When opposing football teams are preparing for Smith-Cotton, they see plenty of No. 20 and No. 33 on film.
This week, St. Pius X is studying the Tigers and they are watching a lot of No. 20 and No. 33 running the football and breaking tackles on offense, but they are also preparing to gain yardage against those two as well.
“They do a good job at running down hill,” said Smith-Cotton coach Ryan Boyer. “We tell them, ‘You’re not a shifty running back. You get one move and then get back down hill.’”
Seniors Noah Aziere (No. 20) and Carlton Homan (No. 33) have taken over the S-C backfield, but have also been a part of stopping opposing running backs from their linebacker spots.
Aziere is fifth on the team in tackles with 36, but Homan is right behind with 32.
Both are very aware of how close they are to each other in that category and all of the offensive stat categories.
“We focus more on offense I think stat-wise,” Homan said. “I think defense we just focus on going out there and getting the job done. We talk about it on days when they pull out the tackle sheet.”
The backfield tandem has combined for 1,069 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground.
“I think it’s amazing how you can give the ball to either of us and we can each do an amazing job,” Aziere said. “We both love to carry the ball and we both block for each other. We lay it on the line for each other.”
Aziere has the edge in yards with 621 to Homan’s 448, but Homan has a 10-6 edge in scores.
“It’s definitely a constant competition,” Aziere said. “I think that’s what makes us better each day is we just compete.”
While they enjoy the competition for who has a better game each week, they are focused on helping each other and the team as a whole on each play no matter who gets the ball on offense or the tackle on defense.
“It’s always fun whenever you can go pick up a brother after the play and say, ‘Hey, good run,’” Homan said. “We have that connection back there.”
Boyer said what he enjoys most about Aziere and Homan in the backfield is their unselfishness.
“What we’re most proud of is we know they can both run hard, but now they’ve taken a lot of pride and worked really hard for blocking for each other,” he said.
Aziere can use his power but also shows off his speed, breaking a 72-yard touchdown run in Week 1 and a 70-yard score in Week 4. Homan uses his power most of the time and gets most of the goal line carries.
“I have to get a couple of those,” Homan said of long runs. “I’ve had some 20 and 30 but no 60 or 70. That’s where he’s got me at.”
At the start of the season, senior Dalton Zaremba got a fair share of carries on offense but has been sidelined since Week 3 with an ankle injury.
“When Zaremba went down it definitely felt like the opposite of a weight lifted off our shoulders,” Aziere said. “It felt like we had a lot of pressure on us. … We knew we had to work twice as hard and that’s what we did to pick up our fallen brother.”
Seven games into the season, both are trying to stay as healthy as possible to help continue the team’s winning streak that stands at seven heading into Friday’s game at Tiger Stadium against the Warriors.
“I can definitely tell after the game when I’m kind of beat to crap, but I think we hold up pretty well,” Homan said.
The Tigers have a possible conference title-deciding game next week at Center, but this week of practice has been about cleaning up their mistakes after an inconsistent performance last week against Clinton.
“That’s the tough thing because we know that Center is going to be a big game for us because that could be the conference championship if we play our cards right,” Homan said. “We just need to ficus on Pius.”
A Tigers win Friday would be the first 8-0 start for them since they started 12-0 in 2008 before losing in the Class 4 quarterfinals to Kearney.
“We’ve just got to keep that same mentality and don’t get a big head and I think we’ll do amazing things,” Aziere said.
Jason Strickland can be reached at 660-530-0147 or on Twitter @J_Strick_Sports.