Despite playing each other earlier this season, the No. 2 Homer football team and No. 3 Vernon-Verona-Sherrill have both changed since the first matchup, and that will decide their NYSPHSAA Section III Class B semifinal matchup Friday night. The game will take place at 7 p.m. at Homer High School.
Homer and V-V-S met on Sept. 17, with the Trojans pulling out a 30- 21 win. The Red Devils led 21-14 at halftime, but allowed 16 unanswered second-half points to the Trojans. That adversity will help Homer Friday, according to coach Gary Podsiedlik.
“That game we were down 21-14 at half and it said a lot about us,” Podsiedlik said. “We won the game by listening. We made a few pretty simple but significant adjustments at halftime to counter their offense. We didn’t panic. We got our players calmed down. And it was a real productive game for us.”
Logan Beck was Homer’s main offensive cog in that game, scoring two touchdowns. He tore his ACL in the celebration that night and missed the rest of the season. V-V-S’s quarterback that night, Benjamin Wittman, injured his knee a few weeks later and has been out since.
In Beck’s absence, junior Sam Sorenson has stepped up running the ball. He has 301 rushing yards and six touchdowns in his last two games, including a 193-yard, four-touchdown performance in the quarterfinal game against Central Valley Academy. Sorenson only notched 27 yards on six carries against V-V-S in September, but he learned what he needed to so he can be successful this time around.
“They’re tough, they scrap,” Sorenson said. “Every one of them on the field is a good football player. They’re going to give us a lot of problems.”
One player who didn’t have many problems in the first game was Trojan quarterback Jake Calabro. He went 5-for-7 passing for 42 yards and a score against the Red Devils. Despite his success, the senior knows his team’s identity and just wants to win.
“We’re a running team, and as long as the team succeeds, I’m happy,” Calabro said. “If I need to hand off the ball, I’ve got to be good at handing the ball off and keeping the team in check.”
Homer will also be missing Damani Durham, who had two of the three interceptions for the Trojans in the first meeting. However, since Wittman got injured, V-V-S has turned to a runheavy offense, including the Wildcat formation, to find success. Homer’s front seven on defense knows it will need to step up to halt the Red Devils’ rushing attack.
“The key is to start at the line of scrimmage. We need to claim the line of scrimmage,” senior linebacker Will Dady said. “We have to have out D-line clog up the holes. We really have to play our game and not get out of position.”
With different personnel taking the field for both teams, Friday night’s game will look different than the first. The team that can avoid repeated mistakes will move to the finals, according to Podsiedlik.
“It’s playoff-level football, something’s going to go wrong for both teams. Maybe a few times in the game,” Podsiedlik said. “The difference will be who reacts with a calmness and who says ‘I realize that mistake and I’m not making it again.’ The team that does that best is going to win the game.”
The winner Friday night will face the winner of No. 1 New Hartford and No. 4 Institute of Technology Central at 3 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.