Homer-Center turns Purchase Line miscue into 33-6 win
Prior to last Friday's game against Homer-Center, new Purchase Line Head Coach Brandon Overdorff talked about the importance of his team protecting the ball.
Overdorff noted that the H-C Wildcats “force mistakes and take advantage of every opportunity they get....”
Then he watched his team fumble on the second play from scrimmage, a fumble that was recovered by the Wildcats' Anthony Caruso at the PL 25-yard line.
Four plays later, sophomore QB Aaron Berezansky scored his third rushing touchdown of the season from a yard out. After a successful two-point conversation pass to Levi McCracken, Homer-Center led 8-0 before the game was three minutes old and was on the way to a 33-6 victory and a 4-0 season record.
“Unfortunately for us, that's been our storyline for the first four weeks,” Overdorff lamented. “We just continue to defeat ourselves by making mistakes.”
The Wildcats forced a three-and-out on PL's second possession and started their second drive in Red Dragon territory, at the 43. Berezansky capped an eight-play drive by scoring his second TD of the game, again from one yard, to make it 14-0 with 2:53 to play in the first quarter.
Then the Wildcats allowed a big play to at least tilt the momentum for a while. PL's Josh Huey, who gained 120 yards on 16 carries to lead all ball carriers, went untouched off the left side for a 65-yard run to pull the Red Dragons within 8 points.
Despite being down in numbers due to injuries, Purchase Line “gutted it out and made us work, especially in the first half. In the second half, I thought we got a little more consistent,” said H-C coach Greg Page.
Huey's run seemed to give PL momentum as it carried the play for the better part of the second quarter. Then the Wildcats' Jared Nealey swung things back in H-C's favor with a 49-yard touchdown run on a fake punt to make it 20-6 with 1:11 remaining in the half.
“I thought when I called timeout I would ensure that they would fake it, and they did,” Overdorff said while shaking his head. “We told the kids it's going to be a fake, flat out, and we just didn't defend it. The kid made a great play; he's a great athlete, and we couldn't tackle him.”
Nealey started the second half by returning the opening kickoff 62 yards to the PL 28. Four plays later, sophomore fullback Matt McAdoo, who played the majority of the game for injured starter Mike Newhouse, scored his first varsity TD from four yards out to extend H-C's lead to 26-6.
The Red Dragons were playing with 10 injured players on the sideline, including standout linemen Joe Price and Shane Patrick.
For its part, Homer-Center, lost running backs Ean Lee and Newhouse to injury, although Page was hopeful both would play in Friday's mid-season clash at Blairsville.
The Wildcats scored the game's final touchdown mid-way through the fourth quarter when Berezansky checked down and hit senior swingback Jacob “Duce” Peroli out of the backfield, and Peroli did the rest, carrying it in from 14 yards out. Zach Grady added the extra point to make it 33-6.
“I told ‘Duce' that we want to try and get him the ball more, but in an I-offense with the fullback and tailback featured, it's tough to get him a lot of carries from his swingback position, “ Page said. “You can see what he can do when he gets in space. He works hard, and nobody is more deserving.”
Berezansky continued his development, completing four of 10 passes for 85 yards and one touchdown.
With his team off to its best start since 1994, Page knows the schedule gets a lot more difficult heading into the second half — starting with the Bobcats in Blairsville.
“It will be a real measuring stick for us,” Page said, praising the leadership of veteran Blairsville coach Ab Dettorre. “He's got some young players playing very, very well, some good young skill kids and veteran linemen. Blairsville's one of those special places to play. They have a great offense, and some hitters on defense, so we better be ready to play.”
Although the Wildcats pass defense, porous at best a season ago, has improved, Page says it is about to face its stiffest challenge of the season in Blairsville QB Scott Thompson and the Bobcat offense: “He's got some tall receivers, some speedy kids, and we'll have our work cut out for us for sure.”
Mark Bertig is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.