Luke Sears will join unique company Sunday when he joins his Homer Central teammates inside the Carrier Dome for the Section 3 Class B championship football game against Cazenovia.
Sears was a sophomore varsity starter in 2014 when the Trojans downed the Lakers 38-24 for their fourth sectional championship.
When Homer and Cazenovia kick off Sunday at 3 p.m., the senior co-captain right tackle and defensive lineman will take the field again hoping for another title. In 69 years of Trojan football, only the 1985 and 1986 Trojan teams played in back-to-back sectional title games. That gave any 1985 juniors the ability to play in those two championship games.
“It’s amazing,” Sears said of the rare opportunity for two titles. “I can’t think of anything better to start or end my career on varsity. My three years have been a great time. To play with amazing players like Alec Bush and Anthony Basile to start and the guys who I play with now, I am so excited to go to The Dome with them. It’s been a growing experience and being on varsity has taught me a lot and I’ve learned so much about football and hard work.”
It is was a different feeling that first year in 2014 from the start of the season to the Section 3 championship game.
“In my sophomore year, I felt like I had something to prove,” Sears recalled. “I had to push myself to be as good as the players that were already there. I did have some great teachers and great athletes to play alongside of. They helped me through my mistakes and that ultimately made me better. I appreciated that so much from the older players and all the guys I’ve played with. We’ve worked well together. That drive to better myself and be at that level with them I think has made me a better player.”
Equally unique for Sears is in 2014 he had guys like Bush, Basile and Gage Root by his side. In 2016, it is younger members of the family, Kevin Bush, Vincent Basile and John Horner III.
“The funny thing is they share a lot of the same characteristics as their older siblings, but at the same time, they are different in their respective places,” Sears explained. “They are all great guys. Like the guys my sophomore year and the guys this year, we have all connected as family. We’ve become close and I think that is the ticket for going far in football. You don’t play for yourself, you play for the guy next to you. I loved that about both my sophomore team and my senior team.”
One guy who knows Sears so well is senior co-captain Cody Johnson, the left guard and linebacker on defense.
“Luke is an incredible athlete,” Johnson said. “The way he has taken leadership this year is unbelievable. Every day he gives speeches. Everything he does gets the team going. It’s because of Luke, everyone wants to keep the season going.“
Football has been a way of life for Sears for as long as he can remember. It’s been a driving force for him.
“I think it’s just the chance to better myself,” Sears said. “It’s taught me to be more physical and aggressive. Football is something I’ve always had, it’s always been there for me. It’s something I’ve had in my back pocket and it’s always been fun for me. I’ve had a great time and it is so worthwhile.”
Sears has made remarkable strides in his career from a good lineman to a player that many folks believe could be an ALL-CNY player of the year, a dominating defensive player.
“I think my success has come from improving my speed,” Sears said. “I’ve done a lot of that in the off-season and playing lacrosse has helped me with my agility. I’ve just tried to make myself a more all-around player. It’s not just a focus on football. In lacrosse, there is so much different movement and that has helped me with my pulling game on offense and it’s helped me develop my elusiveness on defense. Being a multi-sport athlete has helped me with football.”
“What makes Luke unique is he is not from a family of athletes,” Homer head coach Gary Podsiedlik said. “He really had no bad habits when he started playing. He had a drive and he was eager to learn.
“His leadership now is second to none,” he continued. “Two of our best communicators are Cody and Luke. They stood out early as leaders this season and the guys knew it.
Another person helping Sears in his transformation is assistant coach Jim Whidden.
“I have an amazing respect for Coach Whidden,” Sears explained. “He’s the type of person that really cares about us. He cares about the game. He’s got this intensity that I haven’t seen in anybody else. He really knows what he is talking about because he has played football. He has a passion for it like Coach P. He is able to pull us together. He is the one telling us we need a focus and intensity every single game. We have bought into his logic. Seeing him excited gets us excited.”
It seems like a long time ago, but the loss to Marcellus in week two really helped this team transform into what the Trojans have become now. Homer is riding a seven-game win streak into The Dome.
“The thing about this team is we trust each other so much,” Sears says. “We put a lot of faith in each other. No matter what happens, we can fight through adversity. That’s a big part of this team and we don’t let things take us down easily. We fight for 48 minutes. That’s what the coaches had told us and we have bought into that and we are not going to give up.”
Homer faced one of its biggest test last week in Mexico. The Trojans trailed at halftime, but Sears knew what he and his teammates needed to do.
“Mexico was a tough team, but we recognized we were facing adversity,” Sears explained. “We came out of the locker room at halftime and we said we were going to leave it all of the field. We stopped thinking and started playing for each other. That gave us our push and drive in the fourth quarter.
“Coach always says the fourth quarter is one of the most important quarters,” he continued. “You have to push every single minute of every single game. I think that helped get us through the Mexico game. We will fight, every minute of every game for every touchdown.”
“Luke has become a big-time football player,” Podsiedlik said. “He is a good teammate and he inspires our younger players. He is honest, caring and concerned for everyone on the team. I love what Luke Sears has become.”
What plans does Sears have after graduation in June?
“I’m not sure yet,” he confessed. “I have thought about football and I love it, but it’s a huge time commitment in college. I’m just trying to figure out what I want to do. My focus is on business. That’s the direction I’m learning towards.”
June is a long way off for Sears. Right now, it’s Cazenovia and the drive to keep this football season going as long as possible.