By Steve ruman
The high school football calendar may suggest the playoffs begin in the first week of November, but Hubbard coach Brian Hoffman disagrees.
As far as Hoffman was concerned, the postseason kicked off Friday night at Bo Rein Stadium in Niles.
The Eagles — entering the game 4-2 and ranked 15th in Division III, Region 9 — needed a signature victory to get back into playoff and All-American Conference American Division races.
In what Hoffman described as “one of the biggest wins for this program since this coaching staff has been here,” the Eagles dominated the Red Dragons in a 43-14 win.
The victory lifts Hubbard’s record to 5-2 (1-2) while Niles (6-1, 3-1) suffers its first loss.
“All week long we heard about Niles being undefeated and everything, and our kids took it personal,” Hoffman said. “The kids prepared well and they went out there and beat a very good football team.”
Hubbard made one big play after another to secure the win. Darnell Tate had touchdown runs of 74 and 62 yards, and he also pulled in a 52-yard pass from quarterback Brandon Harb for a score. Larry Scott scored on a 41-yard burst, and tossed a halfback option pass to brother Isaiah Scott for a 10-yard touchdown.
The Eagles’ final touchdown of the night came on a 1-yard run by Harb. That TD was set up by a 63-yard run by Larry Scott.
Scott finished with 152 yards on 17 carries. Harb completed 8 of 15 passes for 139 yards.
But the man of the hour for Hubbard was Tate, who rushed for 138 yards on just four carries, while pulling in three receptions for 101 yards. He scored three of Hubbard’s six touchdowns.
“Darnell had one heck of a game, but he’s been doing that for two years now,” Hoffman said. “He’s one heck of a talent. Opponents sometimes tend to key on L.J. (Scott), and rightfully so, but when they do, Darnell will make them pay the price.”
Niles was led offensively by quarterback Stefan Yuhas, who gained 94 yards on 29 carries. The senior also threw for 108 yards, but completed just 5 of 17 passes.
“Our defense did a very good job of containing a very high-powered offense,” Hoffman said. “That was the key to giving our offense its opportunities.”
Hubbard held a 14-7 halftime lead. Niles tied things up with 4:24 in the third Chris Parry picked off his third interception in two games — this one a 45-yard return to tie the game at 14.
But from that point on it was all Hubbard.
“We ran into a three-headed monster tonight,” Niles coach Brian Shaner said. “They came up with one big play after another, and we didn’t have an answer. Hats off to them. They came to play. They executed and we didn’t.
“We have to regroup. Not many teams go 10-0, so we can’t hang our heads over one loss. We have to gather ourselves and turn things around quickly.”
Niles, which entered the game ranked second in Region 9, plays at Howland on Friday. Hubbard will look for its third straight win when it visits Poland.
“Poland has been a thorn in our side,” Hoffman said. “We have to take this momentum and carry it over to next week, because Poland is going to be as big a test as any we’ve faced.”