December 1, 2010 —
By Bill Mullaly
The Hudson football Tigers are state champions! The 2010 division 7 MHSAA crown will long live in the Hudson area forever as the Tigers didn’t let this opportunity get away. It got scary at the end but the Tigers held on for the biggest win in school history in the last 35 years. The 28-26 win over the Ishpeming Hematites gives Hudson its first-ever MHSAA football state title.
The win came in a most unusual manner as the Tiger running game was held in check and the Tigers went to the air passing the ball better and more often than they have all year. “I came in expecting to run the ball, which is what we best but they were very physical and stalemated some of what we do best,” said Tiger head coach Chris Luma. “I decided we needed to go to our play-action passing game and our quarterback Jimmy Williams made some great throws and our receivers made some great catches. To be honest we got here with the run and I planned to win this thing or lose this game with the run, but luckily I wasn’t too stubborn to stay with that game plan and I was able to open it up a bit by giving us a chance with the pass. We used our play-action passing game that uses fakes off the running game to get the receivers open behind them. We didn’t plan on passing that much to be honest but we used the play-action passes and they worked.” Williams was seven of nine passing for 122 yards and the Tigers even used a trick power at 8 halfback pass for a 16-yard touchdown. The 138 yards passing were eight yards more than the 130 yards rushing. Yes, Hudson won the game by an aerial assault of the likes not commonly seen around this area.
It was on the school’s fourth trip to a state championship game the Tigers came away winners. The Tigers capped off the winningest season in school history taking its 14th straight win of the season. Hudson had won four mythical state titles in the past (1956, 1972, 73 and 74). Now, the long wait is over as the Tigers built a 15-point lead in the second half only to watch the game come down to one crucial stop with just 46 seconds to play.”This was a goal the boys had since the start of the year to win this state title,” said Tiger head coach Chris Luma. “We had a motto of take a stand and leave a legacy and I think the team accomplished its mission. Our defense has been big all year and it was the defense that bailed me out late in the game with a stop on the two-point try after I didn’t have us punt late in the game.”
The win was huge on a lot of fronts as Hudson came back home to the same site after getting pounded last year and they came here with the idea of taking care of some unfinished business. On this business trip the Tigers cashed in and bought themselves memories for a lifetime with the huge win. This was the first win ever in the a state final game by a team from Lenawee County. “We wanted to win for a lot of reasons but being the first in the county was special and it was also great for our kids, school, community and everyone associated with the Hudson football program,” said Luma, who saw his 14-year overall record improve to 119-38 and in the playoff games his mark is now 21-10. “I am so proud of this entire team, our coaches, fans and this is very gratifying to come back here to get a win. This game was what a championship game should be with both teams having a chance to win. Last year we just were never in the game and it wasn’t much fun. It is a great feeling to know you are state champions.”
The Tigers took the opening kickoff and soon punted. Ishpeming took the ball and moved it effectively and got down to the Tiger 39-yard line on a nice run by its quarterback Dan Olson but Tiger defensive end Matthew Smith hit him hard to force a fumble that Joel Varney fell on. A fake Tiger punt led to a pass that fell incomplete and Ishpeming had the ball at the Tiger 39. It would take the Hematites 14 plays to score on a one-yard sneak by Olson. The two-point run failed it was Ishpeming up 6-0 on the first play of period two.
Down 6-0 the Tigers used a key 3rd and 8 pass from Jimmmy Williams to Milligan for 33 yards but couldn’t do much more and turned it over on downs. Ishpeming had three plays and they punted. The Tigers used a key 3rd and 7 pass from Williams Smith for 17 yards to the Hematite 36. Grant Benschoter than pounded it for four yards, then eight and Milligan for six and the Tigers were rolling. On fourth and one Benschoter got four down to the 11-yard line. Then it was Milligan for three, four and four yards for the score with 1:10 to halftime. The final four came on a great block from guard Jordan Lake. The Milligan point after made it 7-6 Hudson.
Then the totally unexpected happened. The Hematite quarterback fumbled the ball as Smith kicked the ball loose by accident and Tiger Ricky Beach fell on the ball at the Hematite 26. Then Milligan went for 15 yards and McCaskey for five down to the Ishpeming six. Benschoter eventually scored on fourth and one at the two-yard line as he got the final two. The Tigers now led 14-6 as Milligan again hit the PAT. The scoring drive took just 47 seconds on five plays covering 26 yards. The two touchdowns in a span of less than one minute would give the Tigers the momentum heading into halftime.
In period three Ishpeming took the opening half kickoff and soon the Tigers had the ball back thanks to an interception by McCaskey. Olson’s throw may have been affected by a crushing hit on the previous play by Tiger middle linebacker Devan Marry.
