The Homer Central football team will be hoping that the third time is a charm when it meets Chenango Forks for the Central Region Championship Saturday.
The Section 3 champion Trojans and Section 4 champion Blue Devils are both 10-0, with Forks ranked second in the state and Homer third. The contest kicks off Saturday at 3 p.m. on Union-Endicott’s Ty Cobb Stadium turf.
Chenango Forks has won the only two meetings between the schools. The first win was a 19-7 victory in 1967 and the latest was in the 2005 regionals, when the Blue Devils won 34-7.
“We know that things are only going to get tougher the farther you go on,” Chenango Forks coach Dave Hogan said. “Homer has a lot of athletic guys and they have good team speed. Teams aren’t moving the ball much on them and teams aren’t stopping them that much on defense.”
“We really are both the same teams we were in that 2005 meeting,” Homer coach Gary Podsiedlik said. “We have a concept and philosophy that we have believed in. It’s our M.O. and we don’t apologize for it. We do what we do and they still do what they do. We’re both power football teams. We throw the ball because we want to. When they do throw it’s to wide-open receivers.”
Both teams can score points offensively. Homer has put 380 points on the board this season while Chenango Forks has scored 376. The defensive stinginess is evenly more staggering. The Trojan have allowed a total of 99 points while the Blue Devils have surrendered just 65, including 21 in last week’s 49-21 Section 4 championship victory over Norwich.
“These are two solid defenses,” Hogan said. “Homer has very good athletes. They fly all over the place, they swarm to the ball and they are tough tacklers.”
Chenango Forks plays a 4-4 defense, but can easily switch to a 6-2 or show 5-4. Senior captain Connor Borchardt (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) is the defensive end on the tight end side with sophomore Matt Paske (6-4, 195) on the weak side. Senior captains Joe Tiernan (6-1, 270) and Josh Gould (5-11, 230) are the defensive tackles. The linebackers are junior Sal Frontera (6-2, 175) and senior captain Kris Borelli (5-10, 150) on the outside with juniors Jared Gage (6-0, 175) and Jeremiah Allen (5-8, 190) on the inside. The secondary has junior Jakob Topa (6-1, 190) and senior captain Dan Crowningshield (6-2, 180) at cornerback with senior captain Sean Wiser (5-10,1 50) at safety.
On offense, the Blue Devils show multiple formations with two or three men in the backfield along with quarterback Borelli. They love to run the ball; Borelli has 16 completions in 41 attempts for 304 yards this season with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. Borchardt is the leading receiver as the tight end with six catches for 137 yards and four touchdowns. Fullback Allen has five catches for 80 yards and one touchdown while z-back Wiser has three catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns.
On the ground, Allen has carried the ball 229 times for 1,740 yards and 28 touchdowns. Crowningshield has 86 carries for 527 yards and three touchdowns while Borelli has 69 rushing attempts for 351 yards and four touchdowns.
Junior Nick Mugglin (6-0, 250) is the center. Tiernan and Gould are the guards with junior Tyler Longwell (6-1, 220) and senior Shawn Orton (6-1, 255) at the tackles. Borchardt and Paske are the tight ends. “We really do like to run the ball,” Hogan said. “We can give some different looks, but ground-and-pound is our strong suit.”
“They have great leadership at quarterback in Borelli,” Podsiedlik said. “Everybody talks about Allen and the tight end Borchardt. He (Borchardt) is one tough son-of-a-gun. He’s a great run blocker and he is their touchdown catcher.”
As is evident in the starting lineups, there are a lot of two-way players for Chenango Forks, with eight or nine on both sides of the ball compared to six or seven for Homer. The Trojans’ depth could be a factor in the game.
“I do see the depth of the roster is with Homer,” Hogan acknowledged. “That helps because they have some very tough big guys on both sides of the ball and we are spread out a little thinner.”
Homer is led by senior tailback John Horner III, but his 1,385rushing yards and 14 touchdowns will be on the bench because of the freak injury he suffered against Cazenovia. Horner was making a sweep tackle and fell on the heel of the ball carrier. He has not been cleared to play this week.
Despite that, the Trojans have plenty of weapons on the ground with senior Lars Roos (65 carries-540 yards-7 touchdowns) and junior Charles Lines (39-239-3) very capable of moving the ball along with seniors Dominick Natale (27- 214-4), fullback Zachary Barber (26-179-3) and Krillin Drake (15-145-2). Senior quarterback Tucker O’Donnell can run the ball (38-95-3) when needed as well as throw. O’Donnell has completed 45-of-87 passing attempts for 599 yards and 13 touchdowns with three interceptions. Senior tight end Dante Yacavone is the leading Trojan receiver with 15 catches for 245 yards and four touchdowns. Barber has 13 catches for 117 yards and one touchdown while Natale has six receptions for 139 yards and three touchdowns.
“We do have excellent depth on this team,” Podsiedlik said. “It is the ‘Next Man Up’ principle and ‘Together’ we can take care of our next task. We have been using 17 to 19 players on the defensive side. I think that will really be important in this game.”
One player who has really improved and will be a factor Saturday is senior Jacob Morenus.
“Jacob is like our fifth defensive back in certain situations,” Podsiedlik said. “He is rock solid. He has committed to becoming a better athlete and a better football player. He has succeeded. We have an awesome rotation this week and Jacob has become a part of that.
With both teams 10 games into the season and the stakes higher each time, the keys to winning are still the same.
“The team that makes the fewest mistakes will be huge,” Hogan said. “You really just focus on what got you here, fundamentals and the mental aspects of the game.”
“This is going to be a smashmouth,” Podsiedlik said. “It will be a battle in the trenches. The team that tackles better and holds on to the football is going to win. Special teams will be crucial, as will turnovers. The boys are really focused this week. They are not satisfied with just a sectional title. You can see that in them.”
Chase Kiner (line) and Justin Wainwright (non-line) were the Blue Collar Award winners for the Cazenovia game, with Vincent Basile being named the game captain.
For Saturday’s game, Damien Hoyt (line) and Jacob Morenus (non-line) are the Blue Collar Award winners. Dante Yacavone will be the game captain against the Blue Devils.