By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
HUBBARD -- There certainly were plenty of heroes for the Hubbard High football team in its 29-21 Division III playoff win over Mantua Crestwood on Friday.
First, there was senior tailback Anthony Smith, who spent Thursday in the hospital with a temperature of 103 degrees. Smith scored the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter and rushed for 137 yards in limited action.
Then, there was junior John Dominic, who shortly after hobbling off the field with an ankle injury, hauled in a 52-yard pass from quarterback Gabe McKee. Dominic also caught a two-point conversion pass from Matt Smith that gave the Eagles their first lead at 22-21.
There also were the smallish offensive and defensive lines of the Eagles who battled a huge Crestwood team that featured linemen that weighed 380, 290, 250, and 220 pounds. Hubbard's entire offensive line played for the junior varsity team last year.
There also were outstanding individual defensive plays by Donnie Smith, who batted down a Crestwood pass in the fourth quarter to stop one drive and a great interception by Mike Flaugher in the Red Devil backfield with 1:36 remaining in the game that sealed the victory for Hubbard.
There were many more heroes for Hubbard (11-0), which had to hold off a physical Crestwood team (8-3) in order to maintain its perfect season and advance to a regional semifinal game against Poland next Friday.
Turning point: "Crestwood was really pushing us off the ball early and we were really concerned," said Hubbard coach Jeff Bayuk. "Then our kids rose to the occasion, came up with a big turnover, turned it into points that got us the victory.
"If you had saw our guys at halftime, you would have thought they just played eight quarters."
Hubbard had to rise to the occasion three different times as Crestwood scored first and never trailed, leading 7-0, 14-7, and 21-14, before the Eagles tied the score on Smith's 58-yard run and took the lead on the two-point conversion play from Smith to Dominic.
"We didn't want to just keep catching up," Bayuk said of the two-point call. "We saw some things on film and it worked out. Sometimes a play like that is a back-breaker for the opposing team."
Bayuk also lauded the play of Smith, the all-time leading rusher in Hubbard High School history.
"The play of Smith tonight was really gutsy," Bayuk said. "He was in the hospital all day [Thursday] with IV's in him, very sick, but he showed up to play tonight and I think all our kids responded to that."
Smith was mostly used as a decoy in the first half and Antonio Owens and Jerad Jordan handled most of the ball-carrying chores until midway in the third quarter.
Crestwood scored first on a 31-yard run by Todd Stewart on the Red Devils' opening drive of the game.
Hubbard tied the score in the second quarter on the 52-yard pass play from McKee to Dominic.
Crestwood scored following an interception when John Kmetz scored from 2 yards out, but Hubbard rallied to tie the score at halftime on a 4-yard run by Owens that followed a spectacular 36-yard run on a broken play by McKee.
"That's the sign of a good team," Crestwood coach Tom Hannan said. "Every time we scored, Hubbard responded. That's why they're 11-0."
Hubbard tacked on an insurance touchdown late in the third period on a 9-yard run by Owens.
Hubbard did manage to outgain the Devils 296 total yards to 274, but Crestwood controlled the ball for most of the game and ran off 15 first downs to Hubbard's 10.