• Homer hopes to heal hurts and enhance head count before Kenai hits town
By Sean Pearson
There was quite a buzz around the Homer High School football field on Saturday. Unfortunately, very little of it was about the Mariners’ performance against the visiting Kodiak Bears.
Especially in the second half.
A bevy of bees invaded Homer’s stadium during the Mariners’ season-opening Northern Lights Conference match-up. Huddles were invaded; cheerleaders stung.
And, while certainly no one is crying Kodiak conspiracy, it’s still kinda hard to ignore the whole bear/bee connection.
Homer’s defense dominated the first half, holding the Bears scoreless, and putting the Mariners’ only points on the board via a safety in the second quarter.
The 2-0 score at the half was the only lead the M’s would see for the day, as fatigue set in and the Bears took advantage of Homer’s smaller roster.
Homer Head Coach Josh Fraley only suited 17 players for the game because of injuries and ineligibility issues. That makes for an awful lot of ironman football.
“Ironman football is just the way it has always been here in Homer,” said Homer Defensive Coordinator Rick Alexander. “That just means we have to stay on top of the conditioning for these guys to be successful.”
Junior Drew Brown, who caught three passes for 48 yards and added nine tackles and an interception on defense, said being a starter on both sides of the ball means a lot of extra work.
“I was really fatigued at the end of the first half,” he said. “But I caught my breath and fought through the tiredness and the pain.”
Senior Joseph Cardoza, who picked up 57 yards on the ground, and another 32 in the air to boost the Mariner offense, said he was disappointed by the loss.
“We had some things that worked on both offense and defense, as well as some things that didn’t work,” he said. “But I know we learned from it. We need to play all four quarters and block until the whistle blows. Everyone must give their all.”
Coach Alexander agreed, adding that having such a small roster is definitely a challenge.
“I thought our defense in the first half was pretty solid while our guys were fresh,” he said. “As the game neared the fourth quarter, it was a different story. I like the fact that our young men did not give up. They were fighting all the way to the end.”
Junior quarterback Sheldon Hutt went 8-23 in the air for a total of 121 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown pass. Seven of his passes were dropped by receivers. Hutt also rushed 12 times for 42 yards.
Sophomore Josh Fisk added eight yards to the Mariners’ ground game, and caught an 11-yard pass for Homer’s only touchdown f the game. David Jack Woo had two catches for 23 yards.
Defensively, sophomore Hunter Harris had seven tackles and three sacks for Homer, while teammate Zach McKenna logged nine tackles.
Fisk picked up 6.5 tackles and Michael Swoboda grabbed 5.5.
Junior Austin McGregor picked off a pass, while fellow junior Patrick Rainwater picked up a sack.
Coach Alexander noted the play of Cardoza, crediting him with keeping the defense “on track.”
“He has worked very hard in the preseason, and it shows,” Alexander said. “As we move forward to face Kenai this weekend, we need to work on cleaning up our fundamentals. It will take a team effort to beat Kenai, but if we play as one unit, we will be on top at the end.”
On special teams, Fisk returned two kickoffs for 46 yards. Brown punted the ball six times for 204 yards, and kicked off twice for 107 yards.
“For my first game, against those monsterous ‘kids’ from Kodiak, I think I played to my full potential,” Brown said. “In the end, it all came down to the conditioning the coaches had us do.”
Homer hosts conference foe Kenai Central on Saturday. The junior varsity starts at noon, followed by the varsity at 3 p.m.
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