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Battle for perfection: Hubbard and South Range set for historic matchup

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes South Range QB Billy Skripac (center) celebrates with Ayden Leon (left) and Jacob Brooks (right) after scoring before halftime.

BEAVER TOWNSHIP — Neither South Range or Hubbard’s football programs are strangers to undefeated regular seasons. Both schools have achieved the feat in the last decade. However, when the two teams meet up tonight at South Range, it’s believed to be the first time two undefeated area teams have faced-off in the final week of the regular season since Niles and Girard did in 1954.

History is set to be made tonight when the Eagles and Raiders square off, and there’s a little more than a perfect regular season on the line. It’s not just the 10-0 record the schools are chasing, but the Northeast-8 title is on the line as well and the winner will take the crown.

South Range is the defending league champion and is just excited for the opportunity.

“I’m excited,” South Range coach Dan Yeagley said. “I’m excited for the league. To come down to two teams at the very end, it just amazes me. Teams going out in Week 10 with everything on the line, it’s just exciting.”

The two state-ranked teams are two of the most electrifying offenses in the area. South Range (ranked second in Division V) has scored at least 40 points in every game this year and Hubbard (ranked seventh in Division III) has hit the 40-point mark five times.

In a game where both offenses have had little issue lighting up the scoreboard, Yeagley sees the defense as what could decide tonight’s contest.

“I just think it’s going to come down to both defenses,” Yeagley said. “We have our job. Our job is to stop (T.C.) Caffey because he’s such a great running back and their defense will have to stop (Raiders running back) Dylan (Dominguez) and our receivers. It’ll come down to who can make the changes that’ll make the difference in the ball game.”

To Eagles coach Brian Hoffman, what sets his team apart is its speed and athleticism. In a game between two skilled teams, at the end of the day it comes down to players making plays.

“The ability to just play fast and not make mental errors in a game like this and at some point, you’ve got to let your players make plays,” he said. “The guys that you’re depending on, they have to come through and play big in these types of games.”

One of those players is Hubbard running back T.C. Caffey. Caffey has always been a very solid back for the Eagles, but has hit a new peak this season.

Correspondent photo / Michael G. Taylor
Hubbard’s Ben Wilcox (8) stiff arms Girard’s Jordan Grant (1) to pick up 1st down earlier this season.

The senior has run for more than 150 yards in every game this season and is now a member of Hubbard’s 2,000-yard rushing club with backs Shaun Lane and L.J. Scott setting the marks in 2004 and 2014 respectively. Both tailbacks went on to play in the Big 10 after graduation.

The Eagles look to cap off their first undefeated regular season since going 10-0 in back-to-back years in 2013 and 2014.

Yeagley, who is in his 27th year with the program, noted how perfect seasons don’t happen too often.

“It’s hard to be undefeated,” he said. “I mean it’s hard to go through a season undefeated, I don’t care how good you are. Just because any week, anything can happen. To do it 10 weeks in a row, it’s very difficult. … We talked about how you have to stay focused and how you have to rise to the occasion when difficulties come up and make that big play.

“There’s not a whole lot of teams in the state of Ohio that are undefeated. It’s an honor to be undefeated and after Friday night’s game, one of us will have that honor and the other one still had a great season. One game doesn’t make or break a season. Both of us are gonna make some nice runs in the playoffs because we’re both very good teams.”

There’s a lot of respect between both coaches and both teams are eager to get on the field and face off.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for not only South Range, but the other teams that are in our conference,” Hoffman said. “We’re just glad that we’re in a position Friday to play in this football game and we want to come out Friday and play our best game.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Ralph and Doris Witmer Field in Beaver Township.

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