It’s the start of the new season, the playoff season, and the Homer Central football team picked right up where it left off Friday night.
Senior tailback John Horner III ran for 270 yards and three touchdowns as the third-ranked Class B Trojans rolled to a 42-18 win over Mexico at George Butts Field in the Section 3 Class B quarterfinals.
Second seed Homer improves to 8-0 on the season and will meet the winner of today’s sixth seed Chittenango (4-3) and third seed V-V-S (6-1) in the semifinals. The seventh-seeded Tigers finish their season at 4-4.
In Friday’s other quarterfinal game, fourth seed Marcellus defeated fifth seed Utica Notre Dame (5-3) 43-30. The Mustangs (7-1) will meet the winner of today’s game between top seed Cazenovia (7-0) and eighth seed Westhill (3-4).
Horner has run for a single-season best 1,116 yards this season and 2,245 yards for his career. That career number is fourth on the all-time list behind only Alec Bush (3,751, 2013-14), Bob Avery (2,629, 1972-73) and Dustin Morris (2, 536, 2003-05).
Super numbers considering he missed two full games due to injury this season and played only half of the time in the early season romps before his injury.
“It feels good,” Horner said. “All of us work so well together. I feel it starts with the communication between everyone from the line on back. Just to come back healthy feels great. It’s also good to know that there is someone behind you who can step up and do the job. It’s awesome.
“Most of the season Coach (Tom) Cottrell has been ragging on us about cutting back inside where all the bad guys are. We finally figured out if we ran outside, there were less bad guys and we got more yards.”
A big reason for all the Homer success has been the play of the offensive line. Senior center Anthony Parker is one of three new faces that joined returnees Vincent Basile and Austin Matthys.
“The line has really come together well,” Parker said. “We’re communicating well and making our blocks. Things have worked out well this season. (Quarterback) Tucker (O’Donnell) and I have a good connection. I’m making good snaps and know right where he wants to ball and he does his job. When we make our blocks, he (Horner) gets his yards.”
“A few people have watch our linemen on film and think they are the best coached group,” Homer head coach Gary Podsiedlik said. “I have to give my assistant coach (his son, David) credit for that. I thought I would never keep up coaching the offensive line, but he’s been around our program forever. He and Tom (Cottrell) are on the same page when we do make adjustments. They know when they mess up, they correct it themselves. Anthony Parker has really been tested. He has played against some tough, nasty guys and he has used that to get better. He keeps working and getting better each week. We need that if we are going to be a championship team.
“We had an answer on offense for everything Mexico tried to do. That was credit to our scout team again. Johnny is the best running back in the section when he is healthy. There are good backs out there, but I’ll take Johnny. He is determined.”
While Homer ran for 348 yards and six touchdowns as a team, the defense allowed Mexico just 98 yards rushing and 77 yards passing. All three Tiger touchdowns came on a total of 55 rushing yards because of short filed starts due to a turnover and two great kickoff returns.
“Most of the drives we didn’t score on, we shot ourselves in the foot,” Podsiedlik. said. “You are going to make a few more mistakes when you play better teams. Our special teams were solid on PATs. We were a little inconsistent on the punt game. We can’t give up those kind of returns on kickoffs.”
Homer was driving on the opening possession of the game, but a fumble at the Mexico 38-yard line was scooped up by Isaac Turo and returned to the Trojan 17. Three plays later, Josh O’Reilly scored on a six yard run for a 6-0 Mexico lead.
Homer responded with a 68 yard scoring drive capped by a three yard Charles Lines run. Homer led 7-6 with 6:08 left in the first quarter after Tucker O’Donnell’s extra point kick. Horner passed 2,000 career yards on the first play of the drive.
The Trojans took a 14-6 lead when Dominick Natale broke loose for a 24-yard touchdown run. Turo returned the following kickoff 51 yards to the Trojan 31 which would lead to a 23 yard scoring dash by Reed Fravor with 7:55 left in the half.
The Trojans took a 21-12 lead when Horner raced 23 yards for his first touchdown of the night. Just 36 seconds later, the Trojans made it 28-12. O’Donnell had a pooch kick after the third Homer touchdown and the Trojans recovered the ball at the Tiger 27. Two plays later, Lars Roos dashed into the end zone from 14 yards out.
After stopping the next Mexico drive, Horner passed the 1,000-yard mark for the season with 28 seconds left in the half. The Trojan drive was ended quickly by an interception to effectively end the first half.
Mexico opened the second half with an 89 yard kickoff return by Fravor to the Homer seven yard line, Carter Haynes scored on the next play to pull the Tigers to within 28-18, but Homer pulled away from there.
Horner scored on a seven-yard run with 9:20 left in the third quarter and he added a two-yard burst with 10:40 remaining for the final 42-18 mark.
Nick Parker (line) and Charles Lines (non-line) were the Blue Collar Award winners for Friday night’s game while Dominick Natale was the game captain.
Homer will play its semifinal game at 8 p.m. next Friday, with the first B semifinal at 5 p.m. Fayetteville-Manlius, Chittenango and Solvay are possible sites to be determined Sunday.