Lake defeats Hudson 34-27 in shootout victory

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By Keno Sultan

The Suburbanite

 

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When 48 minutes expired at Lake Blue Streak Stadium, the Blue Streaks, waging battle with a heavily damaged battleship of their own finally sunk the battleship of the tough-as-steel Explorers behind five touchdowns from senior tailback Jim Luther, whose go-ahead 71-yard touchdown run with 5:24 remaining in regulation coupled with the visitors using all three of their timeouts in the third quarter pushed the record of the hosts to 2-0 on the season to reverse the outcome of the previous meeting going back to last season.

This game was a night-and-day change from last year's defensive contest. This one consisted of more offense but the Blue Streaks were on the winning end this time around.

Lake head coach Jeff Durbin was surprised when asked if he thought the game would be more of a defensive confrontation.

“Yes, everyone expected the game to be a defensive battle. But we scored more than them and that is all that matters,” he said.

This game also came with a milestone for the grandfather of Federal League head coaches: he won his 150th game as head coach of the Blue Streaks. This is the 54th season of Lake football and Durbin has coached 21 teams to date.

This game commenced on the wrong end for the hosts. A fumble on the kickoff awarded the ball to the Explorers on the Lake 13-yard line. But their glory was short lived as they turned the ball over on downs. But their second possession required possession of time and meticulous offense consisting of seven runs out of nine plays that ended with quarterback Ben Gedeon's seven-yard touchdown run to put the first dent in the scoreboard for the Explorers.

That score only embittered the Blue Streaks. And Luther made that known in 15 seconds. His 97-yard kickoff return in which he outran David Nelson brought the crowd to their feet. Though the two-point conversion failed, the hosts trailed by one point but momentum clearly was on their side.

From there on the game became a battle of give-and-take from each team.

“Our team knew that we did what we had to do,” Durbin said.

Hudson refused to wilt away, even when trailing 20-13 at half time. Using their most imperative possession of the contest, they erected a seven-play drive punctuated by a controversial roughing the passer penalty on the hosts to tie the game at 20-20 when Gedeon scored on a one-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter. The score was set up by Garrett Piekarski's deep kickoff return all the way to the Lake 34-yard line.

But due to miscommunications, the Explorers had exhausted all of their timeouts. And they had resorted from kicking away from Luther the rest of the game, the same as Lake resorted to kicking away from Hudson's dangerous specialists in receivers Piekarski and Zack Brandy, two men capable of turning a game around with one return.

Luther scored on a nine-yard touchdown run to give Lake back the lead early in the fourth but Hudson responded when Nelson found Gedeon on a 24-yard touchdown catch in which he threaded a pass between two Blue Streaks defenders to tie the game at 27-27.

Apparently, the score ticked Lake off for the last time as they obviously were not interested in an overtime session. Luther took a handoff from quarterback Jon Spohn and powered his way for a 71-yard touchdown run with 5:24 remaining to provide the final margin that allowed them to run out the clock and terminate Hudson's final threat.

“Hudson after tying the game started to wear down late and that is when Luther gets strong. He will do that to you late in the game,” Durbin said of the go-ahead touchdown that provided the finality.

Why did Hudson use three timeouts all in the third quarter?

“That is what happens when you try formations but you either get penalties or you burn timeouts,” Durbin said of Hudson's miscues.

Explorers head coach Tom Narducci was unavailable for comment after his team fell to 0-2 on the season.

The Blue Streaks are off for eight days before their Federal League opener next Saturday night against Canton McKinley, who at press time are 1-0 going into Sunday's contest against Huber Heights Wayne and future Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.

Going back to 2008, Canton McKinley has outscored Lake 48-24 in two meetings for an average of 24-12. The Blue Streaks have a grueling piece of history to correct against the Bulldogs, who are expected to contend for the Division I, Region 2 title this season.

When asked what it will take to stifle the Bulldogs, Durbin was succinct on what his legion of Blue Streaks needed to do.

“Oh man, we have to play much better. We have to play better football. We can't slip up out there. And we have to improve the kicking game,” he said.

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