The sun came out for the Mariners in the 2012 homecoming game as they were able to take control of the running game early, beating the Houston Hawks 38-7. Both teams held 5-2 records before their final game of the regular season.
Homer showed off its talent in running backs early, as Tommy Bowe and Joey Cardoza shared carries on their way to an early Cardoza touchdown. Konstantin Reutov ran in the extra point and the Mariners jumped out to an early 7-point lead.
The Hawks appeared to have an answer with a pair of running backs of their own in Hunter Smith and Waylon Stopdick as they moved the chains from the 50-yard line down into the red zone. A simple pitch allowed Charlie Besby to run around the left end for a touchdown. Houston kicked an extra point, making the score 8-7 with 6:30 left in the first quarter.
The Houston kickoff backed the Mariners to their own 10, but Cardoza quickly lifted fans off their seats by breaking free into the open field on a big 35-yard gain that sent him splashing into a puddle. A run on fourth down would later turn the ball over on downs to the Hawks. The Mariners then got called on 25 yards of facemask and encroachment penalties defensively as the first quarter came to a close.
"Today our blocking was really good. I just saw those openings, and we punched it out again, a win is a win," said Cardoza on the Mariners' success with the ground game.
The first pass of the game was finally thrown by the Hawks, setting them up for a deep field goal attempt. Mark McGregor caught the short kick and ran in back to the 45-yard line before being called back on an illegal block. On fourth and seven, Reutov caught a huge pass from Sheldon Hutt, running all the way down inside the 5-yard line. Reutov then caught a touchdown pass just two plays later, capping that drive off with the exact same play for the 2-point conversion. Homer was up 16-7.
The Mariner defense held its ground once again, but a fake punt by the Hawks resulted in an exciting 20-yard completion. However, on the next play, Homer recovered a fumble with three minutes left in the half. McGregor put in a 40-yard run that set himself up two plays later for an acrobatic rushing touchdown. The conversion attempt was stopped short, but Homer was up 22-7 with under a minute until halftime.
After a touchdown saving tackle on the kickoff, the Mariners' defense was still giving no ground, stopping the Hawks and going into homecoming halftime with the lead.
Senior Drew Raymond was happy with his team's defense only allowing one score saying, "We gave that one up early, and gave up some big plays, but I'm glad that we were able to shut them out after the first drive."
Due to the brand new track, vehicles could not tow the floats for the homecoming parade, instead, the 9th-12th grade students had smaller floats and skits representing their class, and also presenting the homecoming royalty. The Homer High School Homecoming King and Queen were Carson Duggar and Ivy Bloom.
Into the second half of action, Homer's defense forced another punt on fourth down, and the offense was now running better than ever. Reutov executed a fake pitch that he took up the middle for another Homer score. McGregor ran in the 2-point conversion, raising the lead to 23. The Mariners weren't ready to ease up as they tried catching Houston off guard with an onside kick, instead giving the Hawks good field position. The Hawks led their drive inside the 10-yard line and were knocking on the door. Joseph Resetarits quickly recovered a fumble, giving Homer even more breathing room as the fourth quarter was nearing.
"We had real solid defense, especially when we put some of the more experienced guys in there. Our goal line defense has always been solid all year, and we proved that tonight again," said Resetarits.
Cardoza's number was called on to seal the game, finding a hole nearly every time he touched the ball. A tackle-breaking surge through the line by Cardoza gave the Mariners yet another score, and a pass to Bowe for the conversion made it a convincing 38-7 lead for the home team. Another fumble was recovered by Homer on the next drive. Cardoza then ran the clock out while he racked up more yards, building momentum for the playoff game.
"Joseph Cardoza 24/7, he had a rough season and people keyed on other boys and this was his game, today he was our workhorse," said Head Coach Cam Wyatt after the big win.
With a 6-2 record, Homer travels to Juneau next week to play Thunder Mountain. If the Mariners win, they will be heading to state in Anchorage.