November 23, 2010 —
By Bill Mullaly
The Hudson Tigers are headed back to Ford Field to finish off some unfinished business from last year. Hudson easily took care of an out-matched and over-whelmed group of Cougars from Warren Michigan Collegiate. The Tigers won taking a 52-6 triumph last Saturday over a team that was in over its head against the Tigers.
“We took the next step and we are not stopping,” said Tiger head coach Chris Luma, shortly after the game as he addressed his team at mid-field. “I have been talking all year about getting back to Ford Field and we did that but we still have some business to take care of. We have an opportunity that we must take advantage of.”
Yes, the Tigers are headed back to Ford Field to compete in the Division 7 championship contest at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning against none other than Ishpeming the Upper Peninsula school that beat Hudson 35 years ago to win the first ever Class C state title. Now, 35 years later the current Tigers will be playing not only for a state championship for themselves but for a little bit of revenge for the Tigers of years ago. Ishpeming was a 22-20 winner of Ravenna to win the other Division 7 semifinal game. Now, it is Hudson vs. Ishpeming for a state championship trophy. Ishpeming is the designated home team per MHSAA rules.
Warren Michigan Collegiate (11-2) had a very good year but they were not ready for the Orange and Black Machine that ripped them up and tore them apart. This was a mismatch from the get-go as Hudson scored early and often and used its many reserves for much of the second half. A continuous running clock mercy-rule game saw the second half fly by as it seemed many people were more concerned about who were going to play in the final then what was taking place on the gridiron in front of them. A few numbers explain how this game went as with 4:30 until halftime the Cougars had only run six plays and they had not earned a first down to that point. Their only first down came on a pair of Hudson five-yard, off-sides penalties. They had minus five yards offense to that point and it was already 36-6. Hudson was on its way to its second straight semi-final win and it second consecutive trip to Ford Field.
Tigers roll to blowout win
Hudson took the opening kickoff and went 55 yards on seven plays with Drew Milligan going 15 yards for the score. The run had a face-mask penalty added on so the extra point run was from half the distance and Milligan went in without being touched for an early 8-0 lead with 8:42 to go in period one. Then on the ensuing kickoff it was Burke Hart booming the kick and it hit a Cougar player by accident and Tiger Joel Varney jumped on the ball at the Cougar 45-yard line. Then it took just five plays for the Tigers to traverse 45 yards with Milligan doing it again. He made another spectacular run as he was knocked to the ground or so it seemed but somehow at the five-yard line regained his balance for a 14-yard score. It looked like he was down and his knee was about to touch but his hand kept him up and in he went for the touchdown. The pass for two failed and it was 14-0 with still 6:46 to go in period one.
The Tiger defense forced a punt and the Tigers took over and embarked on an 83-yard drive using just six plays. During the scoring drive fullback Grant Benschoter was inserted to keep him ready if needed and he responded with a 23-yard run that included at least three broken tackles as he bounced off Cougar tacklers like a ball in a pinball machine. The other fullback, Dimitri Nealy, went 37 yards untouched as he scored with still 2:19 to go in the first quarter. Milligan went in for the two-pointer and it was quickly 22-0. The Tiger kickoff bounced over the head of Cougar return man Tommie Bush who was in trouble at his own 20-yard line. He circled around to his sideline and off he went 80 yards for a thrilling touchdown run that brought the 100 or so fans the Cougars had to their feet for their team’s one and only highlight of the game. That was it a kickoff return touchdown by Bush and it was 22-6 with 2:03 to play in the opening stanza. The run failed for WMC and they would not threaten to score again.
The Tigers got the ball and it took just two plays to score. Milligan was off to the races and roared 72 yards for a touchdown run and he was never even touched. Camden McCaskey ran in the two-point play for a lead of 30-6 with still 1:08 to play in the first quarter. It is hard to find, if not impossible to know, but it is highly doubtful that any other team in state history has scored 30 points in the first quarter of a state semifinal game. Things slowed down a bit and the Tigers faced a fourth and two at their own 37-yard line and called timeout. From the sideline they came to play smash-mouth football and they got the first down easily on a six-yard run by Milligan. Then they went on to score finishing off a 71-yard drive with Milligan scoring on a 15-yard run. On Milligan’s scoring run the first person he hit was his own blocker Cody Walden at the five-yard line and since Walden was not able or willing to knock him down Milligan then bounced off him and went into the end zone for the scoring run. The pass for two looked good but fell incomplete and it was 36-6 with 5:37 to halftime. The Tigers recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff as McCaskey fell on the ball. The Tigers set up shop at the cougar 48-yard line and off they went using eight plays to score again with Milligan getting the touchdown on a run of eight yards. Matthew Smith snared the two-point pass from eight yards out as the ball was moved back five yards for the extra point try. Hudson now led 44-6 with just 1:32 to halftime. The scoring drive took just eight plays and the Tigers went to the locker room up by a mercy-rule margin and the clock was ready to run and fans were getting ready to celebrate.
