Homer-Center Ends BG streak at 59, Captures D6 1A Crown in thrilling fashion
Written by: Phil Myers on Saturday, November 25th, 2017
Co Written by Billy Splain
Homer-Center head coach Greg Page looked out as his team was in the traditional “victory formation” to snap the ball one last time before the clock hit zeros, turned to WesternPAFootball.net site administrator Billy Splain and said “I just really can’t believe this is happening.” What was happening was the Wildcats ended Bishop Guilfoyle’s 59 game winning streak, shocking the Marauders 20-14 Friday night at Mansion Park in Altoona. In doing so, the Wildcats claimed the District 6 Class A Championship. By coincidence, it was Homer-Center who last beat Guilfoyle, which occurred on November 23, 2013 in the D-6 title game, 22-12. “What a great team they have there at Bishop Guilfoyle. What a program they have there. We just went right at them.”
The Wildcats were paced by an offensive line that pretty much dominated the line of scrimmage, opening holes for the punishing runs of Jesse Lee and Mike “Basa” McCracken. Each running back had over 100 yards rushing and each scored a touchdown along the way, with McCracken’s being the winning score with 2:23 left in the game. Another key aspect of the game was the fact Homer-Center had no turnovers and controlled the ball for 11 minutes more than Guilfoyle (29:34 to 18:26).
Defensively, the Wildcats held an offense that came into the contest averaging 39 points per game to a mere 14. In addition, Homer-Center shut down the potent BG running game that averaged 262 yards/game. They held Guilfoyle to 73 yards on 23 carries. H-C also forced two turnovers, an interception and a fumble.
The first quarter did not go as well as the rest of the game did for the ‘visiting’ Wildcats. Homer-Center received to start the game because BG won the toss and chose to defer their choice to the second half. McCracken ran for 16 yards on the game’s first play. Two plays and 9 yards later Lee made a move, racing for 27 yards and a second first down to the BG 22. A 5-yard penalty cost them when on 4th and fifteen from the Guilfoyle 27, freshman quarterback Ben Schmidt scrambled for 10 yards coming up short of the down markers by five yards.
The Marauders then methodically marched down the field using 6:36 of the clock to go 83 yards in 16 plays to draw first blood. Mike Berish scored on an eight yard sweep and Kolton McGhee’s PAT put Guilfoyle in the lead 7-0 with 1:29 remaining in the first quarter. The big play of the drive was QB Mark Conrad hitting Tyler Berkheimer with a strike for a 26-yard gain on a 4th and eleven from Center’s 32 yard line.
The Wildcats proved their mettle by answering with a fifteen play, eighty yard drive of their own that ate up over 7 minutes. Lee’s 15-yard run and McCracken’s 10-yard jaunt were the two biggest plays of the possession. Lee capped the drive with a six yard run off tackle at the 6:20 mark of the second stanza. Ben Schmidt tied the game with his extra point kick.
With practically 18 minutes gone in the game, only a total of three possessions had taken place. BG’s second offensive opportunity ended after one first down due to Wildcat Matt Miles intercepting a Conrad pass at the Homer-Center 21.
The Marauders subsequently forced the ‘Cats to punt. Taking possession at the BG 38, the Marauders Josh Yasulitis gained 8 yards in two totes. On third down, Berish got a first down into Wildcat territory, but lost control of the football after being bumped. Jesse Lee was there to pounce on the loose ball for the Wildcats to thwart another Guilfoyle excursion. Homer-Center ran out the clock and went into halftime tied at seven with the three-time defending Class A State Champions.
The second half begin with Bishop Guilfoyle driving to the H-C 26 before getting a penalty for holding and eventually punting. Homer-Center got as far as their 49 before they in turn had to kick the ball away, pinning the Marauders inside the ten. The Wildcats got the pigskin back after another BG punt.
The Marauders stopped Homer-Center in three plays that netted zero yards. The turning point of the game came on the punt. Even though the punt was downed at the 3-yard line, Guilfoyle was whistled for a personal foul penalty for roughing the kicker.
That gave the Wildcats a first down in BG real estate at the 36. Immediately the ‘Cats got another first down on a pass from Schmidt to Miles. Three plays later facing a 4th and one from the BG fifteen, Lee plunged into the line for six and a new set of downs. On the second play thereafter, Schmidt faked an inside handoff, rolled out, and sprinted for the right-side pylon, just making it and sending his team into the lead, 14-7 with 10:51 left in the game.
The Marauders came right back at the ‘Cats by going the distance to tie the game 14-14 at the 8:06 mark. Nine plays covered 65 yards with Conrad throwing for 45 yards on three completions. Yasulitis scored the touchdown by pushing in from the three yard line.
Now Homer-Center got down to the business at hand. Facing another 4th down situation at their own 45 after only three plays, coach Greg Page decided to gamble instead of punting. He dialed up Lee’s number and Jesse responded with a 9-yard run into BG territory. Eight snaps later McCracken found the end zone from the seven, sending the Homer-Center faithful into delirium and the Guilfoyle faithful into shock. A try for two failed and with 2:23 remaining in the contest, the Wildcats had the upper hand, 20-14. “Our kids were talking all night, short yardage situations you gotta go coach” said Page. “Ya pick that fourth down up there, you gotta show you got some guts. That kinda spear headed us down the field. The kids wanted to go to a heavy set with 9 offensive linemen. We call badger, we saw Wisconsin do it. Well, it didn’t work and I’m thinking I’m gonna be the biggest goat in America because they have a division one kicker who’s gonna win the game now if they score” he said about scoring possibly too early.
The Marauders’ first five plays netted 22 yards and put them at the ‘Cat 30 facing a 4th and four. Conrad’s subsequent pass sailed through the air to an open receiver at the five, but Nick Schmidt at the last second was able to get there and bat the ball away securing the upset victory for his Wildcat teammates. Homer-Center advances to the state Class A semi-finals next week against the District 3 Champ, Steelton-Highspire Steamrollers, who incidentally knocked the Wildcats out in 2013. “I have to make a play on this ball, if he catches it they win. I just reached up and hit the ball with my hand, I can’t describe the rush I felt at that moment when I knew we just won the game” said Schmidt of his fourth down stop.
Game Notes: Homer-Center out-gained Bishop Guilfoyle 281 to 261. Lee led all rushers with 131 yards on 26 carries, while fellow backfield mate, Mike McCracken rumbled for 114 yards on 20 totes. For the Marauders, Conrad kept BG in the game by connecting on 14 of 22 passes for 188 yards, but he did have the one INT. This was a fantastic game as both teams played hard and with a lot of heart. But, in the end only one team wins and Coach Page’s Wildcats were more than ready for the task at hand.
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