It was a relatively cool Saturday morning in July – the Homestead High School campus was quiet, for the most part, save for a local travel baseball game on the Spartans' varsity diamond – and soon-to-be junior split end Carlos Sanchez was out on the new “band turf” with his father, Luis, working on his route-running.
“Just getting ready for the season,” he said, initially unaware that he was speaking to a sportswriter. “Working on my timing.”
Dad's projectiles may not have had the same accurate zip that quarterback Logan Ormsby possesses, but the effort was there. One after another, balls wobbled through the crisp summer air like butterflies at a barbecue. Each time, the younger Sanchez would cradle the pigskin as if it were a newborn child, before opening his hips and heading for the end zone.
No wonder passing records were shattered like mason jars at a hoedown in last week's season-opening smothering of Huntington North. Homestead scored early and often, racing out to a 42-6 advantage at halftime, before mercifully closing things at 49-6.
It could have been much worse.
“We did a lot more extra work than we'd usually do in the offseason,” said Ormsby, who established program marks against the Vikings for yards (421) and touchdown passes (six) in a single game. “We even stay after practice to work on plays that (we may attempt) against a (certain) defense that week.”
Junior split ends Ben Skowronek (five receptions for 208 yards and four touchdowns – both records) and Sanchez (three grabs for 136 yards and two scores) were Homestead's home-run hitters a week ago, though senior slot receiver John Lark chipped in five catches for 67 yards. Junior slot receiver Austin Krider turned his ankle in the first half, or he would've likely been more involved. Backups Connor Fitzharris and Jonah Watson will likely spell Krider tomorrow night when Homestead travels to Valparaiso.
“(Valparaiso) is a 6A school so they have a lot of players and talent,” Skowronek said of this week's “Viking” challenge. “This week, we'll incorporate the run more. They run a 4-4 cover three (defense); a little different from Huntington North. We'll have to play pretty well to beat them.”
Huntington North loaded up the defensive box with six or seven defenders against the Spartans' spread attack, essentially daring them to throw the ball. They obliged by racing out to a 35-6 edge early in the second quarter, and Homestead still had not attempted a running play.
“To be honest,” offensive coordinator Bill Skelton said moments after the game, “I don't really like that. We have to be able to establish a run game if we want to go deep (in the postseason). But at the same time, you have to take what the defense gives you.”
This Homestead passing attack likely gives opposing defensive coaches sleepless nights. Ormsby, who is mobile enough to be a constant rushing threat by himself, has a little bit of everything at his disposal when it comes to his four primary targets.
“Ben has that big-body build (at 6-feet, 4 inches tall), and he's a great runner,” Ormsby said. “Carlos on the other side has the speed and ball skills. Then we got John Lark, who is really fast, and then Krider, who has great hands and great hips. He can turn a screen play into a 10-yard gain every time. They have a wide range of talents; they're all good at different things.”
For Skelton, he equates the Spartans' aerial assembly to a basketball team full of gym rats.
“They are football junkies,” said Skelton, in his fourth year with the program, but second year as the team's offensive coordinator. “It's a great group of kids who works really hard. They work hard in the weight room, running sessions, going to camps, individual private training – all the things you do to take your game to the next level. These kids just love football.”
And they seem to care about one another, too, having developed chemistry off the field.
“We hang out sometimes on the weekends, go to (Buffalo Wild Wings), because chemistry is very important to have between the receiving corps and the quarterback,” said Skowronek, a former quarterback himself. “It's especially important with the quarterback, so you're always on the same page as him.”
The Homestead receivers are content knowing that the 2014 campaign could be a share-the-wealth proposition on certain Friday nights. Whether you're receiving double-coverage, or a teammate has the hot hand, there will be times when Ormsby looks elsewhere.
“As long as we're winning,” Skowronek said, “that's all that matters to me. We have three other great receivers who can get open (on any given play), so it's not a big deal at all.”
Added Ormsby: “It really just depends what the defense gives us.”
Sanchez shared a similar sentiment.
“Sometimes (the opposition) will double-cover Ben, but with three other great receivers, they have to pick,” he said. “We have four main receivers and not many teams will be able to stop our passing game. Sometimes you won't get the ball a lot, but being a team player, that doesn't effect me or the team."
Homestead coach Chad Zolman, who has had his fair share of prolific passing attacks during his tenure with the Spartans, summed up this group succinctly.
"They all want the ball, but they understand that there is only one ball," he said. "They have one thing in common: they love to play football. As a whole they could be one of the best groups we have had."