With the ball at its own 40-yard line the Tigers embarked on a 60-yard drive using just seven plays. The key plays were Williams hitting Smith for ten yards on a 3rd and 10 for a first down. Then on a third and 13 it was the duo of Williams and Smith again for 20 yards and a first down at the Hematite 33-yard line. Smith made a circus catch on a ball tipped by a Hematite defender. Then the Tigers went to the air again and Williams found McCaskey for a 33-yard aerial strike for six points. Again, Milligan was good on the PAT and with 6:46 left in period three it was Hudson up big 21-6. This made 21 unanswered points for the Tigers after falling behind early at 6-0.
Ishpeming had to respond and they did. They went 58 yards on just five plays to score on an Olson sneak from a yard out. The Hematites never kick so they went for two and made it on a pass from Olson for a score of 21-14 with 4:38 left in period three.
The Tigers took over after a 14-yard kickoff return by Alex Leathers at the Hematite 45. The Tigers than used 11 straight runs to get down to the Ishpeming 17. Three plays gained one yard. Now, facing fourth and nine the Tigers took a timeout at the Ishpeming 16. “We ended up calling a halfback pass as we discussed several plays and my brother, Mark, at the last minute during the timeout mentioned the halfback pass and it worked,” said Luma. Out of the tight T-formation the Tigers ran Milligan on a sweep to the right but he pulled up and hit Smith in the right corner and he hit the pylon going out of bounds for the touchdown catch. Milligan made his fourth consecutive PAT for a lead of 28-14 with still 10:07 to play.
Now, the Tigers needed one more stop to secure a state title but it wouldn’t come easily. Ishpeming started at the Tiger 38. A quick 29-yard got them to the Tiger 33. Three plays resulted in zero yards and the Hematites faced a do-or-die 4th and 10. A key pass completion and a first down by inches kept the drive alive. A first down on two rushes put the ball at the 13-yard line. Then Olson hit Andy Flanagan for a score made that made it 28-20 with 6:22 to play. The run for two was no good.
Then the Tigers got great field position as the onside kick went out of bounds at the Hudson 46. Soon the Tigers faced a fourth and four at the Hematite 48. Coach Luma never considered a punt and went for it and a sweep to Milligan got one yard. Now, at the Tiger 47 the Hematites took over with 4:06 to play. A pass for 24 yards to Eppert put them at the Tiger 27. Suddenly, it was fourth and 7 at the Tiger 24 with under 2:00 and Ishpeming had just one timeout. A key completion for nine yards to Eppert put them at the Tiger 15. Again, the Hematities faced fourth and 6. A pass to Eppert was good for 11 yards and a score with 46 seconds left. Now, Hudson took timeout. They would need a stop as the score stood 28-26 after. The Hematites went with Olson on a roll out left as he is left-handed but pressure from Smith forced an errant throw out of play and Hudson had its crucial defensive stop. Benschoter ended the suspense when he pounced on the onside kick at the Hudson 49 with 46 seconds left. Twice Williams took the snap and took a knee and Hudson took home its first-ever MHSAA state football championship!
Looking at the numbers
In a crazy game that will be hard to describe to those who know Hudson football the Tigers were outrushed by 30 yards 130 to 160 for the Hematites. Hudson had 49 carries for 130 yards compared to Ishpeming’s 38 attempts for 160. In the biggest surprise, statistically at least, the Tigers outpassed the Hematites 138 yards to 86. Williams was the offensive star of the game with a great game passing hitting seven of nine for 122 yards. The biggest completion was the 16-yarder from Milligan to Smith. Hudson was as a team eight of 11 passing. Olson was just five of 13 for 67 yards. Smith caught four aerials for a game-high 63 yards. Eppert had four grabs for 54 yards. McCaskey had two grabs for 39 and Milligan two for 36 yards.
Both teams punted once. Hudson won the first down battle 15-14. Hudson was penalized twice for minus 15 yards and Ishpeming lost just five yards. The key stat for Hudson was zero turnovers. Ishpeming had three miscues.
For Hudson Nathaniel Osborne, Benschoter and Leathers all had nine tackles. Marry had eight, while Hart, Varney and Smith all had four. Milligan, Meiko McDaniel, McCaskey and Beach all had two tackles. Jacob Lancaster and Cody Walden were in on two tackles, while Gabe Lee and Lucas Sparapani were part of one tackle each.
At Hillsdale on August 26th. Hudson will take a 14-game winning streak and a 23-game regular season winning streak into that game. Until then rest, relax and always remember this great championship season! Congratulations to all involved with Hudson Tiger Football and Go Tigers!