Matt Guerrera had a career night for Homer Central on Homecoming Friday on Butts Field.
The speedy senior caught three passes for 140 yards and three touchdowns, ran for 34 yards on six carries and a touchdown, returned the opening second half kickoff 84 yards for his fifth touchdown and he picked off a pass to help the Trojans roll to a 55-42 Section 3 Class B West Divisin football triumph over the Solvay Bearcats.
“I had good blocking and Jacob (Rivers) had good timing on all the passes. It was a recipe for success,” Guerrera said, Rivers the Trojans senior quarterback. “On defense, the guys are getting to the quarterback quickly. It makes him throw the ball quicker and I’m able to cut underneath and pick some off.
“We do what we have to do to win,” he added. “A league championship is what we want. We’ll do what we have do to win the championship.”
The Trojans’ triumph and Skaneateles’ 19-16 upset win over Chittenango has turned the division championship race into a four-way shootout. Homer is 2-1 in B West (3-1 overall) and tied for third place with Marcellus (2-1, 2-2). Chittenango and Skaneateles are both 3-1 in league and overall play.
Westhill downed Syracuse Tech 34-20 to improve to 2-2 in division and overall play. Homer will travel to Westhill next Friday for a 6:30 p.m. contest. Waverly pounded Marcellus 44-14 in a non-league game Friday. Solvay and Syracuse Tech are both 0-3 in the division, with the Bearcats falling to 1-3 overall.
“Look at our league,” Homer head coach Gary Podsiedlik said. “Chittenango had a lead and Skaneateles came back to beat them. This league is wide open right now.”
RIVERS CONTINUES TO grow in his second year at quarterback. He completed five-of-10 passes for 158 with four touchdown tosses. The senior ran for 73 yards on four carries, including a 33-yard scoring dash in the second quarter.
“The play calling (by offensive coordinator Tom Cottrell) was good,” Rivers said. “Coach (George) Schneider, what he was seeing up top (on the roof of the press box) was good. They called the right plays and things worked out well.
“The playing time last year has definitely helped me this year. It helped calm me down and showed me I could do it,” he added.
“Jacob Rivers needs to be a notch better every week and he is clearly doing that,” Podsiedlik said. “My staff has had to be patient with him and they have to help him improve his game. He even complimented Tucker O’Donnell on his clock management in the fourth quarter.”
Homer’s defense set the tone early when Dante Yacavone recovered a fumble at the Solvay 35-yard line in the game’s opening drive. Rivers tossed a two-yard pass to Yacavone for the first touchdown of the game with 5:48 left in the quarter.
On the next Solvay possession, Yacavone sacked quarterback Jake Dippold for a 13-yard loss on second down and a hurried third down throw was picked off by Guerrera at the Bearcat 32. Five plays later, Guerrera ran for the 12-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 2:27 left in opening quarter.
Solvay ran four plays in its next possession as Zachary Chrysler fumbled on a fourth-and-one. Austin Matthys fell on the loose ball for the Trojans at the Solvay 46. Rivers’ capped the six-play drive with a five yard touchdown pass to Guerrera as the Trojan lead grew to 21-0 with 10:25 left in the first half.
“The defense is doing a very good job of setting us up,” Podsiedlik said. “Turnovers and giving up short fields for the offense. We’re doing well in that aspect.”
IT WAS A HOMER turnover that set up the first Solvay touchdown, the Bearcats recovering a fumble at their own 36-yard line. Alex Britton broke off a 27-yard run to move the ball to the Trojan 42. Three plays later, Dippold threw a 42-yard scoring pass to 6-foot-4 receiver Nate Gardner. The conversion failed with 4:02 on the clock as Solvay closed to within 21-6.
The Trojans responded immediately as the kickoff went out of bounds and Homer took the ball at their 35-yard line. Rivers hit Guerrera on a slant pass and the speedster outraced the Solvay secondary for a 65-yard touchdown. The lead was 27-6 Homer.
A poor Solvay punt gave Homer the ball the the Solvay 42 with 2:46 left in the half. On third-and-one, Rivers ran 33 yards for a Trojan touchdown and 34-6 advantage. Solvay answered with a seven-play drive that Dippold capped with a 16-yard pass to Gardner. Solvay trailed 33-12 with 36 seconds left.
Homer wasn’t done.
With the ball at their own 30-yard line, Rivers lofted a pass down the right side. Guerrera ran under the ball, made the catch and went 70 yards for another Trojan score and Homer enjoyed a 41-12 halftime lead.
“When you look at the first half, we lost the turnover battle, we lost the penalty battle and we weren’t converting on first downs,” Solvay coach Todd Lisi said. “Like I said when we talked, I wanted to change the culture. I wanted to see these guys fight despite behind down and they did that. Our kids held it together and fought the entire second half.
“Our passing game went to the next level tonight and helped us stay in this game,” he added. “This is a great Homer team. People may say they are down, but Homer is never really down. They are disciplined, they are a fundamental team. They block, they tackle. It’s tough when you hear Coach Podsiedlik say he’s a little down this year. They’re not down, this is a great program and I knew we would be in a battle.”
GUERRERA FIELDED THE second half kickoff at his own 16-yard line and bolted through the coverage team to scored the 84-yard touchdown. Homer led 48-18.
A big 37-yard run by Britton set up a 19-yard touchdown dash by Zachary Chrysler to Solvay going immediately. The Bearcat defense forced a punt and Dippold drove his team 79 yard in 13 plays. Britton bolted to paydirt from 20 yards out as the Homer lead shrunk to 48-26.
After a touchback and 10-yard penalty on Homer gave the Trojans possession at their 10-yard line, Rivers handed the ball to Kevin Bush three times. The second handoff saw him break free and race 81 yards to the Solvay six before Britton hauled Bush down from behind. On the very next play, Bush got those final six yards for a 55-26 Homer lead with 11:26 left in the game. Bush’s final carry gave him 134 yards on 13 carries.
Solvay continued to fight and put two touchdowns on the board as Podsiedlik emptied his bench. Britton scored on a one yard run and Dippold hit Gardner in the endzone for a 32 yard touchdown, Guerrera cut in front of the receiver on the play and appeared to have his second interception, by Gardner used his height advantage to reach over Guerrera and pull the ball away for the six points. Britton ran for two-point conversions after both scores for the 55-42 final.
Britton led all ball carriers with 163 yards on 21 carries. Dippold completed eight-of-29 passes for 208 yards. Gardner caught four of those passes for 122 yards.
“We did empty the bench early,” Podsiedlik said. “That’s my call as the head coach. We wanted to give some guys the chance to prove they are good enough to make a difference. We did have some bright moments and good spots, but we also had some things that could have gone better. It was an ugly but good win.”