Homestead football coach Dave Keel said he was pleased with Homestead’s season-opening success against Waterford.
“This was a good start,” he noted after his team's 22-6 victory, one that avenged a nonconference loss to the same squad last year. “We didn’t turn the ball over and we hit well. Waterford is a good football team, well-coached. Each year is a new year and we will see what we make of it.”
Most of the offense came in the second half, none bigger than an 82-yard touchdown run from Shaquille Cole.
Waterford had just pulled within 7-6, and Homestead faced deep trouble when the quarterback Ryan Stendler was sacked by Jake Wirsching at the 18, creating a 3rd and 12.
But a missed assignment by the Waterford defense created a wide lane for Cole, who covered 82 yards for a game-changing score with 1:17 left in the third period. Waterford’s safety was closing quickly, but a clean block by Jay Schneider at the 15 allowed Cole to make the end zone.
Jake Laihinen carried in the two-point conversion for a 15-6 lead.
“We just didn’t get going offensively," Waterford coach Adam Bakken said. "We had them deep with a third down and a mistake on a stunt opened a big lane. No one player was at fault but that was demoralizing for us. We didn’t tackle overly well … we need to get more hats to the ball.”
Waterford looked to be mounting a rallying drive that extended into the final quarter, but Yuri Pogosyan recorded a sack, and a delay of game penalty stalled the drive. Stendler finished off Homestead’s defensive effort with a sack that forced a fumble recovered by teammate Henri Shein at the Waterford 9-yard line. A play later, Schneider put six more on the Highlanders scoresheet with a nine-yard sweep.
Stendler’s PAT created a 22-6 lead that held up over the final 8 minutes of
Homestead capitalized on a turnover to put the only first-half points on the board. Jon Weyker’s interception came on Waterford’s second possession after quarterback Ryan Danbrea lofted a short pass over the middle.
Nine plays later, Schneider took a pitch and covered the final nine yards to score. Stendler was true on the PAT, giving Homestead a 7-0 lead with 2:19 left in the first quarter.
The Wolverines immediately made a strong effort to respond, moving as close as Homestead's 15-yard line before a dropped pass on 4th and 6.
Waterford had the ball three more times in the first half with good field position but could not generate a consistent offense. Homestead’s offense did not fare much better and totaled only 41 net yards in the first half despite the one long scoring drive.
After both teams went three-and-out in the second half, Homestead then bent the tough Waterford defense with a persistent 10-play drive that finally stalled at the 28. Jake Laihenen’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete, and the Wolverines took over. Nine plays and 72 yards later, Waterford was on the board. Danbrea spearheaded the drive with runs of 11 and 41 yards.
His 41 yard quarterback draw looked to be a breakaway for a touchdown, but Riley Pelisek’s open field tackle from behind denied the points. Kody Azarian got the touchdown three plays later on a 10 yard run, but the extra point attempt was blocked by Bryce Juedes to keep the Highlanders in the lead 7-6.
“I like getting the ball, being the go to guy," Azarian said. "This is really my second sport (to wrestling), but a really like it."
Homestead faces Nicolet next week, while Waterford faces Wilmot -- one of the teams with which Waterford shared last year's Southern Lakes Conference title.
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