The Skyview football program took a big step forward under first-year coach Phil Sheridan Friday, as the host Panthers came from behind in the final minutes to defeat Homer 14-13 in Northern Lights Conference action.
"We used this Homer game as a measuring stick," said Sheridan, whose team improved to 2-6 overall. "At the early jamboree, Homer was better than us. I decided we have to get better than Homer by the end of the year.
"If we get better than Homer, we will have taken the steps forward we needed to going into next year."
Heading into the game, both the Panthers and the Mariners had been eliminated from playoff contention. Both teams were 1-2 in the NLC, so all that was on the line was third place in the conference and pride.
"We were playing for the seniors," said Skyview junior Jeff Dolifka. "We wanted to win this game bad for them. This also helps our team for next year."
The Mariners were in control of the game early in the fourth quarter. Homer received the ball with 11:51 left in the game and a 7-6 lead. The Mariners embarked on a 13-play drive that ended when Jason West caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Canyon McKinstry with 5:46 to play. However, Skyview blocked the extra point to keep open the possibility of a Skyview comeback victory.
After Skyview's Danny England returned the kickoff 20 yards to the Homer 45-yard line, the Panthers quickly commenced the winning drive. Skyview faced a third-and-five right away, but Kenny Dean hit Richard Derkevorkian for a 28-yard gain that put the ball on the Homer 12.
The play was a halfback option, and Dean's pass was behind Derkevorkian. A Homer defender had a shot at the interception, but Derkevorkian somehow came up with the ball.
"I tell them you make your own breaks," Sheridan said. "Derkevorkian has caught balls like that all year because he's always concentrating on the ball."
Skyview then faced a fourth-and-13 from the Homer 15, but quarterback Tyler Wehrli, who was 1-for-8 with three interceptions at the time, threw a strike to a slanting Dolifka, who brought the ball down to the Homer 1.
"That play was open all day," Sheridan said. "We were just waiting until we needed it."
Wehrli then pushed the ball into the end zone on a quarterback sneak, pushing the score to 13-12 and leaving Sheridan with an interesting decision. Kick the extra point for a tie, or go for a two-point conversion and the win?
"When we had blocked that extra point, I knew I would be going for two points and the win," Sheridan said. "When you're a 1-6 football team, you don't have much to lose."
Clark Buffington took the carry on the two-point conversion and raced to the corner of the end zone just ahead of Homer defenders for a 14-13 lead with 1:15 left.
"I knew I had the first 2 yards, but the rest was going to be close," Buffington said. "I was able to do everything I did because of the line. This was the best they've done all year."
Homer coach Kelly Blake, whose team finished 4-4 overall, said it was tough to come out on the short end of such a hard-hitting game, but gave credit to both sides for putting it all on the line.
"My hat's off to Skyview," Blake said. "Their kids played the best ballgame they could and that's because it came from the heart."
Skyview's comeback made it easier for the Panthers to forget the first half, where they ventured inside the Homer 20 three times and did not score any points. Skyview's lone points in the first half came when Zack Rowell returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. Homer got its points after Justin Smith returned a Wehrli interception to the Skyview 9. On the next play, McKinstry, getting hit as he threw, found Brandon Moffet for a fingertip catch in the end zone.
Panthers 14, Mariners 13
Homer 0 7 0 6 --13
Skyview 6 0 0 8 --14
Sky -- Rowell 5 blocked punt return (kick failed), 2:14
Hom -- Moffet 9 pass from McKinstry (Hoanin kick), 7:27
Hom -- West 3 pass from McKinstry (kick failed), 5:46
Sky -- Wehrli 1 run (C. Buffington run), 1:15
First downs 11 8
Rushes-yards 42-102 33-114
Passing yards 91 68
Return yards 27 0
Passing 8-12-1 3-10-3
Punts-avg 4-9 3-29.3
Fumbles-lost 3-2 1-0
Penalties-yards 3-18 6-47
Rushing -- Homer: McKinstry 8-18, Smith 4-4, McWilliams 11-22, West 15-37, Hagen 3-23, Hoanin 1-(-2). Skyview: Bosick 5-49, Wehrli 8-9, Rowell 8-25, C. Buffington 8-22, England 3-4, Derkevorkian 1-5.
Passing -- Homer: McKinstry 8-12-1-91. Skyview: Wehrli 2-9-3-40, Dean 1-1-0-28.
Receiving -- Homer: Hoanin 1-11, Moffet 3-46, Gilbert 2-21, West 2-13. Skyview: Dolifka 2-40, Derkevorkian 1-28.
Missed field goals -- Homer: Hoanin, 27.
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