By Steve Wilaj
Although the sarcasm was noticeable in Brian Hoffman’s voice when he said his ice shower felt “good,” under the circumstances that he was doused with the water cooler, the Hubbard coach was sure of one thing.
“I will take it,” he said. “Absolutely, I’ll take it. No question.”
That reason being with the defeat of Canfield 40-7 Friday night, the Eagles capped a perfect 10-0 regular season.
“It’s everyone’s goal,” Hoffman said. “It’s a tough stretch. You have to take it one game at a time and these guys did a really nice job of doing that. I’m proud of them.”
Hubbard (5-0 All-American Conference, American Division) last had an undefeated regular season in 2004. The Eagles also were perfect in 2001. Both of those perfect seasons came under former coach Jeff Bayuk.
“Coming into the season, we had a little publicity and sometimes that could be a negative thing,” Hoffman said. “It can go to people’s heads and they don’t prepare the way they should. But thank goodness for our senior class and their leadership, along with the coaching staff.”
Darnell Tate, one of 13 Hubbard seniors, couldn’t say enough about the accomplishment.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” Tate said. “We set that goal from the start. We thought we could only beat ourselves and obviously we didn’t.”
Tate set the tone in the Eagles’ beatdown of Canfield, catching a 24-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brennan Wassil in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Tate intercepted Canfield quarterback Kimu Kim’s pass and returned it 65 yards for a score.
“We needed it. It was 7-7 and my fault [Canfield] scored in the first place,” Tate said. “So I had to redeem myself. I read the play and just had to return it.”
Teammate George Hill took the reins from there. The sophomore running back ran for 179 yards on 12 carries, scoring on runs of 1, 50, and 65 yards.
“The thing that I liked most about him tonight is the way he carried the ball,” Hoffman said. “Everyone knows he has speed and can get to the outside, but he did a nice job of running between the tackles and running hard.”
Hill took over the duties of standout junior running back LJ Scott. Scott had one carry for nine yards in the first quarter and then exited the game with an ankle injury.
“We decided not to risk it any more and kept him out to see if we could get him healthy for next week,” Hoffman said.
Kim ran for 143 yards on 30 carries to put an end to his high school career for the Cardinals (3-7, 2-3).
“He’s had a great career and certainly a special senior year,” Canfield coach Mike Pavlansky said. “We’re surely gonna miss him. But he’ll be the first one to tell ya, those guys up front moved some bodies for him to get those yards.”
As for Hubbard, the Eagles feel they’re in great shape heading into the playoffs next week.
“We have too much momentum,” Tate said. “But we gotta be ready to go and prepare — Monday is the start of a new week.”