by Rob Barrone | Correspondent
Hudson -- It has been all about the offense.
When it comes to the strengths and returning talent of the 2014 edition of Hudson Explorers football, the offensive line, receiving corps and quarterback have been the hot topics.
Fourth-year head coach Ron Wright noted in his preseason interview that the defense is "trying to catch up with the offense."
One outing may not tell the whole story, but Hudson's defense did not take a backseat to the offense in its season opener.
The Explorers made a stellar 2014 debut with a commanding 40-6 victory over Euclid.
The game took place Aug. 29 at Hudson Memorial Stadium.
Hudson dominated all facets of the game, taking a 27-0 halftime lead and coasting past the Panthers.
The defense did its part pitching a shutout until Euclid broke a long run (44 yards by starting tailback Chris Collins, who had a team high 54 yards on seven carries) late in the third quarter.
The Explorers' reserves couldn't stop starting quarterback Terry Duckworth on a three-yard keeper on the next play that cut the score to 33-6 with 1 minute, 54 seconds left in the third quarter.
Grant Elffers blocked the Euclid extra point try.
Those two plays would be Euclid's highlights on the night.
The Explorers held a 360-35 advantage in yardage until the Panthers' scoring drive and outgained Euclid 418-179 for the game.
"The defensive staff, again, came prepared," Wright said. "We carried out the game plan. It was well executed. I thought our kids tackled better, but they're not there yet."
The defensive tone was set early as the run-oriented Panthers faced a third and one just three plays into the contest.
Collins took the handoff off left tackle but was met in the backfield by a bevy of Hudson tacklers, led by senior linebacker Mitch Mettler.
Euclid went three and out on three of its first four possessions and had just two first downs by intermission. All of its 35 first-half yards came on the ground.
On the other side of the ball, the highly touted Explorers offense sputtered early, also going three and out on the first series. Hudson had minus 12 yards in offense after four plays.
On the fifth play, senior quarterback Mitch Guadagni, who completed 10 of 17 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns, hit Reid Robinson (three catches for 79 yards) for a 31-yard bomb and the offense was untracked.
When that drive stalled a little later, senior Dean Miller was called on to boot a 40-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead (4:28 left in the first quarter).
The Explorers' next drive was a four-play, 70-yard march. Guadagni ran around left end for 42 yards for the big play and then hit sophomore wideout Matt Restifo for a 14-yard score. Miller's kick made it 10-0 late in the first quarter.
The touchdown was the first of three scores for Restifo, who also score against Euclid last year on his first varsity touch as a freshman.
The onslaught continued on the next possession as Miller tacked on a 29-yard field goal (13-0).
The next touch ended up going about 99.9 yards as the Explorers were backed by penalties to inches from the goal line.
On third and 15, Robinson hauled in a pass and ran 10 yards after the catch for a 16-yard pick-up.
First downs were picked up on four of the next five plays as the march to a 20-0 lead unfolded.
Guadagni hit his favorite target of a year ago, Colton Whited (three catches for 72 yards), on a quick slant for an eight-yard touchdown. The score was Guadagni's 50th TD pass of his career.
Hudson scored again a few minutes later.
A 35-yard Guadagni pass to Mike Piekarski (two receptions for 51 yards) got the Explorers to within a yard of the end zone and Restifo ran it in from there for the 27-0 lead before the break.
Kyle Ator took Guadagni's spot to start the second half and engineered a 70-yard scoring drive.
The key play was a 63-yard catch and run by Whited. On the play, Ator moved left as defenders got near him, stepped up and spotted Whited over the middle.
Whited took the ball across the grain and with the help of a punishing, crack-back block by Robinson, scampered all the way to the Euclid seven.
Two losses later, Ator tossed to Restifo in the left corner of the end zone for a 24-yard TD and a 33-0 bulge.
"The offensive line blocked really well and Mitch passed the ball to everyone," Restifo said. "Kyle threw a really nice pass to me in the end zone. It was just an all-around good game."
Hudson scored its final TD with 50 seconds left in the third quarter.
A nine-yard run by Joe Charpentier (seven carries for 45 yards) and a 32-yard reception by Robinson set up a 19-yard run up the middle by Guadagni (six carries for 107 yards).
"I'm happy with the effort, but there are some things we have got to clean up," Wright said. "Every game, we have to see some improvement. We saw improvement from the scrimmage, but we had too many lapses.
"We've got to have a cleaner game. We did the things we had to do to win the game. We have set the bar so high that we are not just happy with a win anymore."
The Explorers were scheduled to visit Lake Sept. 5 in Uniontown. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.