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Hubbard survives in battle of unbeatens

Eagles move to 8-0; Poland falls to 7-1

October 19, 2013
By MIKE McLAIN - Tribune Chronicle (mmclain@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

HUBBARD - Never underestimate the power of a timeout in football.

Hubbard Eagles coach Brian Hoffman appeared ready to let dependable kicker Vlassios Pizanias attempt what would have been a 32-yard field goal for a chance to defeat the Poland Bulldogs in the first overtime period Friday night. The idea seemed a bit unconventional, given that it was third-and-5 and the distance was precarious even for the best of NFL kickers.

A few people got in Hoffman's ear during the timeout, including junior running back L.J. Scott, who wanted the ball in his hands instead of on Pizanais' right foot.

Article Photos

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Hubbard’s Tyler Taafe makes a reception and runs into the end zone for a first-quarter touchdown as a Poland defender gives chase. Hubbard stayed perfect on the season, defeating Poland, 30-24, in overtime.

Hoffman changed his mind and decided to go with his best offensive weapon. Scott had carries of 7, 6 and 2 yards to score the clinching touchdown in a 30-24 All-American Conference win for the Eagles.

"We figured third down; we have Larry Scott and our offensive line has been playing well all year,"Hoffman said. "We're going to give them one more chance, and popped one like we knew he would."

The win is the first for the Eagles against the Bulldogs since 2006 and keeps them undefeated at 8-0. The Bulldogs are 7-1.

Given that the Bulldogs were second and the Eagles third in the Division III, Region 7 computer standings, it's possible they could meet again in the playoffs a few weeks from now.

"I don't know if I do (want that to happen)," Bulldogs coach Mark Brungard said. "They're a really good team. They executed when they had to win the game. I give coach Hoffman and his staff a lot of credit."

For the most part it was battle of the ground attacks. Scott rushed 31 times for 113 yards and the one touchdown. Poland senior Ross Gould had 19 carries for 152 yards, including an 84-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half.

That run breathed life back into the Bulldogs, who were bogged down by numerous 5-yard penalties and a stubborn Eagles' defense in the first half. Hubbard, which marched 50 yards to score on a 30-yard pass from Brennan Wassil to Tyler Taafe after Isiah Scott weaved his way for 19 yards with the opening kick, led 17-7 at intermission.

Gould's touchdown run and the point-after kick by Bob Devito gave the game a playoff feel.

"We talked about it in the locker room" Scott said. "We knew they were going to come out with some momentum. They came out the first play of the half and scored. We knew we had to shut down the momentum and get this thing on a roll."

The Eagles tried to regain the momentum but a goal-line stand by the Bulldogs ended that hope. Scott was stopped for no gain at the Poland 2.

Poland backup quarterback Dom Petrony, who replaced Jacob Wolfe after Wolfe appeared to injure a thumb, was then intercepted by Wassil on a deep pass down a seam. The pick gave the Eagles possession at the Bulldogs' 15. Two plays later Wassil connected with Isiah Scott, who ran a crossing route in the end zone.

Trailing 24-14, the Bulldogs showed why they were undefeated with a 74-yard, 13-play drive that resulted in a 32-yard field goal by Devito to cut the deficit to 24-17 with 8:29 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Bulldogs marched 50 yards in eight plays on their next possession to score on a 29-yard pass from Petrony to George Chammas. Devito tied the game at 24-24 with the point-after kick.

The Bulldogs' lone possession in overtime had a disastrous start when Petrony was dropped for a 3-yard loss. Poland was penalized for an illegal block on the play, which moved the ball back to the 43. The possession ended when a third-down pass by Petrony was intercepted by Wassil.

The Eagles needed five plays to set off a big celebration.

Pizanias kicked a 24-yard field goal in the first quarter after Taafe's score to give the Eagles a 10-0 lead. Petrony scored on a 25-yard run three plays after he recovered a fumble by Wassil at the Eagles' 29.

Wassil connected with Isiah Scott on a 14-yard scoring pass later in the second period.

"Sometimes you have to have your setbacks in life before you can taste that sweet victory," Hoffman said. "We've been taking it for a little bit and this feels pretty good."