November 2, 2011 —
By Bill Mullaly
Down 7-0 late in the first quarter the Hudson Tigers didn’t panic but instead went on a patented Hudson run of 40-6 to go on to a convincing 40-13 win over the Rangers of Reading. The division 7 district semifinal win over the Big 8 Conference runner-up now pits the Tigers against the Big 8 Conference champions in Union City. The Chargers won 13-7 over Sand Creek to set up the district championship game on Friday night at 7:00 at legendary Thompson Field. “We were down early and there was no sense of panic as it was more of an upset feeling that we were not playing better,” said Hudson head coach Chris Luma. “We were able to put together some long drives in the second half and I think that helped us wear them down some. However, early in the game they were as physical, if not, more physical then we were. I am proud that we battled back and then were able to take control against a good team that had some weapons.”
Hudson has now beaten Reading three straight years in district competition with the Rangers seemingly closing the gap but being unable to get over the yearly bump in the road that the Tigers represent. “This was the best Reading team we have seen down here,” said Luma. “Our key was that we were able to finish drives and that got the job done for us. We had some key third down conversions and I was proud that we were able to make the plays when we needed to.”
Tigers rule Rangers
The game began with both teams punting and then Reading went to work. They scored on a pass of 50 yards as Connor Aemisegger found Brandon Jackson wide open down the Reading sideline as the receiver sprinted untouched into the east end zone and with the Chad Berger point after it was 7-0 Rangers. This was a huge emotional lift for a Ranger squad that had not scored at Hudson in the past two meetings losing 40-0 in 2009 and 27-0 last year. After having done something no current Ranger team had done before by scoring on the Tigers the Rangers were pumped and determined to leave Hudson this time with a win. It didn’t happen but they did put a scare in Hudson and with this being so close to Halloween that was only appropriate. The Ranger drive went 81 yards on just seven plays.
Up 7-0 with 6:17 to go in period one the Rangers had made an early statement. Hudson didn’t do much on its next possession but the Tiger defense settled in and forced another punt. The Tigers took over at its own 30-yard line and then went 70 yards in 12 plays and they caught a break at the Ranger 12-yard line late in the drive when Devan Marry fell on a James Herron fumble to keep possession and to keep alive the drive. The Tigers wouldn’t commit a turnover the entire game, which was another key to the win. Finally, Herron scored on a three-yard run with 7:14 until halftime. Burke Hart hit the point after for a tie game at 7-7. Reading hit a nice pass for 40 yards on its first play after the Tiger score and fortunately, Lucas Sparapani was able to chase down Berger or the big, bruising tight end was ready to take it to the house. Set up at the Tiger 20-yard line a run got the ball to the Hudson seven-yard line. Two runs netted two yards and on third and goal at the five Tiger defensive end Hart made the key play as he sacked Aemisegger for a huge 15-yard loss back to the 20-yard line. He was soon sacked again five yards farther back and Hudson took over with just over 4:00 until halftime. After one first down Hudson had to punt but a key roughing the kicker penalty gave the ball to Hudson at the Ranger 45-yard line. Instead, of punting from its own 40-yard line it was Hudson now having first down in Ranger territory. Hudson faced a huge 4th and one at the Ranger 36-yard line and Herron busted loose for a gain of 27 yards to inside the Ranger 10-yard line. Then Sparapani went eight yards and the Tigers led 13-7 and soon it was 14-7 thanks to a Hart point after kick with 45 seconds until halftime. The drive covered 75 yards in 12 plays. The run by Sparapani came after a five-yard motion penalty took the ball from the three to the Ranger eight-yard line. Reading quickly got down to the Tiger 30-yard line due to a late hit penalty but a desperation pass at halftime failed and the quarterback Aemisegger was sacked for no gain.
