SOMERS, N.Y.— Besides its sole setback against Yorktown, Somers (7-1) didn’t play a close game all season long until defending Section 1 Class A champion Our Lady of Lourdes came to town for the Class A quarterfinals on a very foggy Friday night.
After finding itself leading by only one point at halftime, the third-seeded Tuskers turned to star senior halfback Messiah Horne to pick up the load. He did that and then some by carrying the ball 25 times for 200 yards and all four touchdowns in third-seeded Somers’ 28-14 victory over the sixth-seeded Warriors on Oct. 21.
“I’m a Wing-T (offense) kind of guy that is now in the one-back offense because of him (Horne),” Somers coach Tony DeMatteo said. “He is just a tremendous football player. Every time he touches the ball you never know what is going to happen, so you just give him the ball.”
Somers also avenged a loss to Lourdes in the quarterfinals last season.
Horne jumpstarted the offense by returning the second half kickoff to his team’s own 45-yard line. Somers’ firm rushing attack slowly advanced to the Warriors’ 6-yard line before Horne charged in for the score, taking the pressure off the hardworking defense.
“We were not playing well in the first half,” DeMatteo said. “And the defense kept us in the game. That was key.”
Leading 14-6 with about seven minutes left in the third quarter, the Tuskers forced a Lourdes punt and carried on with the handing off to Horne game plan with a clock-eating drive.
It all set up another 6-yard touchdown run for Horne, who jolted to the near-side and bulldozed over a defender while barely stretching his left arm over the plane to extend Somers’ advantage to 21-6 with 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
“Early on (in the season) it was tough for him,” DeMatteo said. “He got heat exhaustion one game and didn’t play well in the Yorktown game. But ever since that he has been bullying.”
This was not the end though, as Lourdes gave the Tuskers a dose of their own medicine by gradually wearing down their defense with the run. Senior quarterback Nick Gastin capped the grueling drive with a sneak to the right-side for a 5-yard touchdown with roughly five minutes to-go in the contest.
Gastin proceeded to complete a pass to his receiver in the back of the end zone to put Lourdes within striking distance, as Somers led 21-14.
“We almost had two kickoff returns (taken back on us),” DeMatteo said. “One thing that I was very happy with was that we didn’t get a holding penalty.”
It appeared that the Tuskers would have to lean on their defense one more time when they faced third-and-10 from their own 40-yard line. But junior quarterback Kevin Olifiers busted out of the pocket on a keeper to the far-side and dashed down to the opponent’s 39-yard line.
Somers kept feeding Horne as time was waning for the Warriors. Horne took time out of the equation though as he broke loose for a rejuvenating 37-yard touchdown sprint down the left sideline with just a minute and 45 seconds left in the fourth quarter to seal the game.
“I feel great,” Horne said. “I give all of the credit to my line. My line made all the holes for me and we just got it done.”
A sloppy first half from both sides led to a 7-6 halftime score with the Tuskers ahead. Junior Tyler Carr intercepted a pass and ran it back 20 yards, but Somers turned the ball over twice during the half which included an interception thrown by Olifiers.
“They are great kids,” DeMatteo said. “They work hard. I think they were a little nervous tonight. I just told them at halftime, ‘This is not life or death. Your mother or father didn’t die. This is a football game. Let’s go out there, have some fun and just play.’ And we played much better in the second half.”
Horne rushed for a 44-yard touchdown in the second quarter and the Tuskers racked up 281 total yards on the ground. Olifiers scrambled past the line of scrimmage 10 times for 72 yards and was 5 for 7 for 61 yards through the air.
Carr caught two passes for 30 yards combined while Horne hauled in two catches for 25 yards. Junior Vinny DiFilippo led the defense with six tackles. Seniors Thomas Tooma and Erik Hagenah each had five tackles. Juniors Antonio Vieira and Vincent Cartelli also had five tackles apiece. Junior Ryan Elliott made two solo tackles. Senior Kevin Graber kicked all four of his extra point attempts between the uprights.
The Tuskers travel to unbeaten Brewster for a semifinal contest at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 28.
“We have to (come out with the same intensity),” Horne said. “There are no ifs, ands or buts. We have to keep this momentum and buy in. We just have to believe in every single player on this team and get it done.”