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The need for speed

Hubbard, SV-SM bring quick teams to field

November 22, 2013
By JOE SIMON - Tribune Chronicle (jsimon@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

If the saying "speed kills" is true, then people at the Division III, Region 7 final between Hubbard and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary better be careful.

Two of the quickest - and most talented - teams in the state square off in a marquee battle of unbeatens at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Ravenna High School.

The Irish (13-0) are the returning D-III state champs and boast two players who are Ohio State University-bound - linebacker Dante Booker and running back Parris Campbell - and another headed to Akron in linebacker Newman Williams.

Article Photos

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Hubbard’s Matt Jones (79) gives a block for L.J. Scott, right, who finds running room against Brookfield earlier this year. Hubbard takes on Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary tonight.

Hubbard (13-0) counters with junior L.J. Scott, who's being recruited by numerous upper-echelon Division I colleges, Darnell Tate, a speedy receiver/running back with more than 1,000 all-purpose yards, and sophomore George Hill, who has burst onto the scene this year with 14 touchdowns and an 11.6 yards-per-carry average.

Fans better not blink, or they might miss a touchdown.

"The speed that they possess offensively and defensively is superior to what we've seen so far this season - absolutely," said Hubbard coach Brian Hoffman, whose defense might be best equipped to slow the Irish because of the speed it faces every week in practice. "It's been beneficial. Defensively, we have an idea with our own players of the type of speed that we're going to see."

In a matchup centered around skill, Hubbard holds an advantage in the overlooked area up front, where the Eagles' size could pose problems for St. Vincent-St. Mary. Players like junior Matt Jones (6 foot 4, 290 pounds) and seniors Jared O'Hara (6-3, 290) and Jake Frost (6-3, 235) have been major cogs in a dominant Hubbard rushing attack. The Eagles are averaging 313.7 yards per game and have 47 rushing touchdowns, but they're facing an Irish defense allowing 8.4 points per game, 2.7 yards per rush and given up a grand total of four TDs on the ground.

The strength of their defense?

"When you speak of the speed on offense, that's the same on defense," St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Dan Boarman said. "We're extremely quick. We're not very big. Hubbard will outman us in terms of size, but they can run to the ball."

Especially SV-SM's linebackers. Booker had a team-high 75.5 tackles, including 16 for loss, going into last week's 35-7 win over Poland, a team Hubbard beat in overtime. Williams has 31 stops, including 20 solo.

"The strength of their defense is obviously their linebacking corps," Hoffman said. "They have two guys that are Division I talent (Booker and Williams), and to be honest with you, (Vince) Lockett, the third linebacker, is underrated. He's really a good player and creates a lot of problems for an offense."

The Hubbard defense will need to do the same if it's going to corral Campbell and Co. The soon-to-be Buckeye leads a rushing attack that's scored 49 touchdowns and averages 261.4 yards per game (keep in mind they played four playoffs teams during the regular season, including Ursuline, Mooney and Massillon). Campbell's elusiveness helped him gain 1,176 yards, 18 touchdowns and 9.4 yards per carry. And he's just one of several speedy running backs at the Irish's disposal.

"Defensively, you're going to have to do a pretty good job in space - taking great angles," Hoffman said. "You don't want to give up the really big plays that can really jeopardize you defensively. If you can be consistent enough play in and play out, eventually you hope that you can create that turnover that's going to change the course of the game."

Hoffman hopes that course is different than last year's, when the Irish dominated Hubbard, 54-14, in a regional semifinal. The Irish, in their third straight regional final, are battle tested, while the Eagles are playing in their first regional final since 2001.

Hoffman said last season's rout is still on the mind of Hubbard.

"I don't think that there's any question that last year's game stuck with our players and our coaching staff as well," he said. "That's in the past, and I'm hoping that this year's group of seniors, and our leaders on the team, will not dwell on it, but also remember it enough to motivate them to come out this week and really play their best football."