “It is a lot of fun.”
“Marcellus has good size on the offensive line,” Podsiedlik said. “They have good guys at the skill position and they throw a lot of things at you. You really do have to be ready for anything, but it all starts with Fiacchi at quarterback.”
The Mustangs have the weapons as well behind the quarterback. Senior Nate Garlow (5-10, 170) is the running back, senior Shane Rohe (6-0, 205) in the H-Back and sophomore Robbie Seeley (5-9, 169) is the slot back. On the wings, senior Matt Shoemaker (6-0, 185) and junior Alex Clark (6-0, 165) are the wideouts. Nate Lukins (6-1, 197) is listed as the tight end, but he rushed for 90 yards and one touchdown on six carries in the season opener. Garlow had five carries for 14 yards.
The offensive line is anchored by junior center Luke Norstad (6-2, 254) with senior Alex Henderson and senior Kern Linder at the tackles while junior Chad Casler and junior Judah Tuttle are the guards.
ON DEFENSE, THE Mustangs played a 4-3 base, but show lots of five and six-man fronts. Senior Corey Garvey and senior Nick Femano are the ends with Linder and sophomore Joe Martin the tackles. Lukins is the middle linebacker while Rohe and junior Ryan Pierce patrol the outside. The secondary has junior Nick Patterson, Jr. and junior Matt Reich at the corners as senior Christion Patterson and junior Conner Wixson are the safeties.
“It is suppose to be a 4-3, but it really is a 5-2 defense,” Podsiedlik said. “They do have a quality five-man front, but are also solid when they are in the four or six fronts.”
Marcellus has another weapon in a new defensive coordinator. Former Nottingham coach Nick Patterson has been a welcome addition and he gets to coach his son, Nick, and nephew, Christion.
“Nick is doing a great job with our defense,” Fiacchi said.
HOMER QUARTERBACK Jacob Rivers completed four-of-12 passing attempts for 40 yards against Cortland and he ran for 28 yards on seven carries. Senior Matt Guerrera and junior Krillin Drake each had two receptions. Junior tailback John Horner III led the Trojan ground game with 32 yards on nine carries.
The difference in the game was senior Kevin Bush. He only rushed for 16 yards on nine carries, but was the guy who scored the winning touchdown in overtime.
It was a Bush field goal that had Homer up 3-0 at halftime, and he also played a solid defensive game according to Podsiedlik. Guerrera picked off a Cortland pass and Dominick Natale recovered a Purple Tiger fumble.
Senior lineman Luke Sears recorded 16 assisted tackles and four unassisted tackles, three of those for a loss.
COACH FIACCHIO SAYS there are two main keys to winning the game Friday night.
“We have to contain Jacob Rivers. He is a quick, experienced quarterback. He really runs their offense well,” the coach said. “The other key, win the turnover battle. You can’t make mistakes against Homer. They will capitalize on them.”
“We have to play like we did last week,” Podsiedlik said. “We were disciplined in our assignments. We need to play consistently and be strong mentally.
“We need to avoid turnovers,” he added. “We can’t give Marcellus a short field. We also need to communicate on the line.”
Podsiedlik said one other factor could be which team handles the heat better.
TROJAN TIDBITS: The Blue Collar Awards went to Cody Johnson (line) and Zachary Barber (non-line) for this week…One correction from those awards before the Cortland game. Krillin Drake was the non-line winner, not Tucker O’Donnell as previously reported….Kevin Bush was named a game captain for the Marcellus game….Homer owns a 17-7 advantage in the series including a 72-41 shootout victory at Marcellus last year. The Trojans have won the last four meetings. The last Marcellus win was in 2010 by a 33-20 margin.