The second half was a time to get the subs ready for next year and to keep the starters healthy for next week. Everyone saw action from little 5-0 Dustin Mattison weighing in at 105 pounds to hard-hitting fullback Jacob Morgan at 5-7, 220 pounds.
The Tigers did add one third quarter score as Nealy went 22 yards to pay dirt with 4:45 left in period three. The Tigers ran flash left to Lucas Sparapani and he scored the two-pointer for the final of 52-6.
A look at the numbers
Hudson had the ball for basically the entire game as they ran 65 times for 527 yards in just a demonstrative display of power football. Milligan, to the absolute surprise of nobody, was the game’s top rusher with 196 yards on only 18 carries for 10.9 yards per carry. His 196 now gives him an even 2,200 yards for the season in 13 games as he increases his school record numbers. Nealy was not far behind with 12 carries for 141 yards for 11.8 yards per tote of the football. McCaskey had 13 carries for 69 yards. Those three alone amassed 406 yards between them. James Herron had four attempts for 33 yards, while Benschoter had 31 yards on thre tries and Sandor Heistan ran it three times for 23 yards. Lucas Sparapani had three carries for 14 yards and many other reserves ran the ball with Morgan doing the best going for 15 yards on two tries.
Hudson held the Cougars to one-yard rushing on 10 attempts. WMC did pass for 71 yards on five of 12 attempts but Hudson did have three interceptions. Hudson passed very little as they didn’t try a pass during regular play and all three came during two-point tries. Williams was two for two for nine yards and Heistan hit an open player but it fell incomplete. McCaskey had one catch for a yard and big, dependable tight end Smith had the other catch for eight yards.
On defense the Tigers were led by linebacker Varney with six tackles, while Hart had five and Benschoter four. Ricky Beach and Nathaniel Osborne had three tackles each. Hudson had six turnovers with Varney, McCaskey and Sparapani recovering fumbles. Getting interceptions were Benschoter, Alex Leathers and McCaskey. All the interceptions were kind of neat. Benschoter had a leaping grab and Leathers intercepted his pass lying on his stomach for a circus catch and the pick by McCaskey was a pure steal. He grabbed the ball away from a Cougar receiver in the end zone for a touchback and if he doesn’t make the great play it was a touchdown for the Cougars. The Tigers had just one meaningless lost fumble with just 90 seconds to play.
Hudson never punted and never even considered it and the Cougars had just two punts. Hudson had four penalties for minus 30 yards and the Cougars lost just yards on one flag. Hudson had 17 first downs to only four for WMC.
The Hematites are on deck for the season finale. The Upper Peninsula power is also unbeaten as they come to Ford Field at 12-0 and Hudson is 13-0. Ishpeming had a bye in week six as they couldn’t find an opponent to play. They are a Class C or Division 7 power and they are unbeaten against Hudson on the gridiron winning the only battle 35 years ago 38-22. They beat the Tigers of yesteryear outdoors in freezing weather at Central Michigan University but it will be 72 degrees and sunny on Saturday indoors and it will be Hudson kind of football weather. The Tigers are 0-3 in state final games and the Hematites are 2-0 as they won it all for the second time back in 1979.
This game will feature two of the top programs in the state but no doubt it will be the most-talked about rematch in Michigan high school football history. Ishpeming ended Hudson’s then national record 72-game winning with an impressive display of option football. That was then and this is now and these Hudson Tigers want to write their piece of football history and they will get that chance on Saturday. Hudson has never won an official MHSAA state championship in football and that drought will end on Saturday as by high noon this one will be in the books with the curse of the Hematites coming to an end. Prediction: Tigers vanquish the Hematites and win a state championship. Final score: Hudson 29, Ishpeming 28. Go Tigers!