NILES, Ohio –
Coming into the night heavy favorites, the Hubbard Eagles (9-0) got off to a slow start. After going three and out on their opening drive, Niles’s sophomore running back, Antuan Gardner, took a shotgun handoff straight up the middle to gash the Eagles for fifty-five yards before being pushed out of bounds at the one. One play later and Gardner was in the endzone for the opening score of the night, Eagles trail 6-0.
Unfortunately for the Dragons, their lead, along with the Eagles slow start, would not last. The next twenty-two seconds of gametime saw a thirty-yard kick return by Landen Bates to get the Eagles into Niles territory, followed by a forty-five-yard sweep from Ben Wilcox to put the Eagles on the board and take their first lead of the night.
Looking to continue the success of their opening drive, the Red Dragons would see the ensuing kickoff go into the endzone for a touchback, giving them the ball at their own twenty-five. A solid gain of seven on first down followed by two gains of zero forced a Niles three and out. The Red Dragons punter would bobble a low snap on the attempted punt and was eventually brought down at the Red Dragons own twenty-three-yard line.
The Eagles once again needed very little time to score. Quarterback Nik Hendrix threw a beautiful ball to the back corner of the endzone that senior Landen Bates would come down with, putting the Eagles out in front 14-6 without their bell cow, TC Caffey, ever being involved.
Hubbard’s defense would remain stout, and the Eagles offense kicked into cruise control in their 48-13 routing of Niles. A new wrinkle was added to Hubbard’s offense in Landan Bates throwing things back to the old school Hubbard spread formation with an uber athletic QB. Bates and Caffey would combine for 342 yards on the ground for 5 scores. In the process, Caffey would eclipse the 2000-yard mark for the season, continuing his pursuit of Valley legend, LJ Scott’s, single season rushing record.
TC Caffey: 19 carries, 236 rushing yards, 3 TDs
Landan Bates: 11 carries, 1 reception, 130 total yards, 3 total TDs
Antuan Gardner: 22 carries, 205 yards, 1 TD
Hubbard: After keeping their perfect records intact (Hubbard 9-0 on the season, Hoffman 14-0 all-time against Niles), the Eagles will hit the road again for the most anticipated matchup of the season against the South Range Raiders (9-0). The winner completes their regular season with an unblemished 10-0 record and will secure the NE8 conference championship.
Niles: With playoff hopes still alive, the Red Dragons must bounce back quickly as they will host another NE8 team on the fringe of the postseason, the Girard Indians (5-4). Niles will need a win and a little help in order to secure their bid to the dance, while Girard can cement their spot with a victory.
*Contributed By YSN’s Jamie Thomson
Postgame Interview With Brian Hoffman:
Postgame Interview With Landon Bates: