Less than three minutes into Friday night’s Class 6A Sectional 3 game, things were not looking good for Homestead. The SAC champions had seen Snider’s Tavarious Easley-Jones take the opening kickoff 93 yards to the house and the Panthers enjoying a 7-0 lead.
Two minutes later, All-Conference running back Braeden Hardwick went down with a left ankle injury; he never returned.
Just what Homestead needed, right? More adversity. Stuck with a string of quarantines and a handful of injuries, the Spartans and misfortune have gone hand in hand a few times this season. But just like those other times, adversity wasn’t going to hold them down. Homestead scored the final 28 points of the game to beat Snider 28-10 and advance to next week’s Sectional final against Warsaw.
“This adversity started in June when they wouldn’t let us get together and July they restricted us and going into August, we didn’t even know if we could have a season,” Homestead coach Chad Zolman said. “They have overcome all of that and they have had to do things differently this year as a group than any other group in history. They way they have come together and through adversity, it’s impressive. I attribute that all to the seniors and the leaders on this team.”
After Homestead’s first drive stalled post Hardwick injury, Tyrese Brown got going. The Snider rusher pushed the Panthers all the way down to the four yard line, including a powerful 4th & 2 conversion near midfield. Snider was stopped in the red zone, but still managed a 25 yard field goal from Trent Rider.
Homestead never let up though once down 10-0.
A breakdown in coverage in the final minute of the first quarter saw Evan Ormsby connect with Ethan Chambers after a breakdown in Snider’s coverage. The 16 yard touchdown pass was the first of three from Ormsby on the night. The senior Spartan quarterback faltered just one more time in the game and it came on the next Homestead possession. After Desmond Smith intercepted a pass for Ormsby to get the ball back in his hands, Ormsby saw one of his own passes tipped and intercepted by Domanick Moon.
The chances to capitalize with Ormsby passing the ball were few and far between. That is something that has become a hallmark of his game this season.
“What he has done is completely change us as a team,” Zolman said. “He continues to get better. He made some great, mature reads on things and didn’t throw the ball into trouble. He has matured into a really good, seasoned quarterback.”
“Started off a little shaky, but I just trusted in coach [Bill] Skelton and went through all the plays and all my reads and tried doing my job and nothing special and it ended up working out,” Ormsby said.
Snider’s 10-7 halftime lead did not last long. Less than two minutes into the second half, Nick Suddarth broke free at the opposing 28 yard line and he raced up the left side of the field for the go ahead touchdown. Suddarth, who replaced Hardwick in the backfield, ran for 57 yards on 11 attempts.
There would be chances for Snider to strike back. Midway through the third quarter, the Panthers would have the ball all of the way down to the Homestead 26 while lead Spartan defender Luke Palmer was on the bench with an injury of his own. Just some more adversity to face. And the defense rose up. Without Palmer on the field, the defense stifled Brown on the ground and then, on fourth down, a hoard of Spartans helped break up a Luke Haupert pass attempt.
Palmer did eventually return to the ball game.
“They’ve got a really good offensive line and that’s a good back, so I think our defense played pretty well. Holding that offense to three points is a great job by our defense,” Zolman said.
Homestead worked their way back up the field with Suddarth scoring more big runs. With 1:14 left in the third, Ormsby found Jared Kistler on a short route and Kistler scored from nine yards out after digging in for the final yard and a half to just reach the goal line. The fourth quarter saw Homestead work the clock, aided by an Isaac Barkes interception. Ormsby added his third touchdown pass of the game with 5:16 left to lock things up, hitting Gage Sparrow in the back of the end zone.
“It is exciting obviously, but we know it’s not done yet. We know that Warsaw is also a good team that just beat Carroll,” Ormsby said. “They are going to be just as good, if not better.”
Ormsby finished the game with 239 yards passing on 18 of 24 attempts. Nate Anderson caught seven of those passes for 113 yards while Chambers collected five receptions for 66 yards. Brown led Snider with 26 rushes for 158 yards.
Though things got chippy down the stretch, it didn’t take away from what Homestead accomplished in vanquishing Snider or what they hope to accomplish moving forward, next week in a Sectional final against Warsaw and perhaps beyond.
“Its been a goal from the start,” Ormsby said of winning a Sectional title. “Win the Sectional, keep going further and go to state. That is just the end goal.”