by Rob Barrone | Correspondent
Life after Gedeon.
University of Michigan freshman Ben Gedeon, that is.
After nine straight years with a Gedeon in the lineup the Hudson High School football team is preparing for the 2013 campaign without a Gedeon on the squad.
Alex (a 2008 graduate), Sam (2010) and Ben (2012) all had an impact on Explorer football with Ben making the biggest impact.
The current Wolverine linebacker finished as the Explorers' all-time leading scorer, rusher and tackler and led Hudson to three straight Northeast Ohio Conference River Division titles and two consecutive trips to the second round of the Division I state playoffs.
"Is Ben Gedeon going to be missed?" Hudson second-year head coach Ron Wright said. "Absolutely. How could you not miss a guy who ran for over 1,000 yards each year and had over 100 tackles. It's hard to replace someone like that. Yeah, we miss him, but we couldn't redshirt him."
Gedeon's contributions, along with record-breaking receivers Tim Kennedy and Leighton Antonio helped the Explorers to an overall records of 9-3 last year after a 10-2 mark in 2011.
The three straight crowns also helped Hudson out of the River Division. Winning the last three River titles and compiling a 24-6 mark over the six years since the inception of the NOC (in 2007) earned the Explorers a boost up to the upper Division (Valley Division) for this campaign.
Hudson's new division slate features Mentor, Solon, Twinsburg, Brunswick and Strongsville.
"If you look at past history and what the new league brings to us, it's a little bit of an upgrade," said Wright, who begins his 10th year with the team. "I would like to play in a league where you know who is in the league year in and year out, but that's probably selfish on my part. These are the cards that are dealt us and we have to make the best of it."
With the graduation of Gedeon and several others, the Explorers have a lot of big shoes to fill and a standard set even higher than before.
"I don't know what our record will be, but I know that when you get done playing Hudson, you'll know you were in a game," Wright said.
The quickest way to describe the 2013 Hudson club is young. The numbers are up with 91 boys out for football but only 16 of those players are seniors. The Explorers return just nine starters and 18 letter winners.
While the squad will have a lot of new faces the coaching staff returns completely intact.
"I'm so thankful and proud to be working with these guys," Wright said.
Jeff Brown returns for his 34th season as assistant head coach. John Callahan will handle the defensive ends. Hudson product Anthony Carbone coaches the offensive front. Seventh-year coach Jeff Gough, another Hudson grad, is back as the defensive coordinator.
Brad Maendler returns for his fifth year as quarterbacks coach. Matt Palumbo coaches defensive tackles for a third season. Shawn Surdy also is back for his third season as offensive coordinator. David Ravida (wide receivers) and Kyle Wasserman (kickers) also return.
The offense expects to give opposing defenses different looks.
"I don't want to say we are a multiple or a one-back offense," Wright said. "Sean [Surdy] puts down we're a multiple pistol. The pistol is a two-back offense, but we also play a lot of one-back sets. We want to be as close to 50-50 passing and running the ball as possible, but every year is different. We are going to do whatever the group gives us athletically."
While there are a number of question marks on both offense and defense, one of the strengths of the team is the signal caller.
Six-foot-2 junior quarterback Mitchell Guadagni returns at quarterback after a stellar season. He threw 26 touchdown passes and 2,060 yards with only six interceptions in 2012.
"We are blessed to have Mitchell Guadagni," Wright said. "He is already sought after by some Division I's in the Mid-American Conference. Expectations are big for Mitch."
Backing up Guadagni is junior Kyle Ator. Other quarterbacks include sophomores Ryan Martin and Jaret Hildebrand and freshman Jackson Parker.
With the graduation of Gedeon, junior running back Jack Palumbo was ready to step in, but for the second straight year, he will miss the season due to a knee injury. Senior Jared Ruffing is the top returnee at running back with 60 carries for 234 yards and three scores. Ruffing is one of five co-captains on the 2013 club.
Also seeing action at running back will be juniors Dean Miller, Braden Doerr, Dominic DiGeronimo and Matt Rightnour and freshman Matt Restifo.
"It's going to be kind of by committee," Wright said.
The fullbacks are seniors Will Masich and Mike Innamorato (co-captain) along with juniors Sean Hill and Ben Krisman.
Senior co-captain John Zuccaro will play some offense in the slot. Zuccaro caught 13 passes for 121 yards a year ago. Junior Colton Whited had 11 receptions for 100 yards.
Other receivers and tight ends include Ruffing, Rightnour, senior Tom Bevan; juniors Grant Elffers, Brendan Burdett, Reid Robinson and Logan Thomas; and sophomores Joey Palumbo, Nate Menendez and Mike Piekarski.
Anchoring the offensive line is second-year starting center Ben Adams (6-0, 255). The senior was voted a team captain by his peers. Left guard will be junior Dylan Carlson (6-1, 250), who started every game last year as a sophomore.
At left tackle is junior Max Orazen (6-3, 215). Starting right guard will be senior Lucas Wilch (6-3, 275) while the right tackle spot features sophomore David O'Connor (6-6, 270) or junior Matt Hutcheson (5-4, 190).
Backups who expect to contribute on the offensive line are seniors Michael Cavoli (6-0, 205) and Bradley Harris (6-5, 280); and juniors Brock Corsi (6-2, 270) and Gabe Vehar (6-2, 205).
Leading the way on special teams is returning All-Ohio placekicker Pierce Royster, a senior. Royster scored 78 points last year and was 10-of-12 on field goal attempts and 46-of-48 on extra points. He can also boom kickoffs through the end zone.
Royster also is in the running for punting chores, along with Miller and junior K.J. Tench. Joey Palumbo, Cavoli or Vehar are competing for the long-snapping duties.
Playing good defense has been the norm for Hudson's success in recent years. But there may be some question marks with the defense this year. Nevertheless, Wright believes his defense can continue its stellar play.
"We play an even, four-man front," he said. "We have played good defense here for a long time. This year, it's the inexperience and how fast we will grow up. The jury is out, but I think we will be aggressive."
The defensive ends feature Innamorato, senior Logan Malson, Burdett, Elffers, junior Will Hogan and sophomore Roman Moreno.
The tackles comprise Corsi, Krisman and juniors Charles Behal, Michael Delsanter, Steven Dine, Joe Martin and Matt Slater; and sophomore Danny Baka.
Senior Ben Hart, a team captain, was supposed to be the team's starting quarterback last year. Unfortunately, an injury in the inaugural game at Hudson Memorial Stadium, forced Hart out of action. When he returned, he thrived as a linebacker. He plans to do the same thing in 2013 as he expects to anchor the middle of the defense.
Other linebackers include Tench, juniors Mitch Mettler and Jimmy Dorr and sophomore John Callahan. Expected to contribute at the outside linebacker spots are Masich, Doerr, junior Trent Maendler, Rightnour, Moreno and sophomore Joe Charpentier.
Zuccaro anchors the back end of the defense. The free safety had eight picks a year ago. Sophomore Chris Motter also expects to see time at one of the safety spots. The cornerbacks include Ruffing, Whited, Thomas, Restifo, senior Chris Seibert, junior Ben Mehelic and sophomore Joe Ritner.
The Explorers are scheduled to visit Euclid in their 2013 opener Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.