by Rob Barrone | Correspondent
Hudson -- Not once.
The young Hudson football team's defense had its backs to the wall in the fourth quarter three times during the Explorers' home opener Sept. 6 at Hudson Memorial Stadium.
Hudson turned away all three of Uniontown Lake's scoring chances to preserve a 20-7 victory. With the win, the Explorers improved to 2-0. The Blue Streaks dropped to 1-1.
A dominant 20-0 first-half effort by Hudson began to turn sour after intermission. Lake's 'wildcat' offense and backs Matt Blasiole (29 carries for 138 yards) and Anthony Cistone (six rushes for 53 yards and a score) were running rampant through the Explorers' defense.
Hudson's offense, which had played seven quarters of turnover-free ball, suddenly began playing giveaway with three turnovers in the final 10 minutes, 26 seconds of play.
Just when things looked their bleakest, the defense came to the rescue.
"I've never been a part of a game like that," Explorers defensive coordinator Jeff Gough said. "Our D-line is a bunch of 180-pounders. Three goal line stands says a lot about the heart of the kids."
"We had momentum and they [the Blue Streaks] started to get some of that back," senior linebacker Ben Hart said. "When they got inside the 20, we knew we could bend, but we couldn't break and that's what we did at the goal line."
When Lake unveiled the Wildcat (with Blasiole taking the direct snaps) midway through the third quarter, the momentum started to shift.
The Blue Streaks got on the board with a 75-yard drive in just five plays. Cistone's 22-yard burst up the middle made the score 20-7 with 3:32 left in the third quarter.
The Explorers seemed to have a quick answer.
Quarterback Mitch Guadagni, who had 10 rushes for 99 yards, ran around left end an cut back to the right for a 57-yard touchdown.
Unfortunately for Hudson, a flag at the 10 negated the score. The threat fizzled and a 33-yard field goal was off target.
The Explorers still led 20-7 to start the fourth quarter and had the ball. A fumbled handoff was recovered by Lake at the Hudson 44 with 10:26 to play. Six plays later, Hudson made its first stand by stopping Blasiole two yards short on a fourth down run to the 16.
Some 90 seconds later, the Blue Streaks were back in business when defensive end Drew Shreve picked off a Guadagni pass and returned it eight yards to the Hudson 7 with 6:14 left.
In two plays, Lake was inside the 2 and Blasiole leaped to go over the pile from there. He was marked about a foot short. On fourth down, the senior tried the middle but was stopped just short.
"That was huge," Explorers' head coach Ron Wright said. "To not get in from one inch, that's some great defense. Jeff Gough and his defensive staff and the kids did a great job. They bowed their necks and did not let them in."
The Explorers weren't done after that stand.
The offense took over with the nose of the ball at the goal line with 4:33 to play. A Guadagni 25-yard keeper on a third and nine seemed to be the nail in the coffin, but two plays later, the ball came loose again with the Blue Streaks recovering at the Hudson 35 with 2:43 on the clock.
A 28-yard pickup on the first play and it was time for another goal-line stand. The drive reached as close as the 2, but a penalty and incomplete pass set up a fourth and goal from the seven. A lofted pass into the right corner of the end zone was broken up and victory was final secured.
As rough as the end of the game was, the start was all Hudson.
The Explorers got on the board when Hart concluded a 45-yard drive with a two-yard TD run with 3:38 remaining in the first quarter.
Hudson scored again on its next possession.
A Guadagni to Colton Whited 29-yard toss was the big play in an eight-play, 63-yard march. Reid Robinson hauled in a Guadagni pass and raced to the left corner of the end zone where his dive hit the pylon and gave the Explorers a 14-0 lead with 9:16 left in the second quarter.
Whited, from his defensive-back spot, ended the Blue Streaks' best drive of the half when he intercepted his third pass of the season. The junior raced 31 yards to the Lake 25 after the pick, but Royster's 36-yard field-goal try hit the right upright and it went for naught.
Hudson made it 20-0 when Guadagni lofted a perfect pass to Whited for a 32-yard TD pass with 53 seconds left in the half. The point after try was blocked.
It was status quo for a time to start the second half, but when Lake unveiled the 'wildcat' formation, everything changed.
"We draw a line in the sand and our kids did it," Wright said. "This has to be a confidence builder for our kids. We had a great crowd. The kids came out and really got after it.
"I don't know if we kind of slid into the abyss or what happened but we're 2-0 and that's the bottom line."
Guadagni completed 13 of 21 passes for 141 yards. Whited finished with five receptions for 89 yards.
The Explorers are scheduled to entertain Brecksville-Broadview Heights Sept. 13 at 7 p.m.