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Hubbard-SVSM game closer than score indicated

November 23, 2013
By JOE SIMON - Tribune Chronicle (jsimon@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

RAVENNA

People in the press box said it. A few fans were heard muttering it.

I was thinking it. And Hubbard coach Brian Hoffman hinted at it.

Article Photos

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Hubbard quarterback Brennan Wassil (7) follows the blocking of teammate L.J. Scott (3) as SV-SM’s Tyrece Speaight (9) and Dante Booker pursue during first-quarter action.

Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary blew out the Eagles, 40-7, but you didn't get a sense that the Irish were that much better than Hubbard. Don't get me wrong, St. Vincent-St. Mary, the returning D-III state champion, is loaded with talent, possesses a fast and extremely aggressive defense and they made the big plays that Hubbard couldn't, but the Eagles are as talented a team as there is in Division III.

"I'll be honest with you, I know the score's not indicative of it, but our kids, they hit. They came to play tonight," Hoffman said.

Hoffman wasn't just talking up his team after a bad loss. The game was full of monster hits - the biggest coming on a bone-crushing blow by Hubbard's Brandon Rivers. The outside linebacker looked like a blur as he came flying up and impaled SV-SM running back Vince Lockett, who fumbled the ball away to the Eagles. Lockett was injured on the play and didn't return until the fourth quarter.

The Irish landed their share of knockout punches as well, one of them gave 6-foot-4, 285-pound right guard Matt Jones a concussion. He left late in the second quarter and didn't return. They also pounded Hubbard quarterback Brennan Wassil, who showed a lot of toughness to continue play after taking several big hits, ones that came after he was injured on defense in the third quarter.

"It was definitely a physical game," said SV-SM running back Parris Campbell, an Ohio State recruit. "Our coaches always tell us that when we step out on that field, we're always going to get the opponent's best game, and I definitely felt like they played very physical."

The difference in the game wasn't who hit harder, however. The difference came on defense. Both teams possessed massive amounts of speed, so keeping contain on the perimeter was crucial to defensive success. Hubbard allowed Campbell to get outside on a few plays, and not even the light-footed Eagles secondary was going to catch him once he got the edge. The 6-1, 180-pound senior had touchdown runs of 35, 59 and 76.

"Toss sweep, they hit us twice on that," Hoffman said. "We practiced it all week. (Campbell) is a great player. He made some cuts that the average kid is not going to make. It's the reason he's going to be playing at Ohio State."

The Eagles have their fair share of D-I athletes as well, but they couldn't bust any big plays against a swarming SV-SM defense. Star tailback L.J. Scott is being recruited by numerous elite Division I colleges, but the 6-1, 220-pound junior's longest run went for 7 yards. He finished with 41 yards on 20 carries and lost a fumble. Speedster George Hill, a sophomore running back/wide receiver for the Eagles, had three carries for 18 yards. Senior Darnell Tate, another quick and elusive wide receiver/running back, made two catches for 23 yards.

One of the most explosive offenses in the area, which averaged 42 points per game, was held to a single touchdown. That came on a double reverse pass to Wassil, who had to break three tackles and dive into the end zone to score.

"We made some mistakes at key points," Hoffman said. "The kids were resilient. I thought they played fairly well through the second quarter, and then they hit us again with the big play, and that kind of broke the back."

The good news for Hubbard is they have a ton of talent coming back, including Scott, Jones and Hill, just to name a few. A new standard may have been set for a team that's been in the playoffs 10 of the past 13 years, but reached the regional final for the first time since 2000.

"We're disappointed obviously," Hoffman said. "We wanted a better showing, but by the same token, I'm not disappointed. These guys, they really played hard tonight. We had a great season, 12-1. And we took a step forward this year."