HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: HOMER-CENTER 28, BISHOP CARROLL 7 -- Wildcats advance to District 6 title game
HOMER CITY — It’s the greatest feeling ever.
It was the greatest feeling ever when Homer-Center won its first Heritage Conference title, and then it was the greatest feeling ever when the Wildcats won their first-round playoff game.
The greatest feeling got even greater Saturday night when Homer-Center punched its ticket to its first District 6 championship game in 19 years.
The second-seeded Wildcats took advantage of six turnovers and defeated sixth-seeded Bishop Carroll, 28-7, in a District 6 Class A semifinal football game on Saturday night, yet another special evening this fall at Memorial Field.
“When you’re in the playoffs, it is the greatest feeling to keep moving on,” Homer-Center coach Greg Page said. “Football is so emotional when you play once a week and you can keep extending that. … It’s a great feeling. I’m so happy for our kids and our coaches, putting so much work in to beat a quality team like Carroll.”
“There’s no greater feeling,” junior running back Ean Lee said. “We talked about this all season, going to play on the carpet at Mansion Park. We worked for it hard in the summertime, lifted weights last winter, pumped iron, got our conditioning done this summer, and you come ready to play this season, and we’re going to go try to take it.”
The district championship game, against fifth-seeded Bishop Guilfoyle (10-2), is at 7 p.m. Saturday at Altoona’s Mansion Park. It will be Homer-Center’s first district championship game since 1994 and just its third ever.
“They came out just a little bit more ready,” Bishop Carroll coach Greg Snyder said of Homer-Center. “They wanted it. They had a lot more to prove, and that’s weird, being a 7-4 team versus a 10-1 team. The talk all week was, We play in a conference where we play triple- and double-A schools, which is true, but they came out tonight and proved they belonged. They proved.”
The Wildcats took advantage of five Bishop Carroll fumbles, recovering all of them, and added an interception by Lee. Fifteen of Homer-Center’s points came off turnovers, and the other miscues kept the dangerous Huskies from mounting a more serious comeback after the Wildcats led 21-0 at the half.
“A couple (fumbles) might have been (from our) hitting,” Page said. “A couple of them were them putting the ball on the ground. It was a physical game, and when that happens, the ball’s apt to be put on the ground a little bit more, and both teams did it. Fortunately, they did it more than us, and we were able to pounce on them.”
The Wildcats jumped on Bishop Carroll early and led 13-0 just nine seconds into the second quarter.
Homer-Center marched downfield on a 12-play, 64-yard drive off the opening kickoff. Lee ran for 46 yards on the series, including a 7-yard touchdown run. After the Wildcats forced a three-and-out, Aaron Berezansky hit Lee for a 64-yard touchdown pass, threading the needle on a fly pattern, and Homer-Center was up 13-0.
“That actually wasn’t supposed to happen,” Lee said. “It was an audible. … I went straight downfield, he threw a great pass, and I got in between the defenders to take it in for a touchdown.”
Homer-Center couldn’t capitalize on its first fumble recovery, around midfield in the second quarter, but got another one on the Bishop Carroll 7-yard line a few minutes later. Lee scored from 5 yards, and Mike Newhouse’s 2-point conversion run gave the Wildcats the 21-0 halftime lead.
The halftime edge on the scoreboard — and a 144-37 advantage in total yardage — came with an asterisk: Last week Bishop Carroll went down 19-0 to defending district champion Bellwood-Antis, and won, 33-19.
“They had a real good focus at intermission,” Page said of his team. “They were saying, We’re not letting them come back and do this on our field. This is our last game here. I loved the resolve of our guys at halftime. We didn’t have to say any of those things. They were saying it, and that’s leadership.”
Homer-Center looked to have nipped a comeback in the bud when Lee intercepted a pass from Huskies quarterback Brody Shuty on the first play of the third quarter. However, the Wildcats’ couldn’t get a drive going and, after a punt, Bishop Carroll’s Dan Lesney broke free for a 58-yard run, setting up Tyler Janosik’s 1-yard plunge to cut Homer-Center’s lead to 21-7. The Huskies then recovered an onside kick, compounding their momentum.
“It’s a concern,” Page said. “We picked it, and then we didn’t do anything, and then they went down and got a long run and scored, then got the onside kick. I’m thinking, Boy, here we go again, because they were resilient last week. That was an incredible effort to go to Bellwood and do what they did, and I knew we had to take their best shot and hold them off, and we did.”
Homer-Center forced a turnover on downs when Bill Grozanick stuffed Shuty for a loss on fourth down. Though Lee fumbled once, two more Bishop Carroll fumbles stifled any hope the Huskies had of resuming the comeback.
Berezansky helped the Wildcats pull away with a 6-yard touchdown run with 5:27 left in the fourth quarter.
“I didn’t think the clock was ever going to run out,” Page said, “and I’m yelling to get it wound up and everything, because they’re dangerous and they have athletes.
“You get concerned. You don’t ever want them to get back to two scores or less … but, fortunately, we did the job there.”
“We just didn’t come ready to play,” Snyder said. “We finally started playing some football once we were down 21-0, just like last weekend. Homer-Center, they weren’t going to let us come back. They played their butts off. Great job by Coach Page and the rest of the coaches.
“We got the momentum and we actually felt very comfortable. Even going into halftime, they weren’t doing anything that we didn’t game-plan for. We were ready for them. They were just making some plays and we weren’t, and when we would start moving it we turned the ball over.”
Lee finished with 101 yards on 23 carries. Newhouse, who has been hampered by a leg injury, was worked in more on defense and carried the ball nine times for 11 yards. Berezansky was 3 of 4 passing for 68 yards.