It was one for the thumb as Homer Central football wrapped up its fifth straight Section 3 B West Division championship.
It was a little tougher than expected, but John Horner III ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns while Dominick Natale was one of the leaders on defense as the Trojans completed an undefeated division season with a 27-6 victory over a tough Syracuse Tech Central team at Corcoran Stadium Saturday. Homer is 6-0 in B West and overall. The Eagles fall to 1-4 division, 1-5 overall.
With the win, the Trojans locked up home field advantage for the first round and the top seed in B West for the playoffs.
“We are pretty excited about winning five titles in a row,” Homer captain Zachary Barber said. “It was a tough game today, one of the toughest we’ve had this year. It was a good win for us.
“They are one of the most physical teams we have been all year. They pushed us to get better and it will help for the playoffs.”
“We needed a team like this to come in and hit, which made us step up our game,” Horner, another captain, said. “I’m not trying to diss the teams we already played, but when we have a closer game, more people have to step up if one person gets hurt or needs a quick rest. We had guys step up today.”
“It feels awesome to win five titles in a row. I am really proud of the entire team.”
“Syracuse IT played great,” Trojan captain Tucker O’Donnell said. “We knew they were a great team coming in. We hurt ourselves with a couple of early turnovers, but we settled down and figured out a way to get it done.
“We have plenty of players who step up everyday. It could be a senior or junior, it really doesn’t matter. People step up when their number is called. That’s how it’s been in Homer for many years. We hope it keeps going for many years.”
The play that Horner and O’Donnell talked about was an 85-yard run by Nyshawn Jennings on the second Tech possession of the second half with Homer leading 14-6. Jennings found a seam on the right side of the offensive line and raced down the Homer sideline from his own nine-yard line before behind hauled down by Justin Wainwright from behind with help from Horner and Lars Roos, among others,who had to come from the other side of the field to prevent a touchdown. Jennings was tackled at the Homer six, but the Eagles were stopped on fourth and goal from the Trojan 17 on an incomplete pass.
“It wasn’t just me,” Horner said. “I may have caught his ankle, but it was Justin who caught him from behind.”
“The turning point in the game was when Horner helped chase that guy from behind,” O’Donnell said. “Justin Wainwright was right there. We stopped them and that’s when we knew we had to finish it.”
Homer responded to the stop with a 12-play, 82-yard drive that Horner capped with a two-yard run for a 20-6 Trojan lead with 10:46 left in the game.
O’Donnell sealed the win with a 14-yard pass to Wainwright with 4:12 remaining for the 27-6 final score.
Homer was its own worse enemy in the first half as Horner fumbled the ball at the Tech 39 yard line on the Trojans’ first possession of the game. Horner did make up for that fumble with a seven yard scoring run on the next possession with 4:21 left in the first quarter.
As play moved into the second quarter, O’Donnell fumbled the ball, picked it up and attempted a pass to Dante Yacavone. Aries Davis read the throw perfectly and picked off the pass at the Homer 46 and returned the ball to the Trojan 24-yard line. Three plays later, Jujuan Cousins ran 19 yards for the Eagles touchdown that tied the game at 6-6 with 7:41 left in the first half.
Homer answered that score with a 12 play drive that covered 76 yards. Roos powered in for four yards out and Horner ran the 2-point conversion for the 14-6 lead with 1:16 left on the clock. before halftime.
Defensively, Homer allowed 159 yards rushing on 26 attempts, but 85 of those yards came on that one run. Cousins completed just four of 15 passing attempts for 29 yards. Natale was the the defensive force as he led the team with six tackles, three for losses including a quarterback sack. He also recover a Tech fumble and had one pass deflection.
Offensively, Horner led the ground game which piled up 257 yards on 50 carries. O’Donnell completed nine for 14 passing attempts for 108 yards with the one touchdown and one interception. Dante Yacavone caught five passes for 63 yards and Barber had three important catches for 31 yards.
While the remaining B West team battle each other in the final week of the regular season Friday, Homer will host Skaneateles on Senior Night at George Butts Field. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
Austin Matthys (line) and Krillin Drake (non-line) were the Blue Collar Award winners for Friday night’s game while Dante Yacavone was the game captain.