HUBBARD - In an atmosphere usually reserved for playoff games, Hubbard and Poland traded punches for 48 minutes on Thursday night, but it was Bulldogs running back Jerry Lawman who landed the knockout blows in his team's 37-31 victory.
The senior carried the ball 36 times for 182 yards and scored four touchdowns in a brutal performance powered by old-school gap blocking and fierce fullback Mike Turnbull, who kicked out backers and ends all evening.
"He runs so hard - he even trains hard - and everything he does is all-out," Poland coach Mark Brungard said. "And so guys are inspired to block for him, because they know he's going to give it everything he has."
Hubbard showed various looks from its five-man front, but nothing worked.
"They were blocking well, and they were getting after us in the trenches - it's that simple," Hubbard coach Brian Hoffman said. "There wasn't a lot of complexity to what they were doing - they were just running off-tackle a lot, and the stretch and bootleg, and then they hit us with a big pass play."
It appeared Hubbard runner Larry Scott was going to steal the show in the opening minutes when he took an Ashton Owens handoff from the shotgun, got bottled up on the right, and then slashed through Poland's defense for an 83-yard touchdown.
It was only the second carry of the freshman's career.
"For a freshman, he did a nice job tonight - we're excited about him," Hoffman said. "We even played him on the other side of the ball tonight, and he responded well."
Lawman put the Bulldogs on the board in the second quater when he ripped off a 21-yard scoring run, which was followed minutes later with a 35-yard field goal by Connor McFadden.
Down 10-6, the Eagles responded on the next posession when Owens turned a second-and-16 situation into a 63-yard touchdown pass to Zach Merrell. Lined up in the right slot in a one-back, shotgun formation, the senior ran a go, but took it outside when the Poland secondary converged on the outside reciever. Owens lofted the ball high in the air, and it bounced off a defender and into the hands of Merrell, who scampered down the sideline and into the endzone.
The Bulldogs looked up at a 12-10 deficit at halftime, but Lawman took matters into his own hands to open the third quarter when he carried the ball seven times in a nine-play drive that ended with another off-tackle run - this one a two-yard score.
Hubbard immediately punched back with an eight-play drive that ended when Owens found split-end Nick Shelton on a nice square-in from the left for a 30-yard score.
Backed into a cornder, and staring up at a 18-17 deficit, Troy Conti gave the Bulldogs the lead right back when he returned the ensuing kick 90 yards for a touchdown.
"They're were a lot of positives - we played a lot of young guys, but I thought we had the opportunities to win the game," Hoffman said. "There were big plays on both sides - I think their kick return really was a back-breaker for us because they got the momentum back, but then again we didn't respond offensively."
Owens finished with 248 yards through the air and tossed four touchdown passes. His counterpart, Colin Reardon, was effective; he completed 10 of 17 passes for 139 yards, including a 39-yard pass to Lawman to convert a third-and-12, which led to the Bulldogs' last score.
"We made enough plays in the passing game - Collin extended some plays and used his arm, and recievers came up with a couple real big catches - no bigger than the one jerry made there at the end, and that was what we needed to offset them," Brungard said. "They were filling the box because obviously we were running the ball well."