On Friday night, Homer High School students braved wet weather to gather around a homecoming bonfire in the school parking lot. In the air, smoke mingled with raindrops and prayers for a win in Saturday’s football game against Voznesenka.
It seems those prayers paid off. Members of the Homer High School band barely had time to put down their trumpets and drumsticks between celebratory performances of “Anchors Away” after each touchdown. The Mariners led the Cougars throughout the game, ending with a final score of 55-0 and boosting the Mariners to a 4-4 record.
They’ll head to Eielson for the playoffs this weekend, an accomplishment that the team hasn’t boasted since 2012.
“This is a really good, tight group of kids and I’m blessed to coach them,” said Coach Josh Fraley. “It’s also fun that we get to play another game — usually it’s just eight, so it’s fun to play nine.”
It was an emotional day for seniors on the team, marking their last homecoming. At the beginning of the game, each senior player and cheerleader was announced over the megaphone, coming through a tunnel of players onto the field with proud parents at his or her side.
After scoring his first touchdown in the first period, senior and tight end Michael Swoboda ran an inscribed football out to his mother in the stands.
And twelfth-graders were some of the game’s big stars: Swoboda had two touchdowns and a field goal and halfback Josh Fisk had two touchdowns.
But there was no glory hogging on Saturday.
“We got the JV in there, that was really good,” said Fisk. “It’s great when we can get everybody in and still get the W.”
Swoboda agreed. “It went real well. We got a lot of seniors out there, everybody got to touch the ball,” he said.
After the game, Fraley extended a nod to the Cougars.
“Voz has come a long ways, too,” he said. “They’re a great bunch of kids who never quit.”
In keeping with this homecoming’s “Neverland” theme, cheerleaders changed into pink fairy costumes during the second quarter and pulled off some impressive lifts and pom-pom shaking cheers to the delight of the blue-and-gold-striped crowd.
At halftime, floats created by each grade paraded around the track, tossing candy to cheering family and friends on the bleachers. Seniors went all out with the theme, dressing up as Peter Pan characters from Tinkerbell to Captain Hook. (See related story, this page.)
The homecoming royalty also was announced at halftime: freshmen Dexter Lowe and Brenna McCarren were named Lord and Lady, sophomores Brenden Fenex and Kaitlyn Baxter were Duke and Duchess, juniors Lilli Johnson and Ravi Cavasos were voted Prince and Princess, and seniors Danny Wiest and Elise Webber were crowned King and Queen. All but Lowe were on hand to don their crowns and sashes and smile for the cameras. Lowe was in Anchorage, helping his team to a second-place finish at the state cross country championships.
“I applaud our junior student council for putting a lot of effort into our float and making the king and queen happy. Oh, and for the candy,” said Lilli Johnson.
When the clock hit zero, a cheer went through the crowd as the Mariners were announced the victors. The team met in the end zone before dispersing to get cookies baked by Coach Fraley’s grandmother and meet congratulatory friends and family members.
“It always feels good but it feels better when we can play as a team, do it all together,” said Swoboda. “Hopefully we can keep that going.”
At 8 o’clock Saturday night, students convened at the high school in their finest attire to celebrate the win at the Homecoming Dance.
Annie Rosenthal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.