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Perfection: Hubbard completes undefeated season with win over Canfield

November 2, 2013
By MIKE McLAIN - Tribune Chronicle (mmclain@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

CANFIELD - It was a pleasant night for the first of November with temperatures hovering in the low 50s.

Nice enough for a cold Gatorade shower.

Hubbard Eagles coach Brian Hoffman was the willing victim of the shower, courtesy of joyful players who celebrated the school's third 10-0 football season. The mark was achieved in grand fashion as the Eagles spotted the Canfield Cardinals a touchdown before rolling to a 40-7 win in an All American Conference, American Division game Friday at Bob Dove Stadium.

"It felt good," Hoffman said of the Gatorade shower. "I'll take it, no question."

The Eagles put an exclamation point on the division title with a 5-0 record. At the same time they clinched a home game for the first round of the Division III, Region 7 playoffs.

Seldom do teams expect to go 10-0, but that doesn't stop the good ones from dreaming. It was no secret before the season began that this is a special Hubbard team. Going 10-0 isn't a surprise.

"We said that from the start," senior receiver Darnell Tate said. "We can only beat ourselves, and obviously we didn't beat ourselves because we went 10-0. So, we did it."

Like most coaches, Hoffman was a bit more cautious when the season began. He had to make sure the players didn't get caught up in the preseason optimism and forget the goals that were set.

"These guys did a really nice job of not looking past the next game and staying focused and being coachable," Hoffman said. "I'm proud of them. Coming into the season we had a little bit of publicity, and sometimes that can be a negative thing because sometimes it can go to people's heads and they start believing the press clippings and don't prepare the way they should.

"Thank goodness for our senior class and their leadership and, along with my coaching staff, keeping them grounded. It's a great season."

The Eagles didn't have to make much use of standout junior running back L.J. Scott, who injured an ankle early in the game and was held out the rest of way. Scott had only one carry for 9 yards. The injury doesn't appear serious.

"We decided not to risk it anymore and see if we can get him healthy for next week," Hoffman said.

Fear not, Eagle fans. Sophomore George Hill was more than ready to come to the rescue. Hill is known more for his sprinter's speed, but he showed a dash of strength on inside runs in gaining 178 yards on 12 carries. He scored touchdowns on runs of 1, 64 and 50 yards.

"He's a sophomore, but he's seasoned at this point because he's carried the ball enough times," Hoffman said. "We have confidence that he can do the job. The thing I liked most about him tonight was the way he carried the ball. Everyone knows he has speed and can get to the outside, but he did a nice job of running between the tackles, and running hard.

"Our offensive line once again did an outstanding job up front, creating seams for him."

Defensively, the Eagles needed to keep talented Cardinals quarterback Kimu Kim from running wild. Kim, who entered the game as the leading rusher in the conference with 1,584 yards, tacked on another 146 on 31 carries, but he was kept out of the end zone.

"They are a lot more than just L.J. Scott," Cardinals coach Mike Pavlansky said. "He's really good, but they have so many weapons. There's a reason why they're undefeated and headed to the playoffs."

The Cardinals (3-7 and 2-3 in the division) opened the scoring on a 5-yard run by Aaron Jenkins. The touchdown came six plays after Jake Dawson recovered a fumble by Tate at the Hubbard 31.

It was all Hubbard the rest of the game. Tate hauled in a 24-yard scoring pass from quarterback Brennan Wassil as Hubbard tied the score, 7-7. Tate then jumped an outside route and intercepted a Kim pass, returning it 65 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter.

Hill scored from 1 yard out to give the Eagles a 21-7 halftime lead.

Isiah Scott caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Wassil on the opening possession of the third period. Hill then ran 64 yards for a score to push the lead to 34-7 after three quarters.

Hill closed out the scoring in the fourth quarter on a 50-yard run.

The win should give the Eagles a boost of confidence going into the playoffs.

"Too much (confidence)," Tate said. "We have to be prepared Monday for a new week."