Hudson got the second half kickoff and set up shop at its own 30-yard line after a Marco Quevedo return of 10 yards. Herron right away gained 15 yards and then Sparapani hit quickly for 19 yards down to the Ranger 36-yard line. Then Herron went for seven and Sparapani five and you get the idea as Hudson scored on a 10-play, 70-yard drive capped off by a two-yard run by Kameron Bellfy playing fullback for the still injured Joel Varney, who vows he will play against Union City. The PAT was no good leaving Hudson ahead 20-7 with 6:20 to go in period three. Reading quickly went to work with a no-huddle, hurry-up offense that saw Aemisegger lead them 60 yards in just seven plays as they ran and passed right by the Tigers for the easy score. Thomas Strine scored from the two-yard line and suddenly with 4:30 left in period three it was Reading down just six at 20-13 as the Berger PAT was blocked by Hudson. Aemisegger boomed the kickoff into the end zone and
Hudson now had to go 80 yards and they did. In workmanlike fashion with just plain old-school, smash-mouth football the Tigers faced a third and five at its own 38-yard line and they needed a first down and Herron delivered with a key seven-yard run. The drive stayed alive with 1:15 left in period three. Hudson finished the drive going 80 yards in 16 plays to score on a run of four yards by Sparapani to up the lead to 27-13 with 8:29 left as Hart’s kick was good. Then came the play of the game as Reading faced a third and long and Justin Boies from his left end spot ran down Aemisegger and forced a fumble that Zach Rieger not only recovered but picked it up at the Ranger 25-yard line and he rumbled ten yards down to the 15-yard line. “The ball was in my hands and I thought you have to score so I took off running,” said Rieger., who at 6-2, 310 pounds moves pretty good. Then Herron went 15 yards to the end zone only to have a holding penalty wipe it out. Then facing 1st and 20 the Tigers got a huge screen pass on third and 11 to score when Herron went untouched 16 yards down the left sideline for the score on a well-executed play. Hart was good making it 34-13 with 6:47 to play. The drive went for just 15 yards on three plays. Reading then faced a fourth down and failed to convert and they turned the ball over at its own 44-yard line. Hudson tacked on one more score as they went 44 yards in just five plays ending with another Herron touchdown this time from six yards out. The PAT was no good and the final score was 40-13. Hudson got the ball back after a Reading punt and the Tiger junior varsity offense ran four plays to end the game.
Looking at the numbers
Hudson ran it 63 times for 322 yards with Herron getting 24 carries for a game-high 136 yards. Sparapani was right there with 22 carries for 128 yards. Bellfy ran it eight times for 29 yards and Alex Leathers had four carries for 17 yards. Jacob Morgan got two carries for 16 yards as the sophomore loves to run with a football in his hands. Reading ran it 32 times for 95 yards led by Josh Jenkins with 16 attempts for 88 yards. Aemisegger ran for his life a few times and lost 20 yards on six attempts.
He did hit five of 12 for 115 yards and the go-ahead score. Leathers one of five for the 16-yard screen pass touchdown.
Hudson had 21 first downs to nine for Reading. Hudson was hit with five penalties for minus 43 yards, while the Rangers lost 52 yards on eight flags. Both teams punted twice. Leading the Tiger defense was middle linebacker Devan Marry with 11 tackles, while Hart had seven and both Leathers and Sparapani having six stops. Quevedo also had six tackles and Bellfy had four. Hart had a solo sack and Boies had the huge unassisted sack to force the fumble, while Hart was in on two other assisted sacks with Morgan on one and with Rieger and Quevedo on another as they hurried Aemisegger all night long.
Union City is 10-0 and they have all-state halfback and speedster Chris Maye spelled with an extra e and that stands for end zone as he is there often. This kid is fast and he is the defending division 3 state track champion in the 100, 200 meters and the long jump. The other tailback was all-Big 8 back Josh Holton. Shifty quarterback Adam AcMoody is talented and the Chargers have three huge almost 300-pound linemen. Aaron Meyer is a key receiver as UC can air it out as well. They beat Reading 42-7 so you do the math. UC beat the Rangers by 35 and they led at one time late 42-0. Hudson beat Reading by only 27 so UC is favored over the Tigers by eight points correct? Wrong. Hudson wins this game with Danny’s D and coach Mark Luma’s outstanding offensive line. Watch for center Rieger, guards Marry, Gabe Lee and Korey Bodette along with tackles Cody Walden and Elliott Lockhart to win this game. Don’t forget the blocking of Hart and Boies at the ends and with Morgan helping out as well.
Prediction: Tigers win a tough one 28-18.