Being everyone'sfavorite opponent for homecoming isn't as nice as it sounds. That team ispicked to get pounded
AS FANS filledthe stands at Riverhead (N.Y.) High for a game against nearby Centereach on asunny October afternoon, attendance and expectations were higher than normal.They weren't there just to watch football. They came to experience anAll-American rite of passage: homecoming. The big pep rally had been held theday before, old grads were at the field renewing acquaintances, and coming upat halftime was the parade of Corvette convertibles bearing the homecomingqueen and her court. Of course, the day would not be complete without a victoryby the Riverhead football team.
Enter Centereach.The Cougars were serving as homecoming opponent for the third straight game.Coincidence? Not exactly. They were 6--14 over the last 2 1/2 seasons and 10thin the 12-team Division II entering the game against Riverhead (3--1). Schoolsmight not like to admit it, but, with so much anticipation attached tohomecoming, most purposely pick a game against a beatable opponent. "Itmakes me want to go out and show them we're not just any team that you can beatup on," says Cougars junior Kenny Williams, a running back andlinebacker.
Gallant effortsby Centereach have fallen short, however. On Sept. 29 they lost to previouslywinless Half Hollow East (Dix Hills, N.Y.) 19--13; a week later, againstNewfield (Selden, N.Y.)—then 3--0 and second ranked in the division—they wentdown 21--3.
Teams throughoutthe country know the feeling. Calabasas (Calif.), which until last month hadn'twon a game since Nov. 1, 2002, is the homecoming opponent for two teams thisyear. The Coyotes lost to Thousand Oaks (4--3) 56--19 on Oct. 5 and facepowerhouse Moorpark (4--3) this Friday. "Some of the guys take itpersonally when teams schedule us just to get a win. It can be a motivatingfactor," says Calabasas coach Lance Martin. "I tell them it's just afootball game, the only difference is that the halftime's a littlelonger."
On the otherhand, these teams should take heart in what George Marshall (Falls Church, Va.)accomplished last season. The Statesmen were scheduled as so-called homecomingpatsies three times, but turned the tables and won all three of those games.They finished 7--3, their first winning season in 13 years. This season?Marshall (5--3) was scheduled as a homecoming opponent just once, againstWoodson (Fairfax, Va.) last Friday. (The Statesmen blew a halftime lead to lose37--28.)
As forCentereach, the Cougars failed in their bid to deprive Riverhead fans of theirperfect Saturday. The Blue Waves pounded them, 55--13, behind quarterback TimVelys (144 passing yards and two touchdowns) and running back Miguel Maysonet(99 rushing yards and four TDs). It was a special day for Dana Lamendola, too:As the homecoming queen, she was cheered as she rode in the lead Corvette athalftime.
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Friday Night Lights
PERMIAN (Odessa, Texas) at ABILENE (Texas), Oct.26
With Permian winning four state Class 5A championshipsfrom 1980 through '91, Mojo was at its peak when the original Friday NightLights was published in '90. Though the Panthers haven't won so much as adistrict title in 13 years, this fall Permian and Abilene are the lastundefeated teams (7--0) in District 3. The Panthers have won by an averagemargin of 33.9 points, while the Eagles' margin is 16.6. Quarterbacks TaylorByrd (left) of Permian (492 yards rushing, 1,193 passing) and Spens Lackey(right) of Abilene (231 rushing, 1,130 passing) lead their teams.
TWO-TIME RECORD HOLDER
Cherokee (Iowa) junior quarterback Tyler Jones brokethe state record for career passing yardage—twice. On Oct. 12 he surpassed the6,813-yard total of St. Ansgar's Matt Sherman (1989 through '92) by a singleyard, but his final completion of the game was for a one-yard loss and droppedhim into a tie. Jones beat the record for good last Friday, completing 22 of 30for 295 yards and two TDs in a 22--12 win over Sioux Center.
ELWAY'S NEXT STOP
Jack Elway, a senior quarterback at Cherry Creek(Colo.) and the son of NFL Hall of Famer John Elway, gave an oral commitment toArizona State last Saturday. Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson was a formeroffensive coordinator under Jack Elway Sr., John's father, at San Jose State.With John serving as quarterbacks coach at Cherry Creek, Jack has thrown for1,677 yards and 21 TDs with only three interceptions this season for the 6--2Bruins.
SI's Top 10 Power Rankings
1 NORTHWESTERN (Miami) 7--0
Faces big test against league rival Miami Central (7-0-1)
2 ST. XAVIER (Cincinnati) 9--0
Survived a 17--14, triple-OT thriller with St. Ignatius (Cleveland) before acrowd of 8,000 last Saturday
3 SOUTH PANOLA (Batesville, Miss.) 7--0
Darius Barksdale ran for 286 yards in win over Tupelo
4 CARROLL (Southlake, Texas) 6--1
Dragons will overwhelm the porous defense of Keller (Texas)
5 KATY (Texas) 7--0
Crosstown rival Cinco Ranch (4--3) must stop a 42.3-points-per-game attack
6 MATER DEI (Santa Ana, Calif.) 7--0
Looks like another W vs. 3--4 St. John Bosco (Bellflower)
7 HAMILTON (Chandler, Ariz.) 8--0
Coming off a 42--0 win, visits 3--5 Mesquite (Gilbert, Ariz.)
8 MARYVILLE (Tenn.) 8--0
Up next: Halls (Knoxville), led by RB Wesley Kitts (14 TDs)
9 COLERAIN (Cincinnati) 9--0
Expects to finish undefeated in finale vs. local foe Oak Hills (3--6)
10 BOOKER T. WASHINGTON (Miami) 6-0-1
Tornadoes already have five shutouts
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DÉJ√Ä BLUE Velys (above) and Riverhead handed the Cougars their third straight loss as a homecoming guest.
[See caption above]
TOMMY METTHE/ABILENE REPORTER-NEWS (LACKEY)
KEVIN BUEHLER/ODESSA AMERICAN (BYRD)
JOHN LEYBA/THE DENVER POST