By David Lee Morgan, Jr.
(HUDSON) -- All Hudson will remember is that this was one special moment.
Friday night at Murdough Field at Hudson Memorial Stadium was a moment that measured how much character and heart each and every Hudson player possessed beneath the dark blue game jerseys and shoulder pads- starter or non-starter.
The Explorers’ 15-14 double-overtime victory against visiting Brecksville-Broadview Heights Friday night was all about those qualities, and every single player on Hudson’s team had to believe.
And they ALL believed.
What resulted was one of the most entertaining games in this early prep season, and it took a play that seemed like it was a ``Sandlot’’ play Hudson coach Ron Wright once drew up in the dirt, in his backyard as a kid.
After Brecksville-Broadview Heights went ahead 14-7 in the second overtime, Hudson needed to answer the score, and the Explorers (3-0) did. Junior quarterback Mitch Guadagni, who has an offer from the University at Buffalo (Mid-American Conference), kept his team alive with a 14-yard touchdown run, two plays after the Bees’ score, to cut the lead to 14-13.
Most of Hudson fans assumed the Explorers would kick the extra-point and move into a third overtime. The Explorers’ players and coaching staff knew exactly what they were going to do.
Instead of going for another OT, Hudson’s offense stayed on the field and tried to go for the two-point conversion. However, Brecksville-Broadview Heights coach Jacob Black wisely called a timeout.
Following the timeout, Hudson’s offense came back on the field for a win-or-lose, make-or-break, do-or-die scenario.
"We had talked about it and when their defense was out there, we decided that if we got a chance, we were going to go for it,’’ Wright said.
And that sandlot play Wright called?
"It’s…umm…a play that we run,’’ said Wright, who didn’t want to give away any of his trickery on this particular Friday.
Not to take anything away from Guadagni’s touchdown run, but the play of the game was the two-point conversion, as senior captain and running back Jared Ruffing, who was lined up as a wide receiver on the left, came in motion and took a pitch from running back Dean Miller, then raced into the end zone for the win.
Guadagni was in a shotgun formation calling signals when Hudson quick-snapped to Miller, who then handed off to Ruffing.
"We were going (for the win) the whole time,‘’ Ruffing said. ``We plan that in practice all the time for situations like that so we knew we were going for it.‘’
Meanwhile, Brecksville-Broadview Heights had a ``Two-For-Tupa’’ extravaganza in s senior quarterback
Tim Tupa and sophomore wide receiver Tyler Tupa, who are the sons of former Brecksville and Ohio State quarterback Tom Tupa.
Tim Tupa helped put the Bees ahead 7-0 on a 1-yard run with 3:15 left in the second quarter, as the Bees took a 7-0 halftime lead.
Brecksville opened the game with a spectacular 20-play drive, which took all but 2:04 of the first quarter, only to come up 1-yard short of scoring a touchdown. On fourth-and-goal at the 3, Tim Tupa threw a screen pass to Kyle Stringer who was wrapped up by John Zuccaro, Ruffing and John Callahan just before he could cross the goal line.
"When teams get inside the 10, I don’t know what it is but our defense gets toughness in us and it’s a refusal to let anyone in the end zone,’’ Zuccaro said. ``That was our fourth goal line stand in a row going back to the Lake game. I don’t know what it is, that’s when we tighten up. We just come together as brothers and I can’t explain it.’’
Yet, despite Hudson running 17 total plays in the first half to 31 total plays by Brecksville, the Explorers were still in the game and Hudson only needed eight plays in its opening drive of the second half to even the score. On third down at Brecksville’s 5, Guadagni teamed up with Zuccaro on a fade route to the left corner of the end zone. The throw was perfect and the play helped the Explores tie the score at 7 with 8:00 left in the third quarter.
"We hung in there and hung in there with them,’’ Wright said. ``You know, let’s give them a lot of credit now, that’s a good football team that battle us. Both teams battled.’’
Wright was, well, right. For as much as Hudson deserved to win, Brecksville-Broadview Heights didn’t deserve to lose. Bees’ coach Jacob Black had one of the most poignant assessments following the loss.
"That’s what high school football is all about,’’ Black said. ``What we feel what high school football is about is life-lessons. It’s a learning experience. We have a lot of things that we’ll learn from this and hopefully next time we’re in this situation, the game goes differently for us. The kids played hard, they gave me all the effort they could give and they have no reason to hang their heads.’’
"We were one play away from winning the game,’’ Wright said. ``That’s what you take away from this. You play 120 to 130 plays and one play doesn’t win or lose the game and one play isn’t more important than the next, but one may look a little larger.’’
And that play was Hudson’s neighborhood, finger-in-the-dirt, ``Sandlot’’ play to win the game.