By Joe Scalzo
With his team leading Aurora by five touchdowns early in the third quarter, most of Hubbard was already thinking about next week’s game against Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.
Not Brian Hoffman.
“I’ll be honest — I was still nervous,” the Eagles coach said. “They do a great job with their program, they’ve been there, they have a state title under their belt, we know they’re well-coached and they kept battling.”
True to form, the Greenmen scored two quick touchdowns, then, recovered an onside kick. But the Eagles’ defense stepped up and George Hill did the rest, scoring Hubbard’s final four touchdowns to secure a 49-19 victory in Friday’s Division III regional final at Fitch High School.
“After George cracked that last one, I was feeling pretty good,” Hoffman said.
As for Hill?
“With the O-line pushing like that, we’re gonna get those kind of points,” he said. “We’ve got a good line.”
Hill, the fastest player on a team built on speed, ran nine times for 172 yards for the Eagles (12-0), who will play the Irish next weekend in a rematch of last year’s regional semifinal. Junior L.J. Scott added 167 yards on 21 carries with three TDs and Darnell Tate ran eight times for 109 yards.
“We had three backs go over 100 yards and if that’s happening, you’ve got some good things going on,” Hoffman said. “Not only with your offensive linemen, but also your backs. And your skill positions have got to block the edge.”
Hubbard quarterback Brennan Wassil completed 5 of 7 passes for 107 yards, hitting five different receivers.
Kent State recruit George Bollas ran for 152 yards and threw for 113 yards to lead the Greenmen (9-2), who lost in the Division II state semifinals each of the past two years.
But Aurora couldn’t handle Hubbard’s speed, giving up 462 yards on the ground and more than 10 yards per carry.
“Believe it or not — this sounds stupid — but I thought Coach [Brian] Wervey had a great defensive scheme going in,” said Aurora coach Bob Mihalik, who led the Greenmen to a Division III state title in 2008. “We had them at the point of attack. They just kept cutting back and when you get those guys in the open field, they’re gone.”
Hubbard will have a tougher time breaking those runs against SVSM, which routed the Eagles 54-14 in last year’s postseason.
The defending Division III state champions, who also beat the Eagles in the 2010 first round, look to be just as formidable this season.
“Even though we had this game, I was already thinking about St. Vincent-St. Mary,” Hill admitted. “We’ve got to work very, very, verrrrry hard this week.”
It will be just the second regional final appearance for the Eagles, who lost to Copley in the third round in 2000.
“After being here a year ago and kind of taking it on the chin, we’ve worked from Day 1 in the offseason to get back to this point,” Hoffman said. “I’m just so happy right now. Twelve wins. A chance to go to the regional final.
“We’re gonna give it all we have this week and see what happens.”