From losing in Week 1 to capturing a share of the Summit Athletic Conference title, Homestead has faced adversity and succeeded in the face of it all season long.
That was the script again during Friday’s sectional championship against Warsaw, as the Tigers scored first, then never led again after the Spartans’ first offensive play of the night.
Warsaw’s run-heavy offense scored, naturally, on a 4-yard rushing touchdown by Juan Jaramillo in the first quarter after running nearly eight minutes off the clock. One play later, Homestead quarterback Evan Ormsby found receiver Nate Anderson for a 79-yard touchdown pass, setting the Spartans on route to a 30-22 win for the sectional title.
“We always preach never to give into adversity, no matter what the scoreboard is,” Homestead junior Gage Sparrow said.
Homestead forced Warsaw to punt on a three-and-out on the next drive. Closing out the first quarter, a big run by Ormsby set the Spartans up for a first and goal at the 7-yard line. The senior quarterback followed up with an 8-yard pass to Sparrow for Homestead’s first lead of the night.
“You’ve got to stay locked in, got to keep working,” Sparrow said. “Whoever works the longest is going to win the game, and that’s what we’ve been preaching all year and it’s worked for us.”
Losing yardage on their first drive of the second quarter, Warsaw was forced to throw the ball twice — the same number of passes quarterback Aaron Greene threw the entire four quarters of the Tigers’ previous playoff game against Carroll. Both were incompletions, and Warsaw once again punted the ball, giving Homestead possession at its own 36.
The Spartans proceeded to march the ball down the field, but Warsaw safety Mason Martz managed to pick off a pass by Ormsby intended for Anderson in the end zone. After being flagged with an illegal block in the back, the Tigers took over on their own 11-yard line. The team’s backfield committee moved the sticks, and Jaramillo finished the drive with a goal-line rushing touchdown to tie the game 14-14 with 42 seconds left in the half.
Homestead’s final play of the second quarter was a 35-yard field goal by Carter Dixon with 1.2 seconds left on the clock to put the Spartans up 17-14 at halftime.
Homestead played lockdown defense early in the second half, forcing three straight Warsaw turnovers.
“That’s a good offense that’s difficult to stop,” Homestead Head Coach Chad Zolman said of the Tigers. “I really felt like the second half (our) defense played much better than the first half, so I think that was the key for us. The offense sputtered a little bit, but they moved the ball, at times, at will. It was one of those games where both sides contributed, and it was a good, solid win.”
Homestead received first in the third quarter, avoiding another field goal situation with a pass by Ormsby to Anderson inside the Tigers’ 20 on third and 12 for the first down. Ormsby capitalized with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Anderson to lead 23-14. However, the Spartans missed the ensuing extra point after both teams were flagged for penalties on the attempt.
Homestead cornerback Desmond Smith managed to bat down a pass to Luke Adamiec on the resulting drive, leaving the Tigers to go for it on fourth and 7, and Homestead’s Max Schiltz blocked another pass by Greene on the next play to set the Spartans’ offense up at the Tigers’ 23-yard line. This time, it was Homestead’s turn to go for it on fourth, with Sparrow scoring a 15-yard rushing touchdown on a reversal. The Spartans led 30-14 with 3:39 left in the third quarter.
Warsaw’s first play of the fourth quarter resulted in another turnover on downs, but linebacker Nicholas Katris managed to pick off a Homestead pass to regain possession at midfield with just under 11 minutes left to play. The Tigers were able to carry it to Homestead’s 14, once again going for it on fourth down and turning it over a third time. Homestead’s Ryan Burton shut down that attempt with a sack on Greene.
The Spartans were forced to punt on their next possession, but not before running the clock down to 4:26.
The Tigers finally reached the end zone again with 1:27 left to play, as Greene threw a 26-yard pass to Julius Jones, setting Adamiec up for a 7-yard catch in the end zone. Greene followed up with another pass to Adamiec on a successful two-point attempt, however, it wasn’t enough to stop Homestead from bottling up the ensuing onside kick and kneeling out the clock.
“It’s special for this group,” Zolman said of the sectional win — Homestead’s second straight. “It’s an outstanding group of young men — we have fun coaching these young men — because they’re responsive, they give us effort all the time. … With this perfect weather on a November night, they come out here and they’ll never forget this.”
Ormsby finished the game with 217 passing yards and 35 rushing yards for Homestead, completing 15 of 19 pass attempts. Anderson had a team-high 113 receiving yards.
“They bonded throughout the season, they got better and better, and I think this is some of the best football we’re playing,” Zolman said. “It’s an honor to the seniors, it’s an honor to how hard everyone’s worked, it’s just a real tribute to the kids.”
The Spartans (10-1), currently ranked No. 9 in the state coaches poll, will face No. 2 Westfield (10-1) on the road Friday. The Shamrocks defeated Fishers 31-0 in their home sectional championship.
“We know Westfield comes from a really good conference and they’re a one-loss team like us, so we know that the challenge is great,” Zolman said. “Every week, we tell them to prepare for the biggest game of the year … and the stakes are higher now than ever before, even this week, so we shouldn’t need much to get these guys cranked up, ready to start prepping.”