Story last updated at 1:31 p.m. Thursday, August 22, 2002

Miscues sink Mariners
By Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

The Homer High School football team did itself in with turnovers and penalties Friday during a 34-12 loss to nonconference host Houston.

"Mental mistakes," said Mariner coach Terry Fraley. "That is what hurt us."

Those mistakes, amounting to eight turnovers and more than 100 yards in penalties, negated a pair of 100-plus-yard games by Mariner running backs. For the second straight game, tailback David Drake took the majority of the handoffs, piling up 177 yards on 29 carries.

Drake also ran in both of Homer's touchdowns. But all too often miscues stymied promising Mariner drives. Four times the Mariners turned the ball over inside Houston's 20-yard line.

"It was a killer," said Adam Crum, who rushed for 111 yards on 11 carries. "We were moving the ball so well and we would get down near the end zone and turn it over. We have to get the ball under control."

At issue is controlling the snap, something that caused major problems on Friday and was the source of the majority of the team's fumbles.

Homer's quarterbacks, in particular current-starter Chase McKinney, were set to be drilled hard on keeping the ball safe during this week's practices, where the centers and quarterbacks would be working on snapping the ball out of buckets of water, Fraley said.

Fraley said a large part of the problem for McKinney was a lack of concentration in the face of a blitzing Houston line. And without an effective passing game -- McKinney did not complete a pass -- the Mariners were facing the blitz more often than not. The more the ball ended up on the ground, the more aggressive the Hawks' defense became, Fraley said.

Despite their trouble holding onto the ball, the Mariners were only down 13-6 at halftime, in large part due to outstanding work from the defensive line and linebackers. The Mariners only gave up 66 rushing yards during the game.

But Houston's combination of Peter Clemens to Taylor Richey eventually wore out the Mariner secondary. Clemens threw for 199 yards and accounted for two touchdowns passing and two more on the ground, while Richey hauled in eight receptions for 111 yards and one touchdown.

"If you're going to have an ugly game, you've got to get it out of the way early" before you get into the brief conference portion of the season, which will determine who competes for the state title, Fraley said.

The loss put the Mariners' record at 1-1 going into Saturday's away game against Nikiski, the two-time defending small schools state champion.

With a number of key players expected to be back in the lineup this week, Fraley said he feels good about the team's prospects for moving beyond the Houston game.

"It let us know where we're at," Crum added. "And it showed us how much work we have to do to get to where we want to be, which is state champions."