It was a tale of two halves as the Homer Central football team was the dominant team in building a 27-12 lead over South Jefferson with 9:13 left in the third quarter on Senior Night at George Butts Field Friday.
The Spartans showed why they are such an improved team by limiting the Trojans to 64 yards rushing and 14 yards passing in the second half while turning senior running back Anthony Rasmussen loose. Rasmussen ran for 151 of his 242 yards in the second half and scored three touchdowns as South Jefferson rallied for a 34-27 victory to improve to 5-1 in the Section 3 B West Division and overall standings. Rasmussen had 22 of his 32 carries in the second half and four touchdowns on the night.
Homer falls to 3-3 in the division and overall, but still looks to be the fourth seed from the B West Division for the post-season tournament. The Trojans hold any potential tiebreakers over Bishop Ludden or Cortland should these teams end up tied after next week’s final regular season games. The Purple Tigers (2-4) edged Syracuse Tech Central (0-6) 7-6 while Bishop Ludden (2-4) lost to Marcellus (5-1) 34-28. Bishop Ludden and Cortland face each other next week. The Trojans travel to 6-0 Solvay. Both games kickoff at 6:30 p.m.
“South Jeff never stopped believing all night long,” Homer coach Gary Podsiedlik said. “They did frustrate us and got in our heads a little bit. They never gave up, there was no quit in them. They wore us down just enough.
“We had some opportunities and we let them off the hook on defense a couple of times. Our kids gave a great effort tonight. We had some bright moments and we finished off some drives nicely.”
Homer forced a fumble by South Jeff quarterback Austin Mesler on the third play from scrimmage and Tayvn Malchak recovered the ball at the Spartans’ 45-yard line. Eight plays later, Andrew Van Patten (21 carries-95 yards) ran the ball in from three yards out. Dylan Yacavone ran the 2-pt. conversion and the Trojans led 8-0 with 7:30 left in the first quarter.
The Spartans responded with Mesler tossing a 15-yard scoring pass to Colden Montague. The conversion failed and the score stood at 8-6.
Three plays later, Homer was up 14-6. After a Van Patten run, Yacavone connected with Colin Perks on a 51- yard pass play to the South Jeff three yard line. Luke Pallone ran the final distance for six points with 3:04 left in the quarter.
After an exchange of punts, South Jeff was driving until Matt McUmber intercepted a Mesler pass at the Trojans’ 19 yard line. Homer marched into Spartan territory, but fumbled the ball and Rasmussen recovered for South Jeff at their own 38. Three plays netted nine yards and the Spartans decided to go for it on fourth down. Rasmussen ran straight up the middle and 53 yards later he was in the end zone and the Spartans were within 14-12 with 4:51 left in the first half.
Homer used an eight play drive to score with 1:08 left in the half. Yacavone capped the drive with a 14 yard pass to McUmber. Connor Matthews added the PAT kick and the Trojans headed to the locker room with a 21-12 advantage.
The Trojans opened the second half with a seven play, 50 yard scoring drive after Matthews took the kickoff to midfield. Van Patten ran in from five yards out for the 27-12 lead with 9:13 remaining in the third quarter.
South Jeff got a pass interference penalty on Homer with third-and-17 near midfield. Needing just two yards for the first down, the Spartans got those yards After a 24 yard run, Rasmussen finished the drive with a 10-yard dash to pull South Jeff to within 27-18. with 3:51 left in the third quarter.
Tanner Amell recovered a Homer fumble at the Trojan 30 on the next series and Rasmussen capped a three play drive with a six yard touchdown run. Mesler tossed a 2-pt. conversion pass to Montague and South Jeff trailed 27-26 with 2:27 remaining in the third quarter.
Homer drove to the South Jeff 31 on its next possession, but were stopped on fourth down. South Jeff took over with 9:24 left in the game. The Spartans marched 67 yards in 12 plays while chewing up nearly six minutes on the clock. Rasmussen scored on a 12-yard run and he added the 2-pt. conversion on a run to give South Jeff a 34-27 leadto complete the comeback with 3:45 left.
Homer was stopped at its 47-yard line on fourth down. South Jeff got the ball back and ran out the final 2:17 for the win.
Logan Peck ran the ball 12 times for 70 yards for Homer. Yacavone completed 8-of- 13 passing attempts for 123 yards. McUmber had three receptions for 30 yards while Perks (59 yards) and Peck (27 yards) each had two catches. Matthews caught one pass for seven yards.
Mesler completed seven-of-nine passes for 80 yards while the Spartans had 264 total rushing yards to 168 for the Trojans.
So Homer now sets its sight on Solvay before looking ahead to sectional play.
“You never want to back into the playoffs,” Podsiedlik said. “We are where we are. Let’s go beat Solvay next week, make a statement and go into the playoffs up. Just play the best we can. We can’t change the past. You live with the results of your efforts. We just didn’t do the things tonight to finish this game off.”