H.S. FOOTBALL: Dynamic Wildcats roll to victory
HOMER CITY — The Homer-Center backfield is somewhat confusing, and that’s just the way the Wildcats like it.
Some days, Mike Newhouse is their workhorse, and other days, Ean Lee is their go-to guy.
But opponents need to keep their eyes on Matt McAdoo, too.
Oh, yeah, and don’t forget about quarterback Aaron Berezansky or he will take off.
The Wildcats rushed for 331 yards Friday night and were just too much for Purchase Line to handle in a 37-14 win in a Heritage Conference football game at Memorial Field.
“We like mixing it up all the time,” Newhouse said. “They never know who’s coming at them. It could be any of us. It gives us an advantage in every game that we have a pretty good backfield, and we execute. We come in knowing that we have to play hard and do the things that we’re coached to do, and the game unfolds itself.”
Lee finished with 85 yards on eight carries, Newhouse had 84 yards on 13 carries, and McAdoo added 69 yards on six carries.
“We expected that,” Purchase Line coach Brandon Overdorff said. “They are big, they can move, they are strong, they are physical, and they have all been there for a long time. Some of those guys have been starting for three years. That is a really good football team.”
Homer-Center raced to a 31-6 halftime lead and held the Red Dragons to 16 rushing yards through the first three quarters.
“Those guys work hard, plus our guys up front are getting a good push,” Homer-Center coach Greg Page said. “We’re seeing eight or nine guys in the box, and when we need those tough yards, we have three or four guys who we know can get them for us. We have guys up front who want to run the ball and appreciate that type of football. That’s what we expect out of them — on both sides of the ball.”
The Wildcats were strong from the start Friday. They forced a three-and-out to begin the game and then marched 63 yards on the ensuing possession to jump to a 6-0 lead. Lee capped the drive with a 25-yard run.
Just 11 seconds later, Purchase Line’s Grant Syster returned the kickoff 75 yards to tie the score, but Homer-Center steadily pulled away after that. Syster, the area’s leading rusher, ran for just 19 yards on seven attempts.
“That just showed us that we were going to be in for a ball game,” Page said of the kickoff return. “They have some fine players on that team, and one of their very best made a great play. It put the pressure on us, that’s for sure, but fortunately we overcame it and were able to get some more first-half scores.”
“We had a little momentum early on,” Overdorff said. “They came in and scored, and we answered right back with that kick return. We tried to do whatever we could, but they just beat us into submission. They could’ve beaten us a lot worse than the scoreboard shows. Actually, they did beat us a lot worse.”
Homer-Center racked up 21 first downs compared to Purchase Line’s six and scored on four straight possessions in the first half.
Berezansky rushed for two 1-yard touchdowns on consecutive drives, and Newhouse had a 7-yard score to put the Wildcats up 24-6 with 4:59 left in the first half. On the next drive, Berezansky connected with Jim Bence for a 13-yard gain and then spiked the ball. He hit Bence again for a 15-yard touchdown pass just 12 seconds before halftime to give Homer-Center at 25-point advantage to take into the break. Berezansky finished 4 of 7 for 32 yards, all to Bence.
“I just read the defensive back’s back shoulder and made the cut I needed to, and (Berezansky) just threw the ball to me,” Bence said.
Newhouse added an 8-yard touchdown with 9:40 left in third quarter that ended the night for both teams’ starters.
“We had to wave the white flag,” Overdorff said. “We’re lining up against them with some young guys, and that creates matchup problems. We knew that coming in, and it held true. We don’t have a lot of depth, and when you start taking a beating, things give in and it all starts to snowball. But we just have to come back and get things back together and fight another day and put this game behind us.”
Sam Stanford tacked on Purchase Line’s other touchdown on a 79-yard run at the beginning of the final quarter. He led the Red Dragons with 72 rushing yards on two carries. Alec Sunderlin went 2 of 4 passing for 11 yards, and Gavin Ewing threw for nine yards on two attempts.
“We fought back after their score early in the game, and we did what we had to do to get the win,” Newhouse said. “There’s always room for improvement. Nothing is perfect. We have room to improve everywhere, and we need to get better again for next week.”
Homer-Center, which improved to 4-0 for the second straight season, will clash with rival Blairsville (3-1) at home in Week 5.
“I think our guys have done a good job taking it one week at a time,” Page said. “I hope they’re focused. Blairsville has a really good program. They knocked us off down there last year, and that’s not something that’s fun to remember. We have to have a good week to beat them.”