Homer is already enjoying its best football season in school history.
If the Trojans want to make it even better with a trip to their first state title game appearance in football, they will have to come up with their biggest win in school history.
In a season of important victories, if No. 10-ranked Homer can beat Detroit Loyola in the state semifinals on Saturday, it will be the biggest win ever for Trojan football because it will earn them a trip to Ford Field for the state championship game.
Homer (11-1) will face No. 2-ranked Detroit Loyola (12-0), 1 p.m. Saturday at Chelsea High School in a Division 7 state semifinal.
It’s an exciting time to be a part of the Homer football program this week.
“It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been crazy a couple of weeks,” said Homer senior quarterback Alex White. “I’m sure after the season, however it ends, we can look back at the memories we have had and say, this has been a great year.”
Homer hadn’t been to the playoffs in almost a decade and the Trojans were coming off three straight 5-4 seasons — one agonizing victory away from the postseason each time.
The Trojans only have had one other season with double-digit victories, going 11-1 in 2005 after an undefeated regular season and a loss in the third round of the playoffs.
Once Homer beat Decatur last week in the regional finals, the Trojans walked into new territory for the program and into the school’s first state semifinal berth — one step away from a state championship game.
And despite that lack of overall program success during this time of the year, Homer was confident all along it would be at this point this week.
“That was a goal from the start, to make it to the state finals. That should be the goal for any team in any sport and that was our goal — and now we’ve put ourselves in a position to do that,” said Homer coach Matt Moffett. “As a head coach, if you don’t start the season trying to win a state championship, you should make that a goal.
“But right now, we are still worried about this week, this game. I’m sure our kids are thinking about making it to Ford Field, and if we play well and take care of business, we will accomplish that. But right now we can’t think about Ford Field, we have to worry about this week.”
Moffett, who has been in the program for four years, credits this run to a renewed commitment by the players in the Trojan football program. Finally getting over the hump and getting to the playoffs and becoming authors of an 11-1 record is due to a lot of hard work that started long before a single game was played this season.
“It started with this group of seniors four years ago. When they were freshmen, they bought into what we were doing in the weight room and on the field,” Moffett said. “We started really seeing it come about at the end of last year and then all of this year, you could just tell that we were stronger and faster than most of the teams we played.”
Coming into the season, Homer had 20 of 22 positions on the field being manned by returning seniors. And now that group is seeing results from all of the hard work.
“I give a lot of credit to the coaches. They really started pushing us. We have been working in the weight room hard. That’s basically been the case for our seniors all four years,” White said. “We have been working hard, practicing hard and it has shown on the scoreboard.”
White helps make the Homer offense run. The senior quarterback has thrown for 2,333 yards with 30 touchdowns this season. Homer has two accomplished receivers catching those balls with Kyle Winchell leading the way with 39 receptions for 806 yards and nine touchdowns and Dylan Thomas with 33 catches for 761 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Trojans have shown the ability to run the ball also with Chaz Hopkins rushing for 1,400 yards to lead the team with 21 touchdowns.
Moffett says that balance has been a key to the success for the team in 2013.
“We want to be 50-50 with passing and running and we are pretty darn close to that when you look at our stats,” Moffett said.
Overall, Homer’s offense has been impressive all season by averaging 40 points a game. The defense hasn’t been too bad either, giving up just 10 points a contest including a shutout in the playoffs. Tyler Mosher leads the way on that side of the ball with 62 tackles, including seven for loss with Gavin Towery adding three interceptions, including two that he ran back for scores.
Homer will need both the offense and defense to be rolling against a talented and experienced Detroit Loyola squad.
Loyola was in the state finals last year, losing to Ishpeming at Ford Field. In 2013, Bulldogs played a loaded schedule in the Catholic League in Detroit and for the first time in school history Loyola won the Catholic League Prep Bowl Championship at Ford Field with a win over Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard.
Loyola gets it done with a dominant running game, led by Marvin Campbell and Mideyin Wilson, as the two helped the Bulldogs rush for 521 yards in a regional playoff win over Southfield Christian. Campbell has 1,360 yards on the season and 13 touchdowns, despite sitting out three games due to injury.
Loyola can also throw the ball behind Garrett Schaller, who has 1,370 yards passing and eight touchdowns.
On defense, Loyola gives up less than 10 points a game and had two shutouts in the regular season and two more in the postseason.
“They are going to pound the rock. They are physical up front and they are big,” Moffett said. “They are a great football team. But we are pretty good, too. You don’t get this far and have success if you’re not a good football team.”