Homer Central has done nearly everything possible to secure a fourth straight Section 3 Class B West Division football title, but there is still one step remaining.
That will take place Friday on Senior Night at Butts Field.
The first place Trojans (4-1 West Division, 5-1 overall) will host Syracuse Tech Central in a 7 p.m. kickoff in their final home game and regular season finale. Eleven seniors players, one four-year manager and senior cheerleaders — along with their parents — will be honored before the kickoff.
The Eagles come into the game at 1-4 in the West Division and 1-5 overall. A win guarantees Homer a share of the division title, and either way the Trojans will host a first round Class B playoff game next week.
Homer wins the title outright if Chittenango (3-2, 4-2) can post a win at Marcellus (4-1, 5-1). The Bears, after losing 26-0 to Homer last week, need a win to make the playoffs.
If the Mustangs win, they will be co-champs with the Trojans and have the No. 1 sectional playoff seed out of the Class B West because of their victory at Homer back in week two.
“It’s gone by so fast,” senior offensive right tackle, defensive lineman and Trojans co-captain Luke Sears said. “My time here has been so great. I got to play with so many great guys like Alec Bush, Anthony Basile. They were great guys and the guys I play with now, Kevin Bush, Jacob Rivers and the other seniors and juniors are great guys. I could not have asked for better teams to play with the past three years.”
“It means a lot to me,” senior left guard/linebacker and co-captain Cody Johnson added. “Myself and all the team will try to keep this season going as long as possible. We will keep looking to win games.”
SYRACUSE TECH MAY have only have one win, but they have played some teams tough and are a threat to put points on the board. The Eagles are scoring an average of 18.7 points per game, but are allowing 29 points a contest.
“We are just not able to finish off games,” Tech coach John Cosgrove said. “Last year we were losing games by 40 to 50 points. This year we have been in many games until the fourth quarter. We have been more competitive and I do see improvement from last year.”
“We have been working our tails off in practice to prepare for a team that has had some good moments of flash at Tech,” Homer coach Gary Podsiedlik said. “We will not underestimate this team. We will be ready to play for all of us, not just the seniors, but I am excited about Senior Night.
“The guys have really been working hard the last three weeks,” he continued. “We have guys getting healthier and that will be good heading into the playoffs. The guys know the importance of this game.”
Syracuse Tech has multiple looks on offense. They will run the standard I formation and lots of variations from the shotgun. The Eagles have quarterbacks who can run the option and bootlegs well. They have big guys in the backfield and can pound the ball with the running game.
Junior Takoda Gutowski is listed by Cosgrove as the starting quarterback, but senior Chaunel Flowers has seen a lot of time there as well. Joining the signal callers in the backfield will be junior fullback Messiah Harrell and junior tailback Jujuan Cousins. The split end is senior Chance Williams while the flanker is Isaiah Vega. The tight end is senior Jonathan Marcano. The offensive line is anchored by junior center Nizair Evans, the guards are junior Jarred Grant-Spann and senior Marc McBride with the tackles being junior Robert Felder and senior Rodjon Robinson.
On defense Syracuse Tech is listing a 4-4 defense, but Cosgrove has long been a 5-3 type coach so look for multiple sets from 3-5 to 6-2.
Evans and Harrell are the defensive tackles with Marcano and junior Zach Holoway on the ends. The linebackers are Grant-Spann, McBride, junior Mike McLeod and sophomore Ezekail Ruiz. The secondary is made up of Cousins, Vega and junior Jonathan Crosby.
“WE HAVE A LOT to prep for, but it is week seven,” Podsiedlik said. “We have seen a lot of things so far so we really just need to tweak our reads a little bit on defense. It’s easier for the guys to know what to look for and be ready.
“We do know we have to come and be ready to play every week,” he continued. “It is a very balanced league this year and you need to be ready to play the full 48 minutes. Every down matters and if you win every quarter you win the game. That has been our philosophy and it has paid off for us this season.”
“Our guys know we aren’t going to the sectionals,” Cosgrove said. “I told the guys let’s just mess up all the seedings. Chittenango and us could do that with wins as there would be four teams with 4-2 league records.”
On offense, you could be talking about a 1,000-yard rusher with Homer’s run-oriented style at this point of the season, but the ground game is a two-headed monster with a pair of 500-yard efforts.
Junior tailback John Horner III leads the team with 96 carries for 562 yards and five touchdowns with senior Kevin Bush toting the pigskin 95 times for 514 yards and seven touchdowns. Tossed in 215 yards and two more scores from senior Matt Guerrera and the Trojan offense is just fine.
Senior quarterback Jacob Rivers has completed 20-0f-53 passing attempts for 404 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 3.4 yards every time he runs the ball.
Junior tight end Dante Yacavone has 10 catches for 137 yards and two TDs while Guerrera has caught seven passes for 227 yards and five touchdowns.
A lot of the success on offense has been generated by a rebuild line that only had Sears and junior guard Vincent Basile as returnees at the start of the season. Senior center Brandon Aylesworth, sophomore left guard Chase Kiner and sophomore right tackle Damien Hoyt have all stepped into starting roles nicely with guys like juniors Stephen Walter, Chris DeLage, Thomas Spinner, Austin Matthys, Parker Thomas, Hunter O’Gorman and Anthony Parker, plus seniors Reno Gaffney and Nate Pettit also ready to step in and step up when needed.
COSGROVE HAS ONE big key to victory Friday night.
“If both teams run as much as they do this will be a quick game,” Cosgrove said. “We need to keep the game as close as possible for as long as possible. The last one to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter could be the winner.”
“Special teams will again be very important,” Podsiedlik said. “Controlling and dominating special teams play will be huge. Ball security on offense will be important. We need to play smart, physical, stifling defense.”
For the second time this season, a Homer player has been named the National Football Foundation Section 3 Class B Player of the Week. Guerrera earned the honor after his four touchdown performance against Solvay Sept. 23. This week, Sears has honored for his stellar defensive play and work on the offensive line against Chittenango.
TROJAN TIBITS: Blue Collar Awards went to Vincent Basile (line) and Dante Yacavone (non-line) for this week….Jacob Rivers and Jack Walter have been named game captains for the Tech game.Walter is a senior and has missed the entire season due to injury….Homer holds a 1-0 advantage in the all-time series which just stated last year. The Trojans won 42-12 in that 2015 season opener.