One week ago, Marcellus found itself in a must-win situation after suffering a league loss in the opening week of Section 3 football.
You hate to think that way this early in the season, but Homer Central is now that team with one league loss and a must-win attitude prior to traveling to take on Skaneateles — now a Class B West Division co-leader with Chittenang — for a 7 p.m. kickoff Friday.
The Trojans are 1-1 overall, but 0-1 in the West Division after losing to 37-29 to Marcellus last Friday. The host Lakers are 2-0 in division and overall play after roughing up Westhill 34-7 last week, and are ranked 20th in the New York State Sportswriters Association Class B state poll.
Chittenango is also 2-0 and ranked 18th in the same poll.
“I am certainly happy and a little surprised,” Skaneateles coach Joe Sindoni said of the win over Westhill. “You always hope to win, but I was certainly surprised by the spread (27 points). It was a case where our defense matched up well with what Westhill was running offensively.
“We do have a very special group of kids,” he added of his 33 player roster that contains 15 sophomores and just six seniors and 10 juniors. There are two freshmen on the squad as well. “We do have a smaller roster though and the number of eligible players that we have this week.”
Sindoni lost one of his top lineman in pre-season and junior wide receiver-kicker Cross Bianchi was injured in the fourth quarter of the win over Westhill and will not play Friday.
“We really still have to just look at the next game on the schedule,” Sindoni said with Chittenango and Marcellus in the near future. “It’s about beating Homer this week. In fact, we want and need to be competitive with Homer.
“There is no margin for error against them,” he continued. “They are not beaten until the final whistle blows. They keep playing hard on every down and that is because of Gary Podsiedlik and his coaching staff. That teams mirrors their coaches determination and desire to win.”
SINDONI’S CONCERN may be well-founded after a 45-14 loss last year and a 69-2 drubbing in 2014 to Homer.
“The level we played at against Westhill was where I expected we would be in week 5,” Sindoni said. “Things just really came together that night. We do have young kids so we need to see if they can keep the consistency going every week.”
“Joe does say some nice things about us, but he does have a good group of kids,” Homer coach Gary Podsiedlik said. “A lot of his skill kids are the juniors and sophomores, that says a lot.
“We have had a good week of practice,” he added. “There was good focus and good intensity. We have a number of non-starters really working hard and stepping up. We need that against a big play team like Skaneateles.”
Homer will be without their best lineman and tackler as senior captain Luke Sears will be out with a shoulder injury. The Trojans could also be without their top running back as junior John Horner III is slowed by a hip pointer.
“John has been cleared to play,” Podsiedlik said. “The problem is he is still very sore and, if he can’t move well or sprint, we certainly will not play him.”
Skaneateles runs a spread offense with four wide receivers and a a single back along with the quarterback. Sophomore quarterback Pat Hackler (6-feet, 175 pounds) drives the Laker offense. Hackler threw for two touchdowns against Westhill and has rushed for 174 yards and three TDs this season.
“Hackler recognizes defenses very well,” Podsiedlik said. “He runs the ball very well and he has a quick release on passes which makes it hard to get to him in that shotgun formation.”
THE RUNNING BACK for the Lakers is sophomore Areh Boni (5-9, 175). Boni has carried the ball 42 times for 157 yards and three touchdowns.
Sophomore Nathan Wellington (5-9, 170) leads the Lakers’ receiving corp with eight catches for 153 yards, but four other receivers have three or more catches as Hackler spreads the ball around. Senior Matt Goetzmann, junior Tyler Schneider and senior Ben Delasin are the other three starting wideouts.All three are between 5-10 and 6-2 and weigh between 165 and 175 pounds.
The offensive line has senior Jacob Dinello at center, sophomore Josh McIntyre (5-11, 230) is the left guard while junior Scott Ochsner (6-6, 285) is the right guard. Junior Tyler Priest is the left tackle and senior Pat Greenfield is the right tackle.
“We have to be mindful of their offense,” Podsiedlik said. “Hackler, Boni and Wellington are all quality athletes. We have spent a little more emphasis on defense this week and we need to be ready.”
The Lakers play a 4-4 defense but walk into a 6-2 with those outside linebackers. Senior Joey McIntyre brother Josh are the defensive tackles with Greenfield and junior Jon Ricklefs the defensive ends. The inside linebackers are Dinello ad junior Jacob Nesbitt with Boni and Wellington the outside backers. Schneider and Goetzmann are the cornerbacks with Delasin the safety.
“They come after you on defense,” Podsiedlik said. “We really need to be patient on offense. We need to use the power running game effective and use that to help get our play-action game going.”
IT WILL NEED TO be even more running back by committee for Homer if Horner (27 carries for 212 yards) is not available.
Senior Kevin Bush (27 carries-94 yards, 2 touchdowns) is next man up while senior Matt Guerrera (5 carries-57 yards) may get more carries as well. Juniors Krillin Drake, Dominick Natale and Zach Barber could see more touches as well. Junior tight end Dante Yacavone leads the Trojans in pass receptions with four for 53 yards and one touchdown while Drake has three catches for 40 yards.
Senior quarterback Jacob Rivers is coming around with his passing this season having eight completions in 27 attempts for 106 yards and two touchdowns.Rivers has run the ball 20 times for 69 yards and may decide to use his legs if needed.
Podsiedlik mentioned that junior lineman Austin Matthys (5-11, 302) has been working hard this week to be ready to be one of the fill-ins for Sears.
The keys to victory Friday for Sindoni’s Skaneateles squad in their home opener are simple.
“We need to match Homer’s intensity,” Sindoni said. “Our guys need to compete and we have to play hard.”
“We need to be rock solid and do our assignments on defense,” Podsiedlik countered. “We need good communications on the offensive line and our backs need to be patient for the holes to open up. We cannot be careless on special teams.”
TROJAN TIDBITS: If you plan to make the trip Friday, here are the directions per the Homer Central School’s web site to Skaneateles. Take Route 41 to the traffic light in Skaneateles. Go straight through the light, go one block to a dead end. Turn left, then a quick right. Now you are on East Street. Go one block and the high school will be on your left….Blue Collar Awards went to Luke Sears (line) and John Horner (non-line) for this week…Horner was also named a game captain for the Skaneateles game….Homer owns a 22-4 advantage in the series.