Homer coach Justin Zank may not have known what play to call in tough moments Friday, but he sure knew whose number to call.
Sophomore quarterback Carter Tennison made a flurry of big plays in leading the Mariners to a 50-7 victory over host Nikiski.
Despite the lopsided score, the Mariners (2-1 overall) were far from perfect in committing three turnovers and losing 110 yards to penalties. When Homer got in tough down-and-distance situations, though, Tennison often made a big play.
“You don’t have many third-and-15 plays in the playbook,” Zank said. “It’s nice to have a quarterback that can do things like that.”
Tennison passed for four touchdowns and ran for another two. He finished 16 of 30 through the air for 281 yards and an interception. He also led Homer’s rushing attack with 170 yards on 21 carries, and had an interception and fumble recovery on defense.
Sly Gaona had 142 yards receiving for Homer, including three touchdowns.
While Homer was playing for the third time, Nikiski was playing for just the first time this season. The Bulldogs took advantage by honoring Dylan Harris, Koleman McCaughey, Quentin Oskolkoff, Caileb Payne, Gavin White and Jaryn Zoda for senior night.
Nikiski got off to a great start, with McCaughey popping loose for a 66-yard touchdown run on the game’s second play from scrimmage.
Homer then faced a third-and-24 from its own 20-yard line, but Tennison hit Kian Smith for a 47-yard gain.
“We came out and played well,” Nikiski coach Paul Nelson said. “We scored right away and got them in third-and-long. We had a defensive breakdown and they took over from there.”
After that 66-yard run, the Homer defense would allow just 152 yards rushing the entire game. Zank said Joel Manwiller and Nestor Kalugin were stout at inside linebacker, while River Mann and Tennison got the job done at outside linebacker. Zank also said Sean Pilant made a big difference on defense.
On offense, three touchdown catches from Gaona, a touchdown catch from Smith and a scoring run from Kamdyn Doughty would put the Mariners up 36-0 at halftime.
The Bulldogs played better in the second half, holding the Mariners to a pair of Tennison touchdown runs. However, the Bulldogs ended with six turnovers on offense.
“We tell the kids we need 11 of 11 to go 100 percent on every play,” Nelson said. “I don’t think we’re getting that.”
Nelson said seniors McCaughey (15 carries for 122 yards) and Payne played well, but he added many Nikiski players are young or inexperienced. He said that meant they didn’t make good in-game adjustments in the first half, but did better when Nelson had halftime to more thoroughly explain things.
“Homer earned it for sure,” Nelson said. “They had a good game plan and executed it better than us.”
Zank said Homer was hurt by costly penalties, especially in the second half.
“We’re obviously happy with what we were able to do here, but we still have a lot to clean up,” he said.
Mariners 50, Bulldogs 7
Homer 20 16 6 8 —50
Nikiski 7 0 0 0 —7
Nik — K. McCaughey 66 run (White kick), 11:03.
Hom — Doughty 5 run (Tennison run), 7:56.
Hom — Smith 33 pass from Tennison (run failed), 7:11.
Hom — Gaona 20 pass from Tennison (run failed), 0:12.
Hom — Gaona 30 pass from Tennison (Gaona run), 8:21.
Hom — Gaona 20 pass from Tennison (Tennison run), 4:29.
Hom — Tennison 12 run (run failed), 6:20.
Hom — Tennison 1 run (Doughty run), 5:35.
First downs 12 6
Rushes-yards 36-221 35-152
Passing yards 281 27
Comp-att-int 16-30-1 1-8-2
Return yards 37 10
Punts 1-29 3-33.0
Penalties 14-110 8-65
Rushing — Homer: Tennison 21-170, Doughty 9-39, Pleznac 3-12, Gaona 1-(-7), Dax 2-7. Nikiski: Zoda 9-16, K. McCaughey 15-122, Warnke 3-(-5), T. McCaughey 5-7, Bostic 1-1, Harris 2-11.
Passing — Homer: Tennison 16-30-1—281; Nikiski: Bostic 1-8-2—27.
Receiving — Homer: Smith 3-87, Gaona 8-142, Doughty 1-4, J. Hrenchir 1-16, C. Hrenchir 2-9, Huffman 1-23. Nikiski: White 1-27.