Homer-Center uses ground game to get past Ligonier Valley
Homer-Center imposed its will against a small-but-scrappy Ligonier Valley defense Friday night.
But even though the Wildcats rushed for 463 yards, they needed two late scores to pull away for a 40-22 victory in a District 6 Heritage Conference battle at home.
The victory sets up a showdown for the conference title between Homer-Center (8-0, 7-0) and Penns Manor (8-0, 7-0) in Homer City next Friday. Ligonier Valley (6-2, 5-2), which is the only team in the conference in Class AA, has two games remaining on its schedule to see if it will qualify for the District 6 playoffs.
Mike Newhouse rushed for 199 yards and scored two touchdowns, Ean Lee rushed for 166 yards and a score, and quarterback Aaron Berezansky scored his team's first three touchdowns and finished with 96 yards for Homer-Center.
“I was hoping we'd rush for more than 200 yards against them,” Homer-Center coach Greg Page said. “I never dreamt we rush for that.
“Ligonier has a lot of guts. They're not as big up front as they've been in recent years, but their kids played hard.”
Homer-Center established its strong running attack on the first series of the game when it drove 90 yards in 10 plays, capped by Berezansky's first score.
Ligonier Valley, which relied on the right arm of Scott Fennell, drove deep into Homer-Center territory twice in the opening quarter but failed to score.
The Rams turned the ball over on downs at the Homer-Center 21 on their first possession.
After Garrett Tobias picked off a Berezansky pass and returned it to the Homer-Center 32, the Rams could get no closer than the Homer-Center 18.
“We left a few plays out on the field, especially in the first half,” Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel said. “Just one more score in the first half may have made the difference.
“Our kids put forth a tremendous effort, but if you look at the size difference, they won the game back in December, January, February and March in the weight room. They ran the football against us, but they've ran the ball against everybody.”
Berezansky's second score gave Homer-Center a 14-0 lead before Fennell and receiver Alec Bloom started hooking up. Fennell, who completed 15 of 35 passes for 223 yards, found Bloom nine times for 146 yards and three touchdowns (11, 14 and 17 yards).
But each time Ligonier Valley scored, Homer-Center answered. Homer-Center led 22-7 at halftime.
The Rams closed to within 22-15 and 28-22 in the third quarter, but Newhouse and Lee scored touchdowns in the final 3:50 of the game.
“I thought it was a great football game; too many points for both coaches' liking,” Page said. “I can't say enough about both teams.”
Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.