With a lot on the line one week ago, Homer Central took care of business with a big 22-15 win at Skaneateles in Section 3 Class B West Division football action.
The Trojans are 1-1 in division play and 2-1 overall as they look to build off that momentum while preparing for a visit from Solvay and new Bearcats coach Todd Lisi Friday.
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at George Butts Field on both Homecoming and Homer Youth Football Association Night.
Solvay is 0-2 in B West play and 1-2 overall and sits fifth in the West Division standings. Their losses were to Chittenango and Marcellus, with a non-league comeback win over Fowler in week two.
Homer sits in fourth place with Marcellus and Skaneateles both at 2-1 in league and overall action while Chittenango is on top at 3-0 in the division and overall.
The Bearcats are eager to become contenders again.
“As a first-year coach, the one thing that we are trying to create is a new culture in Solvay,” Lisi said. “I wanted to see our guys give the same effort all 48 minutes of each game. If folks walked into our Chittenango and saw we were losing 29-0, they would think the same old Solvay. But that was not the case. Our guys were still playing like the game was tied 29-29. That’s what we want to see this season.
“We can work on getting stronger in the off-season,” he continued. “You can’t grow as a program without effort. That is the part of E.A.T. that we are working on. E is for effort, A is for assignment and T is for technique.”
Lisi also knows the section did him no favors to start the season.
“We opened up against Chittenango who could very well be the division champion in my opinion,” Lisi said. “Next was Class A Fowler and then Marcellus. Now it’s week four and we travel to Homer. We are certainly getting battle tested. I loved our effort. The fight in these guys is there.”
LISI HAS A LOT of respect for Trojans coach Gary Podsiedlik and the Homer program.
“We want to be where Homer is,” Lisi said. “They have a great feeder program from the youth program on up. They run a very classy and professional program and I have the utmost respect for Coach Podsiedlik. That’s what we will strive for.”
“I was a big Phil Merrill guy and what happened to him was too bad, but Todd Lisi is certainly going to turn the Solvay program around,” Podsiedlik said, Merrill the former Solvay coach. “He has some very good skill position guys and he has good senior leadership.
“We have had a good week of practice,” he continued. “Luke Sears is back and feels good. That week off for his shoulder was the right call, John Horner is moving and running better, he should be set for Friday. Cody Johnson is a little more doubtful with his shoulder. He couldn’t lift his arm Saturday, but he has good strength and stability in the shoulder. We will decided about him before the game.”
Having bout Kevin Bush and Horner healthy gives Homer that 1-2 monster in the backfield. Bush has run the ball 60 times for 289 yards and four touchdowns, Horner has 212 yards on 27 carries and one TD. Horner rushed for 180 yards against Marcellus before his injury. Bush had 195 rushing yards against Skaneateles.
SOLVAY RUNS A lot of plays from an unbalanced formation and will use the wishbone that features a power run, counter and play action.
“We are extremely talented at the skill positions and the unbalanced formation uses our strengths,” Lisi said. “We like to pull the guards to take advantage our our speed. We can go to the shotgun and take advantage our a quarterback who can use his arm to take us vertical quickly.”
Everything is triggered by senior quarterback Jake Dippold (6-foot-2, 175 pounds). He is a very good athlete who has rushed for 105 yards on 10 carries while completing eight-of-32 passing attempts for 138 yards and three touchdowns.
The three running backs in the backfield are senior Alex Britton (5-9, 170), Zachary Chrysler (5-10, 200) and junior Lamar Flood (5-8, 165). Britton has carried the ball 60 times for 264 yards and two TDs. Chrysler has added 68 yard and two TDs on 12 carries.
The big wideout is junior Nate Gardner at 6-4, 180 pounds. Gardner has three catches for 89 yards and two touchdown. The tight end is senior Michael Cimino (6-3, 240).
The young part of the Bearcat offense is the front line. Senior Brett Pidkaminy (5-9, 220) is the anchor at center. The guard are Zachary Langdon (5-9, 170) and Joseph Epolito (5-10, 180) who are converted fullbacks so Lisi can use their speed to pull and lead plays. The tackles are senior Brennen McCann (6-4, 320) and sophomore Noah McLean (5-9, 250).
On defense, Lisi calls in a 4-4 front, but it’s really a 6-2 look with six linemen and two linebackers.
“On defense, we really are a lot like Homer,” Lisi said.
“WE WILL BE playing more 6-2 this week (on defense) too because of what Solvay does on offense,” Podsiedlik said. “They like to run the ball more inside to the A gap and kick it off tackle so we have to ready for those skill guys.”
Cimino and senior NaQuan Shepherd (6-0, 165) are ends with the tackles being Pidkaminy, sophomore Matt Reale (5-9, 220), senior Anthony Gardynski (6-0, 185) and sophomore Gregory Miller (5-8, 235). The linebackers are Chrysler and junior John Bliss. The cornerbacks are Britton and junior Noah Capella with sophomore Connor Lee at free safety.
Lisi as three keys that he believes wiil lead Solvay to victory Friday night.
“First, we need to win the turnover battle,” he said. “Second, we need to limit our penalties to less than 30 yards. Third, we need to have a 70 percent rating on third-down conversions. We want to keep our punter off the field. I will look at those three things after the game and, if we have done them, we stood have a win.”
“We haven’t gotten any defensive points yet this season and we would like to change that Friday night,” Podsiedlik said. “There is such a big momentum swing when you score points on defense. We need to play smart, physical football and communicate on the line.
“We also need to communicate on offense,” he continued. We need to have consistency in line communication of offense. We have to perform better on special teams than Solvay. Special teams play can be a key to allowing the offense and defense to make the plays needed to win.”
TROJAN TIDBITS: It will be a busy night on Butts Field. The Homer Youth Football Association kids will take part in pre-game ceremonies. The Trojans held a clinic with the older youth football groups Tuesday night. The halftime will be dominated by homecoming activities…. Blue Collar Awards went to Damien Hoyt (line) and Matt Guerrera (non-line) for this week… John Horner was named a game captain for the Skaneateles game, but, when he couldn’t play, the coaches turned to Jacob Rivers and he responded well to the leadership role. This week, Guerrera and Tucker O’Donnell will be game captains…. Homer owns a 17-5-1 advantage in the all-time series. The Trojans won in 2015 by a 34-14 score and have won the last eight match-ups. The last Bearcats win came in 2007 by a score of 12-6. From 2003-07, Solvay won four of five encounters.