Hubbard’s defense holds off Red Dragons
NILES — Even before the kickoff to Friday’s Northeast-8 Conference showdown between Hubbard and Niles, there were some ominous signs that didn’t bode well for the Red Dragons.
As Niles was conducting its practice on Thursday, players and coaches spotted a bald eagle perched atop a light pole at Bo Rein Stadium.
On Friday, the Dragons were without their mascot, which had to sit out the game due to an illness.
Hubbard then created its own good fortunes, and the result was a 14-3 Eagles road win.
Hubbard lifts its record to 6-2, 4-1 NE-8, and with the victory comes close to securing a playoff spot in Division IV, Region 13.
Niles falls to 5-3, 2-3.
“This was a really nice team win, we had so many players contribute on both sides of the ball,” Hubbard coach Brian Hoffman said. “As a coach, you can’t help but be happy when the offense, defense and special teams all play a role. It was a solid team effort by our players and my coaching staff.”
The biggest contributor of the night may have been Kobe Krisuk. The junior quarterback started in place of Cam Resatar, who was injured in last week’s game at Girard. Krisuk rushed for a game-high 117 yards on 28 carries, and he engineered several time-consuming drives which kept the Niles offense off the field.
Krisuk also completed 6-of-11 passes for 54 yards.
“Kobe had a really good week of practice,” Hoffman said. “We believe in him and in his ability to lead this team. He played with a ton of composure. He ran really well, and as the game wore on our confidence grew in his passing game. He did a tremendous job out there.”
After both teams struggled to move the ball early on, Niles took advantage of a short field and scored the first points of the game on a Chase Sudzina 30-yard field goal.
Following the Niles score, the Dragons’ defense held Hubbard to a three-and-out for a third straight series. However, the ensuing punt was muffed by Niles, and Hubbard took possession at the Dragons’ 38.
This time, Hubbard quickly capitalized. The Eagles needed just three plays to find paydirt. Krisuk capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Hubbard’s following drive didn’t result in points, but it set the tone for the rest of the night. The Eagles held the ball for 15 plays and ate up nearly 7 minutes of the second quarter, but a missed field goal kept the game at 7-3 at halftime.
Niles was held to 44 total yards in the first half. The Dragons finished with 160 total yards, including just 36 rushing yards.
Hubbard’s first possession of the second half resulted in a 70-yard drive which was ended with a Tommy Wess two-yard run that put the Eagles up 14-3.
The Eagles would later eat up 7:32 of the fourth quarter on a 17-play drive which ended on a turnover on downs.
“We had some opportunities but we didn’t execute when we had the ball,” Niles coach Jim Parry said. “We feel like we’re capable of scoring more than three points against anyone we play, but we just didn’t execute well at all.”
“We didn’t want to get down by two scores, because we knew that played right into Hubbard’s hands. They have the ability to milk the clock. Right now we’re struggling and we have to own up to it and finish strong.”
Timothy Caffey helped the Hubbard cause with 67 rushing yards while Nate Bencetic and Jermia Harris each pulled in a pair of receptions.
Niles’ offense was paced by Zack Leonard, who completed 14-of-26 passes for 124 yards. Seth McMillon was on the receiving end of five of those passes for 41 yards.
“Our defense played a great game, even when they were backed up they were resilient,” Hoffman said. “I can’t give enough credit to our defensive coaches and my defensive coordinator Sam Bellino. They have done a great job all year long of putting us in a position to win.”
Hubbard looks to pull even with Poland in the NE-8 next Friday when the two teams play at Hubbard. Niles returns to action at Lakeview.