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Eagles prepared for Marlington's offense

November 8, 2013
By MIKE McLAIN - Tribune Chronicle ( , Underthelights

HUBBARD - It didn't take long for Brian Hoffman to get the attention of the Hubbard Eagles when the players received a scouting report on the Marlington Dukes last Monday.

Once the players heard the word "option," they knew it would mean a week of diligent preparation for a Division III, Region 7 first-round playoff tonight.

"It makes it assignment football for us," said Hoffman, the Eagles seventh-year coach. "They have a lot of size up front, and their quarterback is a dual threat. He throws the ball well, and he's able to make plays with his ground game, too."

Senior quarterback Shawn Kirk was the focus of much of the attention during Hubbard practices this week. Kirk helped lead the Dukes to an 8-2 record, which included losses to Poland and Louisville.

The message was clear to members of the Eagles' defense - patrol your assigned gaps and don't take chances. A talented option quarterback can be difficult to deal with for the best of defenses.

"It's a complicated offense," senior linebacker Alex Mosora said. "We all have to do one job every play. All we have to do is our job, and we should stop them."

Sometimes the best way to handle a talented offense is to gear up your offense. The Eagles have the ability to score in big numbers with the running of junior L.J. Scott and sophomore George Hill. Senior quarterback Brennan Wassil has added enough offense through the air to give the 10-0 Eagles an impressive blend of run and pass.

Hoffman was pleased with Hill's performance in the absence of the injured Scott last Friday against Canfield. Hill rushed for 178 yards and three touchdowns in a 40-7 win.

The Eagles will enter the first round on an upswing.

"I feel that we've played well, particularly the last three weeks," Hoffman said. "We've matured in a lot of areas as a team. Obviously my biggest concern is health. We have some guys with significant injuries and some guys trying to get back from injuries. My biggest concern is depth and getting those guys ready for Friday."

The Eagles were dominant at times in the regular season, outscoring the opposition by a combined score of 442-168. Averaging 44.2 points a game was impressive, especially against the competition Hubbard faced.

This year's team could be more equipped to make a dent in the playoffs than last year's team that lost to eventual Division III state champion Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the second round.

"We try to keep them looking ahead and not past anybody," Hoffman said. "We've been able to do that so far. I'm sure we're going to focus that same type of way this week."

Last season the Eagles didn't enjoy the privilege of playing at home in the first round. Instead they made the short trip to Niles, where they defeated the Red Dragons, 39-27.

Hoffman can expect a warm greeting by a large gathering of Eagles' fans. There's no way to gauge how much of an advantage it is to play at home in the playoffs.

"We're very enthusiastic about having the chance to play on the home field one more time," Hoffman said. "It's a great atmosphere for high school football. We're thankful we can play one more time."

If all goes well, Hoffman might be thankful for making it to round two.