Poland, Hubbard set for first-ever contest
They're meeting Friday night in a regional semifinal.
By JOHN BASSETTI
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
Predicting the winner of Friday night's Poland-Hubbard game is easy: It'll be the team whose school colors are blue and white.
The answer to the question of which team won the last time they played each other is easy, too: neither.
No record, past or present, shows the schools meeting in varsity football.
Poland athletic director Myron Stallsmith went back to the mid-'40s, after World War II.
Hubbard athletic director Paul Andraso checked back to 1917 when World War I started.
Nobody's saying the Division III battle will be anything of that magnitude, but there will be heavy artillery flying when the Eagles and Bulldogs square off in a Region 9 semifinal at Fitch Stadium.
Stallsmith recalled that Poland scrimmaged Hubbard three or four times in the 1970s.
Comeback win: Poland is coming off a comeback win over Chesterland West Geauga, a scene reminiscent of the 1999 team's proclivity for second-half heroics.
"It was a good game for our kids," Poland coach Paul Hulea said. "It was a lot of fun to be part of, to come roaring back in the fourth after we didn't play very well in the third. You could tell they were going to make plays."
Although still a run-oriented offense, Poland has mixed the pass in more than in the past.
Against West Geauga, the Bulldogs exercised the "take-what-the-defense-gives" philosophy.
"We threw 32 passes," Hulea noted.
Hulea exaggerated a bit when he said that Hubbard is the bigger team, especially the defensive front four.
Good line: "I'm 240 pounds and they look pretty big to me. I don't think our guys are going to put on 20 pounds anytime soon. It's going to be extremely challenging because Hubbard's offensive line is exceptional up front."
Poland's defensive linemen facing the challenge are tackles Gaby Dibo and Breen McMahon ends Jason Marchese and Brendan Moran.
Hubbard's main offensive threat -- Anthony Smith -- is also a concern defensively, Hulea said.
"He's one of the best if not the best in the area right now. He does everything. It'll be tough to pop one down the pipe because, as free safety, the kid's going to make a great open field tackle. In all the games we saw, he's a heck of an open-field tackler."
Jeff Bayuk says Poland will be their best opponent to date.
"They're very athletic and much bigger than we are," said Bayuk, who says this is Hubbard's smallest team in his 11 years, "but our kids are quick."
Still, Bayuk claims, that won't be a distinct advantage.
Strong defense: "It'll be a real chore for us to move the ball and they'll have the edge, offensively, because they do more than we do. We hope to keep it within a touchdown -- either way -- going into the fourth quarter so we might have a chance. Otherwise, we're out-manned. Every game I've seen and every coach who has played Poland has commented that their strength is its defense, especially the front four."
Poland's offense may pose big problems, too.
"If we're not able to contain their offense, we could be in for a long night. They're able to run and pass equally well. That makes them that much more dangerous."
Leader: Leading the way in tackles for Hubbard is inside linebacker Matt Clark with 86 total hits. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound senior has recovered two fumbles and returned one interception for a touchdown. Lidel Hilson and Mike Flaugher both have 44 total hits followed by Donnie Smith with 41.
Bayuk believes the Eagles are the underdog and he likes that.
"We're fortunate to be where we're at right now. It can only help us being underdogs. I think that puts the pressure on them."
Bayuk proclaims his Eagles to be overachievers.
"We're a bunch that works really hard and have dedicated themselves to a common goal."