Will Homan needed less than one full game this fall to match his scoring output from the spring. Through Saint Francis' four games last season, the 5-foot-9, 189-pound junior ran for two touchdowns – the lone Cougar to amass multiple rushing scores. In Saturday's 45-34 victory at Judson, Homan notched 1-yard runs for Saint Francis' first and last touchdowns as part of a 113-yard rushing effort.
Homan, who ran 20 times against Judson, and classmate Cameron Peterson, who picked up 102 yards on 19 carries with a score, shouldered the offensive load. As Homan explained, he and Peterson both plan to continue answering the call when needed, including at 1 p.m. Saturday when No. 13 Saint Francis returns to Illinois to face Saint Xavier in Chicago.
“We knew that Cam and I would be splitting carries,” Homan said. “We both had a good fall camp, and the (offensive line) has been great. Coach (Trevor) Miller prepares them really well. I think (39) carries were more than we expected, but we're ready and more than willing to get the ball that many times.
“The coaches said they don't remember a time where Saint Francis had two backs over 100 yards. I think that just shows how we prepped for the game.”
In fact, the last contest two Saint Francis rushers eclipsed the century mark came Sept. 3, 2016, a 58-14 win at Olivet Nazarene in Bradley, Illinois. Justin Green ran for 108 yards on 10 carries while Aaron Harris finished with 106 yards on 15 attempts. Green and Harris also rushed for two touchdowns apiece.
Noticing in film study how Judson defenders relied on aggressive play and blitzing defenders, both backs utilized jump cuts – a skill honed by coach Eddie Nolan – to create openings and turn short runs into longer gains.
“Coach Nolan is just awesome at skill development,” Homan said. “He'll notice little things about (opposing defenses), and (he said), 'One little jump cut, you'll be able to bust it'. He just has a drill for everything, and he prepares Cam and I and all the other running backs for every single game.”
As Homan and Peterson continued to gain yards, that took the pressure off quarterback Heath Simmons, who attempted just 18 passes. Homan knows that Simmons will need to win some games with his arm, but any player getting his number called stands ready to go.
“We need to stay balanced and be unpredictable,” Homan said. “Maybe next game Cam and I have 10 carries. I think that's what's special about this team, everyone's willing to do their role, to do their job, every single game.”
at Saint Xavier
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Records: Saint Francis (1-0), Saint Xavier (1-1)
Broadcast: Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM WRDF, Livestream at www.saintfranciscougars.com