PURCHASE LINE — Michael Krejocic’s big play instincts and a troublesome second-half Homer-Center pass rush helped move the Wildcats’ winning streak to seven games with a rock-solid 33-16 victory over Purchase Line on Friday night in a Heritage Conference football game.
Krejocic put the Wildcats (7-1) on the scoreboard first with a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown off a John Elick pass in the first quarter to give the Wildcats the spark they needed early.
“Michael seems to always be in the right place at the right time, and that’s not by accident. He is a three-year starter and has a lot of experience on Friday nights for us,” said Homer-Center assistant coach Tony Arone, who was filling in for coach Greg Page on the sidelines because the head coach was absent due to an illness.
“We were keying on Mello (Sanchez) in the passing game,” Krejocic said. “I think the receivers collided and that gave me enough time to pick it off and take it in for the touchdown.”
The Krejocic interception was his sixth in seven games this season and first for a touchdown. The junior wide receiver also contributed on offense with five receptions for 131 yards and added his second touchdown on a 54-yard pass from quarterback Cole McAnulty in the third quarter.
After Krejocic jump-started the Homer-Center faithful with his defense, running back Collin Troup added the two-point conversion to give the visitors an 8-0 advantage.
The Wildcats also picked up a big first-half play on special teams by recovering the ensuing kickoff at the Purchase Line 31-yard line.
McAnulty hit Krejocic on a 28-yard strike to move the ball to the Purchase Line 1-yard line, and three plays later Troup scored his 14th rushing touchdown of the season with 2:52 remaining in the first quarter to give Homer-Center a quick 14-0 lead.
“We will take the momentum at that point, especially after the recovered kickoff,” Arone said. “We weren’t trying to kick it onsides, but we will take it.”
Purchase Line coach Matt Falisec liked how the Dragons matched up with the Wildcats, but admitted the early momentum shift played an important role.
“We can’t allow 14-points in four minutes and expect Homer not to capitalize,” Falisec said. “We ran the wrong route on the interception return and were up against it early on playing catch-up.”
The Red Dragons answered on their next possession with a 10-play, 79-yard drive that featured five penalties. Brady Syster scored from 5 yards out at the 8:56 mark of the second quarter, and Elick found Syster on the two-point conversion to cut the Wildcats lead to 14-8.
First-half stats were almost identical. Purchase Line had 129 yards to Homer-Center’s 128 and held the first-half advantage with eight first downs versus the Wildcat’ six. Each team forced one turnover during the first 24 minutes.
“Our message at halftime to our kids was that we have to finish,” Arone said. “There are two halves in the game, and we had to come out stronger in the second half, and we did that.”
After half, it was all Wildcats as they outscored the Red Dragons 19-8 in the and dominated in time of possession and total yards.
The Wildcats turned the ball over on downs on their first drive of the second half but scored on their second, third and fourth possessions while creating havoc for Purchase Line’s sophomore quarterback.
Elick was intercepted on his second pass of the game but completed 6 of 7 overall for 69 yards in the first half, giving the Red Dragons balance along with their always-present rushing attack.
However, the Wildcats were in Elick’s face for much of the second half did not allow a completion on seven second-half attempts.
“We wanted to get some pressure on him in the second half,” Arone said. “I think that was a big part of our success tonight.”
“We were pretty limited in the second half and not able to pass the ball,” Falisec said. “We weren’t getting John enough time to throw.”
The McAnulty-to-Krejocic connection took place with 6:00 remaining in the third quarter on the Wildcats’ second possession to put the Wildcats ahead 20-8.
McAnulty easily had a productive passing game, connecting on 14 of 20 passes for 217 yards. Five Wildcats caught passes from the junior quarterback.
“We stressed that with Cole and our offense that we have to be able to throw the football,” Arone said. “In order to be successful against good teams, we have to be able to have more offense than our run game.
“It was nice to see him complete some passes, put the ball in our playmakers hands and have some success.”
Brady Syster answered for the Red Dragons on their next play from scrimmage, racing in for the score from 65 yards away, and Sanchez caught the two-point conversion to bring the home team to within a touchdown, 20-14.
Syster was the leading rusher for the Red Dragons with 12 carries for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
“We knew after they answered with the score in the second half that we had to come right back at them,” Krejocic said. “We came out and dominated in the second half and did what we had to do to get the win.”
Troup scored his second rushing touchdown of the game with 2:30 remaining in the third quarter with a 3-yard plunge to make it 26-16.
Homer-Center rushed for 170 yards, with Troup leading the way with nine carries for 54 yards.
Landon Hill finished the scoring on the next Wildcats series with a 1-yard score and added the point-after-touchdown kick to set the score at 33-16.
Homer-Center’s defense stiffed the Dragons the rest of the way to complete the victory. Out of six second-half possessions, the Red Dragons punted twice, scored once and turned the ball over on downs three times.
“The difference between Homer and us, is they made the big plays when they needed and we are still looking to make the big play,” Falisec said. “That is probably the biggest difference tonight.”
Purchase Line managed 260 total yards of offense, 191 coming on the ground. The Wildcats did not allow any passing yards in the second half.
Homer-Center will have to earn its eighth win of the season against a tough District 4 Muncy team, which is 7-1.
“We know its going to be another tough game,” Krejocic said. “We don’t know too much about them, but they are always a strong team.”
Purchase Line wraps up Heritage Conference play on the road versus Cambria Heights, which wrapped up the title last night.
“We are a little banged up right now,” Falisec said. “We have to see how our overall health is, but Cambria Heights is tough, and we need all our guys to compete with them.”