H.S. FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Homer-Center has chance to prove itself on big stage
It’s a symbol both of how far Homer-Center has come and where it can get in the future.
Hersheypark Stadium, the 76-year-old, 15,000-seat park is the site of the state football championships, as well as Saturday’s PIAA Class A quarterfinal game between the Wildcats and Steelton-Highspire.
Two years ago, fellow Heritage Conference member Penns Manor proved itself on the big stage, and this weekend Homer-Center gets that special opportunity.
“I’ve thought about that ever since I moved up here when I was little,” Homer-Center senior guard Cody Miller said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the state playoffs, and especially at Hershey.”
“When people mention Hershey, they get excited,” Homer-Center coach Greg Page said. “It’s a neat town with the park and the chocolate and things like that, and we’re excited to get down there a day early and be a part of that and play in a very nice venue like Hersheypark Stadium. Aside from all that, this is a reward for our kids, to be sure, but by the same token, our thought process is, if we’re going down there, we need to put our best foot forward and do what we’ve got to do to try to win the ballgame.”
Homer-Center played at another major destination for high school football in the area last week, in the District 6 championship at Altoona’s Mansion Park. A pregame snow squall made the atmosphere that much more special at the stadium all District 6 teams aim to get to.
“It was the same thing,” senior tackle Luke Monko said. “It was great. We were playing in a district championship in Altoona in the snow. We had to take it all in, then we had to just play football.”
“When the snow came, it really provided a tremendous atmosphere,” Page said. “Going to Hersheypark Stadium, which is even bigger than Mansion, it’s special that they schedule state playoff games at places like that. It’s something that’s memorable that you can say you played in a place like that. Ultimately the memory’s going to be a whole heck of a lot better if you can come out with a ‘W.’”
LOCAL FAVORITE: First Homer-Center was Indiana County’s Team. Now the Wildcats are District 6’s Team.
Advancing as the representative of District 6 Class A, just as Homer-Center had as the last representative of the Heritage Conference or Indiana County, has gained the Wildcats some new supporters. In addition to its own community, Homer-Center is playing for pride in its conference and its district as it goes on to the state playoffs.
“We’re very proud to represent the Heritage Conference and the county,” Page said. “Penns Manor had a great run (to the state semifinals) two years ago, and we saw the energy and the excitement that was created through that. Now we’re going through that, too. The support and messages, notes and things you get from other conference coaches, it really shows you the value and respect that each school has for one another in our conference. We’re not showing over these last couple years that we are a small-school conference, but we’ve represented ourselves very well in district play and hopefully state play as well.”
“We’re getting support from all of the district,” Monko said. “It’s great to represent the district. It’s also kind of cool to play other districts and see what they’re like, how the football is different.”
Perhaps Miller summed it up best.
“Hopefully we get to represent our whole district in the state championship,” he said.