HUDSON: Hudson pulled out everything Friday night to top Brecksville 15-14 in double overtime. After a wild turn of events in the final minute of regulation and both overtime periods, the Explorers went to a trick play they had been practicing to snag the victory.
Trailing 14-7 in the second overtime period, junior quarterback Mitchell Guadagni found the end zone from 13 yards out on a quarterback keeper. Hudson coach Ron Wright, after watching back-and-forth thriller for two and a half hours, didn’t hesitate and sent out the offense to go for two points and the win.
Using a bit of trickery, junior running back Dean Miller took a direct snap and handed it off to senior Jared Ruffing, who took the reverse around the right side, catching the Bees off guard and easily finding the end zone.
Wright simply said it’s a play Hudson runs and has practiced, but he knew going for the win would be the decision if the opportunity presented itself. Despite a couple of costly mistakes late in the game, the Explorers improved to 3-0 this season, mostly on grit. But Wright knows Hudson walked a fine line Friday night.
“How can you measure it?” Wright said when asked about his team’s heart. “The kids just kept believing, they kept playing. Ultimately, there’s such a fine line between getting it done and not getting it done, and tonight we got it done. ... This is another step in the ladder as a young team.”
There were more than enough reasons for Hudson to lose. The 40 total yards of offense the Explorers gained in the first half. The interception Brecksville grabbed with just more than a minute remaining in regulation of a 7-7 game that gave the Bees the ball at Hudson’s 27-yard line. And the short, 18-yard field goal attempt the Bees had to win the game in the first overtime. On the possession before, Hudson’s field goal attempt was blocked.
The Explorers came back every time. Hudson gained more yards in their first possession of the second half than in the entire first half, tying the game at 7-7 and erasing the poor first-half showing. After Guadagni’s interception late in the fourth quarter that could have been deciding mistake, the Explorers forced and recovered a fumble on the very next play, saving the game. And when Brecksville faced a short field goal attempt to win it, a high snap coupled with pressure from both sides forced a missed kick, pushing the game to a second overtime.
Hudson kept surviving and finally landed the knockout blow.
“We kept playing, out of all our mistakes we kept fighting,” said Guadagni, who finished the game with 61 yards rushing, 56 yards passing and two touchdowns. “Our defense stepped up big, big stop on the line with the field goal miss. We just got another chance and it paid off.”
The defense kept the Explorers within striking distance with a couple of big bend-but-don’t-break drives. To open the game, Brecksville went on a 20-play, 79-yard drive that included two fourth-down conversions and ate up more than 10 minutes of clock. On fourth-and-goal at the 3, Brecksville quarterback Tim Tupa swung a pass to senior Nick Shirilla, who appeared to have open space ahead of him. He was met at the goal line by senior defensive back John Zuccaro, sophomore John Callahan and junior Grant Elffers, who denied Shirilla at the 1-yard line. Brecksville came up empty near the goal line a second time early in the fourth quarter, when in a 7-7 tie senior Jake Brooks intercepted Tupa in the end zone to preserve the deadlock.
“Our defense has been playing huge. Last week [in a 20-7 win against Lake], this week ... they just kept playing hard,” Wright said. “But we’re learning. Every time a game like this happens, you learn. And I think we learned some tonight.”
Zuccaro had quite a night in all three phases of the game. He finished with three catches for 22 yards and a touchdown, had an interception in the first half on defense and returned the second-half kickoff 41 yards, setting up Hudson’s first touchdown drive.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.