FORT WAYNE – Homestead running back Frank Martin had been dropped for negative yards on three straight carries.
But when the Class 5A No. 9 Spartans needed him most against Class 4A No. 10 New Haven on Friday night, the senior delivered in front of the home crowd.
Martin ripped off runs of 32 and 23 yards late in the fourth quarter to set up quarterback Matt Skowronek’s 2-yard touchdown run with 3:39 that all but sealed Homestead’s 24-13 victory.
Our team needed a boost, so I just felt like I needed to pick it up to get us going, said Martin, who finished with 84 rushing yards on 10 carries. I picked it up and got us going, and we got rolling and got the touchdown.
Homestead defensive back Caleb Hackley delivered the final blow by intercepting a pass from New Haven quarterback Kevin Ware at the Spartans’ 45 with 1:03 to play. It was the second fourth-quarter turnover the Spartans (9-0, 7-0) forced on their way to a sixth straight NHC title.
We were playing a little more conservative, and our kids were able to read and do a little better job of finding the ball I think, said Homestead coach Chad Zolman, whose team plays No. 4 Snider (9-0) in the first round of the 5A playoffs Friday.
Skowronek scored both second-half touchdowns for the Spartans, who trailed at halftime for the first time this season.
Skowronek’s first touchdowncame on a 16-yard run the put Homestead up 17-13 with 8:25 to play in the third quarter.
That was the first time since I’ve been at Homestead that we were down at half, said Skowronek, who threw for 135 yards and ran for 58. It was a little different feeling for us, but we just kept our composure.
Friday’s win was the first time Homestead was at full strength in a while as receiver Isaac Griffith, an Indiana recruit, returned after missing two games and running back Grayson Bastin was back after missing three games.
Griffith had five receptions for 33 yards, and Bastin ran for 23 yards on eight carries.
Last week, it felt like there was a little funk or something was wrong, said Griffith, who wore a brace on his left ankle. I told them, we’re back, and we need to be the leaders of this team and lead like we could.
New Haven (7-2, 5-2) took a 13-10 lead into halftime thanks to running back Anthony Moore, who ran for 206 yards on 30 carries. Moore set up Ware’s first-quarter 1-yard touchdown with a 56-yard burst, and he scored on a 44-yard run in the second quarter before Homestead’s Nolan McMahon’s 38-yard field goal cut the Bulldogs’ lead to three.
We really challenged them this week to come out and play with heart, dedication and to get on a roll and get some confidence so we can go make run in our sectionals, said New Haven coach Jim Rowland, whose team plays host to Marion in the first round of the 4A sectionals Friday. They did that.