It was a long run for Homer Central after a second week loss to Marcellus, which put the Trojans in “must-win” mode for the rest of the regular season if they wanted a shot at defending their Section 3 Class B West Division crown.
That football mission was accomplished as John Horner carried the offensive load with 159 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries during Senior Night at Butts Field, as Homer rolled to a 34-6 victory over Syracuse Tech Central.
With Friday’s fifth straight win — and with a little help from Chittenango knocking off Marcellus 42-20 last night — the Trojans claimed sole possession of the West Division crown and that fourth consecutive regular season championship.
Homer (5-1 West Division, 6-1 overall) will be home next week as the top seed in the West Division and will host Class B East Division fourth seed Oneida (4-3) back at Butts Field.
Chittenango (4-2, 5-2) will be the second seed in B West, Marcellus’ Mustangs (4-2, 4-3) will be the third seed and Skaneateles (4-2, 4-2) plays a non-league game today and will be the fourth seed. Westhill (2-4, 2-5) lost to Solvay 44-36 Friday and was knocked out of the playoffs. Solvay (2-5) and Syracuse Tech (1-6) are both 1-5 in the division.
The rest of the B East seeds are Cazenovia (6-1, 6-1) as the one seed, Mexico (6-1, 6-1) is the two seed and Central Valley (4-3, 4-3) is the third seed.
“It feels so great,” running back Horner said after beating Tech for the title. “As far as the good running, it is really all about my linemen. I just follow my blocks. That’s just how is works.
“I’m really happy that the seniors get to have one more home game. It’s awesome for them,” the junior added.
As for those linemen, junior right guard Vincent Basile is one of the two returning starters along with senior Luke Sears at right tackle. Center Brandon Aylesworth and left guard Cody Johnson are new starting seniors along with sophomores Damien Hoyt (at left tackle) and Chase Kiner who also started some at left guard as well.
“It’s a good feeling,” Basile said. “We really played as a team. It’s fun because if we do play as a team we win. There was a lot of pressure because we only had two returning linemen, but a lot of guys have stepped up and have done a great job. We really wanted to give the seniors a win on Senior Night and we all wanted to win as well.
“It’s nice to have a home game for the playoffs,” he continued. “It’s great when you have that home crowd behind you.”
“We have worked hard to get where we are right now,” Aylesworth said. “This is just one goal. We will keep taking things one game at a time until we reach that goal of going to The (Carrier) Dome. We never doubt an opponent. We just work hard and keep going on.
“We have each other’s back on the line,” he added. “It’s all about communication and stepping up. We are all on the same page. It’s really a brotherhood, one big family.”
THE GUY MOST pleased with the group winning its 15th overall and 11th outright championship is head coach Gary Podsiedlik.
“This tradition was here a long time before I came here,” Podsiedlik said, “Making the playoffs is not the ultimate goal. We expect to earn the playoff spot, earn that league championship, earn that sectional title and get a state championship down the road.
“What a great night to pull it all together again,” he continued. “These last four weeks have been about overcoming adversity, don’t let one play bother you, play together, trust your teammates. That’s what it’s all about. That’s why we won tonight.”
As for the line play….
“The message is clear to the kids even though each one of our coaches may say the same thing slightly different,” Podsiedlik said. “We have youth on the line and we have experience. The older kids have taken care of the younger kids and taught them well. Are we perfect? No, but we know how to overcome.”
One mistake on a missed tackle led to a 43-yard run by Jujuan Cousins on the first series by Syracuse Tech that got the ball to the Homer 17-yard line, but the Trojan defense stiffened and the eagles didn’t score.
Homer countered with an 11-play, 79-yard scoring drive on its first possession to take a 7-0 lead with 2:45 left in the opening quarter. Horner carried the ball eight times, including the final three yards for the score.
AFTER TECH WAS forced to punt, the Trojans marched 61 yards on another 11 play drive. This time, senior quarterback Jacob Rivers tossed a 16-yard pass to Dante Yacavone for the touchdown and a 14-0 Homer lead with 5:45 until halftime. Rivers completed 6-of-10 passing attempts for 68 yards with Yacavone catching four of those passes for 56 yards.
Tucker O’Donnell executed a perfect on-sides kick to give Homer the ball at the Tech 49, the first of three fumbles lost came in two plays. Cousins again broke some tackles at the line of scrimmage as raced 60 yards for the only Eagle touchdown of the game as Tech pulled to within 14-6 after failed two-point conversion try with 4;51 remaining in the first half.
Cousins carried the ball for 103 yards on those two big carries, was held in check for just four more total yards on his other 11 carries.
Matt Guerrera got Homer back in scoring position quickly with a 71-yard kickoff return to the Tech 13-yard line. Five plays later, Horner scooted into the end zone from the six-yard line for a 21-6 Trojan lead with 2:35 left in the quarter.
Tech was force to punt after three plays and Homer wisely used all three timeouts to allow just 35 seconds to run off the clock. Using it’s red (hurry-up) offense from the Tech 41.
Rivers hit Krillin Drake for six yards and, after a holding penalty, completed a pass to Yacavone for 13 yards. Rivers scrambled for a 14-yard gain to the Tech 23 where Horner took a hand-off and covered those remaining yards for a 28-6 halftime advantage.
HOMER BEGAN THE second half with the ball, but turned it over quickly.
Tech drove to the Trojan 35-yard line, but were halted at the 22. On Horner’s legs, two Kevin Bush runs and Rivers pass completions to Yacavone and Zach Barber, the Trojan scored for the final time. Horner capped the 11-play drive with an eight yard run for a 34-6 lead with 3:08 left in the third quarter.
Syracuse Tech never mounted much the rest of the way while Podsiedlik emptied his bench so everyone got to contribute to the Senior Night victory.
Tech finished with 140 yards in total offense, all on the ground with Cousins netting 107 of those yards. The Eagles were zero-for-five passing and got just six first downs.
The Trojans finished with 229 rushing yards and 79 passing yards. The final pass completion was an 11-yard O’Donnell to Stephen Walter connection. O’Donnell had an interception on the final Tech passing attempt for the lone Trojan takeaway.