For more than three and a half quarters of Saturday night's snow-covered District 6 Class A championship game at Mansion Park, Bishop Guilfoyle was in control of Homer-Center.
The Marauders had taken a 12-8 lead into halftime and kept it through an uneventful third quarter and most of the fourth quarter. With just more than 4 minutes remaining in the game, BG had the Wildcats stuck on a fourth-and-3 at the 50-yard line.
Homer-Center elected to go for it and when quarterback Aaron Berezansky took the snap, the Marauders rush came at him hard. But Berezansky stood strong and rifled a pass to running back Ean Lee for a 10-yard first down. Two plays later, after a key facemask penalty on BG, Lee took a handoff off-tackle and went untouched into the end zone.
Mirror photo by Gary M.?Baranec
Bishop Guilfoyle’s Aaron Yasulitis is brought down in the snow by Homer-Center defender Kolby?Skultety.
Though it left the Wildcats with just a 14-12 lead, it was the beginning of the end for the Marauders
On the ensuing kickoff, BG mishandled the ball and ended up stuck back at its own 10-yard line. On second down, Homer-Center defensive lineman Shawn Steffee chased quarterback Brandon Chadbourn deep into his own backfield and took him down for a safety.
On the Wildcats' next possession, they tacked on another score for a 22-12 victory and their first district championship since 1994.
"It's incredible," Homer-Center coach Greg Page, surrounded by fans and well-wishers, said. "When we turned the game around, it was surreal. Our kids battled and battled and didn't give up."
The fourth-down conversion that turned things around for Page's team was a huge boost for a team that never let the game get away from them.
"Our kids never gave up and turned the momentum when we had to and we made the plays," he said. "That was a great pass. Aaron threw the ball right on a rope and Ean made the catch. That's a hard catch to make in these conditions."
The Marauders got an early lead on a 74-yard touchdown scamper by running back D.J. Kitt in the first quarter, and added to their lead in the second quarter on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Chadbourn to Sam McCloskey.
But they sputtered a bit in the second half, racking up penalties - they finished with nine for 74 yards - and managed only 16 total yards in the third and fourth quarters.
"They made the plays they needed to at the end," BG coach Justin Wheeler said. "It was just two great football teams battling it out. We played well, they played well. ... It's a tough way to go but give credit to those kids on Homer-Center's side, they made some plays at the end."
The Marauders leaned heavily on their defense against the Wildcats, and for most of the night they responded well. Homer-Center entered Mansion Park averaging more than 250 yards per game on the ground, with Lee and backfield mate Mike Newhouse both hitting 1,000 yards rushing this season.
BG held the Wildcats to 154 yards rushing, with Newhouse managing just 24. With his key plays in the fourth quarter, Lee led all rushers with 98 yards.
"Our defense has played real well all year long," Wheeler said. "Those guys play hard and they take pride in trying to stop the run and they did a real good job tonight, with the exception of a few plays. And in big games, it's all about a few plays."
The Marauders finish the season with a 10-3 record after starting the year with two straight losses. Their roster was heavy with underclassmen this year and will lose just nine seniors. After the game, Wheeler made sure to let his team know how far they've come.
"I told them I've been proud to be with them over the last three years," he said. "This group was 1-9 three years ago, and to be playing for a district championship a few years later is a credit to how great they are. I've loved every moment of it and I'm proud to be their coach."
Homer-Center will face Steelton-Highspire at Hersheypark Stadium next week in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bishop Guilfoyle6 6 0 0 - 12
Homer-Center0 8 0 14 - 22
BG-Kitt 74 run (pass failed), 5:11.
HC-Lee 1 run (Newhouse run), 9:19.
BG-McCloskey 16 pass from B. Chadbourn (pass failed), 5:22.
HC-Lee 11 run (run failed), 3:40.
HC-B. Chadbourn tacked by Steffee for safety, 3:17.
HC-Berezansky 11 run (kick failed), 1:53.
RUSHING: Bishop Guilfoyle-B. Chadbourn 19-47, McCloskey 12-66, Kitt 6-87, Little 1-5, Yasulitis 1-1, TEAM 2-(-17). Homer-Center-Lee 20-98, Newhouse 9-24, Berezansky 7-26, McAdoo 2-(-4).
PASSING: Bishop Guilfoyle-B. Chadbourn 2-9-1-26. Homer-Center-Berezansky 1-7-1-10, Lee 0-1-1-0.
RECEIVING: Bishop Guilfoyle-McCloskey 1-16, Gormley 1-10. Homer-Center-Lee 1-10.
INTERCEPTIONS: Bishop Guilfoyle-B. Chadbourn 1, McCloskey 1. Homer-Center-McAdoo 1.