Homer Alaska - Sports

Story last updated at 3:06 PM on Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mariners tame Panthers with defense

By Norm Anderson
For the Homer News


Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

Mariner Konstantin Reutov heads for a touchdown in Saturday's game against the Skyview Panthers.

On a pouring, stormy Saturday afternoon, the Mariners battled at home in another Northern Lights Conference matchup against the Skyview Panthers. Even with much of their varsity talent sidelined due to suspensions and injuries, the Mariners showed a great defensive output, defeating the Panthers 28-14.

The Mariners came out of the gate blatantly showing Coach Cam Wyatt's "ground-and-pound" style of offense that he says is safer than trying to pass in such harsh playing conditions. With the running game being so effective early, Homer's charge down the field was topped off by a Konstantin Reutov touchdown. Mark McGregor then ran in for the two-point conversion, giving the Mariners an early eight-point lead.

The defensive surge, led by senior Zach Fraley, also was shown early, forcing three and outs throughout the first quarter of play.

The Mariners then came out in the second quarter with a change in their running game. Instead of Sheldon Hutt taking the snaps behind center, McGregor took over in a wildcat formation, running the ball without the need of a handoff. Homer would switch between formations, trying to catch the defense off guard until McGregor ran around the right side, using the fake pitch flawlessly to slow down Skyview.

He then pitched the ball to Reutov as he was being tackled, giving the "Russian Rocket" a 60-yard run on his way to the end zone. Tommy Bowe was stopped short on the conversion attempt, but Homer now held a two touchdown lead just minutes before halftime.

The Panthers received the kickoff and were immediately swarmed by the Homer special team's unit. Fraley laid a hard hit on the return man, forcing a fumble and a turnover in favor of the Ms. Homer was now inside the opponent's 10-yard line with time to score before the half's end. On third down, the Panthers goal line stand was uplifted as McGregor used the fake toss to his advantage once again, keeping it this time on his way to another Homer score.

Bowe caught the conversion attempt, increasing the lead to 22-0. Fraley ended the half with a loud sack, adding to the many tackles he had that afternoon.

"We didn't have all of the people that we needed and there were players who got hurt, but we needed our lineman to plug B gaps all day," said Fraley.

As the second half kicked off, gusts of wind that already had the rain coming down sideways, were now turning umbrellas inside out, putting a damper on any possible Skyview passing game the Panthers may have hoped for.

Although multiple penalties against the Mariners helped the Panthers march downfield 20 yards at a time, setting them up on the Mariners' five-yard line. Skyview then tried four trick rushing plays to different running backs, each coming up short of the goal line, thanks to Homer's ruthless goal line defense.

Homer, now backed up on their own one-yard line, looked for a pass downfield, only to find Skyview's D.J. Connely for the first interception of the game. However, three plays later, Homer sophomore Noah Swenson intercepted a touchdown pass, running it the length of the field for another Mariner score.

This 100-plus yard interception return was the longest of the year, and of course ties the school record.

"I don't even know what was running through my mind. The ball came right to me so I just ran, and I was yelping all the way down," said Swenson about his runback.

An excessive celebration after the score made the conversion attempt 10 yards harder. The attempt was no good, but the Mariners now held a comfortable 28-point shutout.

Skyview stuck with the run in the later parts of the third quarter, and after recovering a Bowe fumble, Brandon Rice found pay dirt, giving the Panthers six points on the board. After two more Homer fumbles, Rice ran in yet another touchdown and two-point conversion.

With 5:15 left in regulation, the Mariners were still holding their ground 28-14.

Homer ran out as much clock as possible on its next offensive series before punting to the Panthers, leaving it to their defense to seal the game. With less than three minutes left, Skyview had no choice but to pass down field, trying to score fast. As they were within five yards of scoring, Fraley sacked the quarterback once again, this time knocking the ball loose and ending the game.

"We needed our nose guard to get through there and mesh up the defense. That was the turning point. Plus we got lucky a lot of times on those fumbles," Fraley said about the tough defensive output.

The Mariners have pushed their record to 3-2, and take on the Kodiak Bears this Saturday on Kodiak's new artificial turf field.

Norm Anderson is a 2010 graduate of Homer High School and is currently a student at Kachemak Bay Campus. Follow his Sports blog via www.homernews.com.