Hubbard Eagles know they must play better in rematch
By Kevin Connelly
After last year’s 54-14 drubbing at the hands of St. Vincent-St. Mary in the regional semifinal round, then-Hubbard senior lineman Tyler Korenyi-Both said he felt like he was in a nightmare.
He added, “I felt like we were always a step behind them. They had that one step of speed that we did not have.”
The biggest question leading up to this Friday’s rematch in Ravenna, this time on a bigger stage — the Division III, Region 7 final — would be whether or not this year’s Eagles team has the speed to match the Irish (12-0).
“I guess we’ll find out Friday,” Hubbard coach Brian Hoffman said. “I feel like overall our team speed is better than a year ago. [Whether] we match their team speed, I can only tell with being on the field with the opponent.
“Obviously, on film they look pretty fast and seem like they’re probably at the same pace as they were a year ago.”
What happened a year ago is something Hoffman, and the Eagles who were on that team, would like to avoid this season.
St. Vincent-St. Mary made quick work of a three-loss Hubbard team, scoring touchdowns on its first six possessions to jump out to a 40-7 lead at halftime. The Irish cruised past the Eagles, 54-14, and went on to win their fifth state championship in school history.
“If they go 6-for-6 in this game, obviously we’re gonna be in trouble,” Hoffman said. “We’ve been playing better defense, especially the last four weeks, but of course this opponent’s a little different.
“We have to be able to get some stops.”
The attitude around the Eagles’ locker room Monday night following a lengthy film session was one of focus. Junior running back L.J. Scott was on the field for last year’s loss, and had some success, rushing for 144 yards on 29 carries. Then a sophomore, Scott was one of only two Eagles — Darnell Tate the other — to find the end zone that night.
“We’ve got to come to play every single play this week, 100-percent every time, and that’s what coach Hoffman was talking about [Monday],” Scott said. “This week we’ve got to come with our heads straight, not twisted around or anything, and we just got to come focused ready to play.”
Scott has had some help in the backfield this season with sophomore George Hill continuing to impress as the season progresses. Enter Tate, a player many believe is the fastest on the team, and this group of Eagles (12-0) feel they have the speed to match just about anyone.
“We have just as much speed as they have, but it comes down to who’s gonna use it Friday night,” Scott said. “Honestly, I think we’re about the same [offensively]. I mean we both have speed, but there might be a little pressure over there just because they’ve probably never played against a team like us.”
Hoffman used words like “attitude” and “belief” Monday, saying they were, “pivotal for success.”
There’s at least one player in Hubbard’s locker room who won’t need to be convinced of that.
“Everybody knows what happened last year was embarrassing, but everybody expects a lot [more] from us this year, so we’ll give [St. Vincent-St. Mary] a battle,” Scott said.
“I would say we’re a good team and I will ... keep it at that,” he added with smile.