Story last updated at 2:52 p.m. Thursday, October 3, 2002

Drake runs away with state rushing title; 60-yard romp gives Homer win

Late touchdown lifts Mariners over Skyview in finale

by Matt Tunseth
Morris News Service-Alaska

photo: sports

  Photo by M. Scott Moon, Peninsula Clarion
Homer running back David Drake is tackled by Skyview's Mike Waer in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game.  
SOLDOTNA --Football may be a team game, but it was nearly a one-man show for Homer on Saturday, as standout David Drake came up with a couple of game-breaking plays en route to the state rushing title and a Mariner victory in the team's final game of the season.

In a game that featured a season's worth of trickery and unusual plays, the Mariners defeated the Skyview Panthers 20-14 Saturday afternoon at Skyview High School.

Running back Drake took a handoff from quarterback Jake Fraley, broke through a tightly bunched Panthers line, and scampered 60 yards for the winning touchdown with just 52 seconds left in the game.

The big play capped a 22-carry, 155-yard performance for the Homer standout, who locked up the state's rushing title. His nearest competition, Kenai back Cory Janson, who trailed Drake by 103 yards going into the weekend, was limited to just 48 yards in a loss to Soldotna on Saturday.

Saturday's totals gave the Homer senior a total of 1,419 yards on 202 carries over the course of the eight-game season. He averaged 7 yards per carry while amassing 20 rushing touchdowns.

Janson rushed for 16 TDs while racking up 1,209 yards on 175 carries, for a 6.9 yard average.

photo:

  Photo by Mark Kelsey, Homer News
Lucy Kuhns, left mother of Homer lineman Marcus Kuhns (No. 51), watches her son play Saturday at Skyview High School in Soldotna, She is joined by Louise Shavings, a high school friend. The two had much to cheer about, as the Mariners posted a 20-14 win in their final game of the season.  
Drake's Saturday game-buster came with the score tied at 14 and overtime looking likely. A Skyview punt left the Mariners, whose offense sputtered most of the game, on their own 40-yard line with just 1:04 left on the clock. After Homer regained possession, head coach Terry Fraley called a timeout to talk things over with his team.

"They were playing us tight all game," Fraley said following the game. "I just told (the linemen) to widen their splits up a little."

With nine Skyview defenders near the line of scrimmage, the technique worked, and Drake, the state's leading rusher, broke through the Skyview defense.

The dramatic run was Homer's first offensive touchdown in a game full of surprising turns.

Skyview got on the scoreboard first with a razzle-dazzle pass from senior quarterback Justin Rainwater to senior running back Mike Waer.

It started when Rainwater handed off to receiver Kevin McGrady, who took the ball and ran parallel to the line before turning and throwing back across the field to Rainwater. After catching the lateral, Rainwater then threw downfield to a wide-open Mike Waer, who strolled into the end zone with the first score of the game.

Rainwater said the play was only recently added to the playbook.

"We just put that one in this week," he said.

That trick wasn't all the Panthers used, as Skyview attempted many changeups on the afternoon, including several flea-flickers and a hook-and-ladder.

"We threw everything we had at them," Rainwater said.

Despite the wide-open first half, the trick play resulted in the lone score, and Skyview went to the locker room with a 6-0 halftime lead.

In the second half, Homer wasted little time in showing it could provide dramatics of its own.

A strong wind caused Skyview's kickoff to fall short of speedster Drake, and instead into the waiting arms of Adam Crum, a bruiser known more for his power than nimbleness. However, Crum managed to bounce several Skyview defenders off his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame and find room along the sideline.

From there, Crum showed Drake isn't the only Mariner who can run, lumbering 70 yards for Homer's first touchdown.

Crum was as surprised as anyone at his unexpected return.

"That's the first kickoff I ever returned in varsity," said Crum, a senior.

He said once he had the end zone in sight, he knew something had to be wrong.

"I looked back, because I just knew there was a flag," he said.

However, no penalty flags hit the ground, and Crum's touchdown tied the score just 13 seconds into the second half, before Drake ran in the two-point conversion to make the score 8-6.

Ten minutes later, with Skyview driving deep in Homer territory, Drake came up with his first big play of the afternoon. Skyview completed a pass from Rainwater to senior receiver Kevin McGrady -- who beat Drake on the play -- down to the Homer 5-yard line. On third-and-goal, Rainwater looked again to McGrady. Only this time, Drake read the play perfectly, stepping in front of McGrady for the interception and returning it 99 yards to give Homer a 14-6 lead.

"David's just a special athlete," Fraley said.

Despite being burned by two long plays in the quarter, the Panthers refused to give up. With 6:46 left in the game, Rainwater hit sophomore Logan McKay in the end zone with a 12-yard touchdown pass. Senior Trevor Tompkins barely crossed the goal line on the conversion, tying the game at 14-14.

After a series of turnovers and stalled drives, it looked as though the teams would go to overtime when Skyview punted with 1:04 left. But Drake had other ideas, and his 60-yard winning run spoiled Skyview's homecoming festivities.

Skyview coach Wade Marcuson said Homer's knack for making timely plays was the difference in the game.

"There were three big plays that killed us," he said.

Matt Tunseth is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.

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