by Rob Barrone
Hudson -- Domination by depth.
From start to finish and in nearly every category, the Hudson football squad dominated visiting North Royalton in a Suburban League National Conference contest Sept. 23 at Hudson Memorial Stadium.
While the Explorers recorded huge numbers in the stat books, they didn't translate quickly to the scoreboard as Hudson slowly pulled away to a 31-0 win over the Bears.
The victory lifted Hudson's mark to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the National Conference at the halfway point of the 2016 season. North Royalton dropped to 1-4 overall and 0-2 in the conference.
The Explorers, who earned a 55-7 win over the Bears in 2015, racked up 551 yards in total offense while limiting North Royalton to just 98.
"That is fantastic," Hudson first-year head coach Jeff Gough said. "That's a testament to coach [Shawn] Surdy and the offensive staff.
"On top of that, you have to give it up to the defense. Any kind of momentum was thwarted right away. When you give your offense the ability to kind of play free and if we make a mistake, that's all right. We got your back."
But the end zone was elusive early.
Despite a 130 to 8 advantage in yards gained early in the second quarter, the score was still tied at 0-0.
The tie finally ended when Hudson junior running back Dawson Wervey ran up the middle from 5 yards out for the game's first score with 8 minutes, 21 seconds left in the first half. Kicker Grant Gonya followed with the first of his four point after tries to make it 7-0.
The Explorers pushed the lead to 14-0 at halftime and it stayed that way until late in the third quarter.
Hudson finally put the game completely away with 10 points late in the fourth quarter to start the running clock for the final 1:56.
Junior quarterback Colt Pallay got his first start of the year and ended with a 7-of-17 night passing and 81 yards along with 39 on the ground.
Sophomore William Wallace went 4-of-8 for 80 yards passing and ran for 21 more.
Senior Jackson Parker was 7-of-10 for 99 yards and a touchdown while adding 52 yards on the ground.
"We're going to continue to rotate them in at quarterback," Gough said. "As many guys as we can play on Friday night to get experience and build depth, that is what we are after in this program.
"Defensively, I think we rotated at least eight guys on the defensive line, six linebackers and seven defensive backs," Gough said. "We are just trying really hard to build depth."
That depth also is showing up at running back.
With starting running back Kevin Callahan out for a week with an injury, the Explorers were still able to total 291 yards on the ground.
Wervey, a junior, carried the ball 16 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
As if that wasn't enough to show Hudson's depth, third-string back Brady Ludewig had success on his first varsity touches.
The sophomore had nine carries for 79 yards including a 55-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
"Kevin is trying to get healthy, so we held him out for this week," Gough said. "Both Dawson and Brady ran hard.
"Dawson has got fantastic talent in the open field. Brady has potential and talent. Add that up with our offensive line and the holes we were making and he can be pretty explosive.
"On top of that, you have to look at another dynamic athlete who really stood out. That's Matt Restifo."
After missing the first three weeks with an injury, Restifo saw limited duty at Nordonia the previous week.
He saw a lot more time against the Bears, hauling in four passes for 84 yards. The senior co-captain had an 81-yard touchdown scamper off a pass from Wallace nullified by a penalty.
The Explorers' first score came on the back end of a 15-play, 63-yard march.
Pallay engineered the drive that overcame an early holding call.
The biggest play in that march was a third-and-15 scramble by Pallay to find Greg Mailey for 16 yards.
The lead moved to 14-0 on Hudson's next possession.
A six-play, 65-yard drive led by Parker ended with Mailey's fourth touchdown in the past four games.
Mailey, a junior who caught five passes for 103 yards, took a Parker pass down the right sideline and slipped a pair of would-be tacklers to go 47 yards.
North Royalton threatened to come back when Eddie Pfister took the ensuing kickoff back 42 yards.
Eight plays later, the danger was over when the Explorers' Matt Rudy recovered a Bears' fumble at the 8-yard line.
A 70-yard kick return by Pfister to open the second half was again erased by the defense.
This time, Alex Beck had an interception in the red zone on North Royalton's first play.
The Explorers upped their lead to 21-0 with 1:39 left in the third quarter when they scored on the first play after a Bears' punt.
Ludewig took a simple handoff up the middle through a hole and was off to the races from 55 yards out.
Gonya's diving tackle saved a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff as he kicked away from Pfister only to have David Steward take it back 29 yards to North Royalton's 44.
Two Bear possessions later, Hudson's defense came through again with another pick in the red zone.
This time, Evan Westerbeck batted the ball and Stephen Bianconi made a diving pick before the ball hit the ground.
Although the score was nullified, Restifo's long run through North Royalton's' defense in the fourth quarter did not go for naught.
Nine plays after the penalty (one of 12 for 136 yards against Hudson to three for 20 by the Bears) Gonya booted a 20-yard field goal for a 24-0 edge with 2:40 to play.
Wervey concluded the scoring with his 24-yard TD run late in the game.
The Explorers, tied atop the National Conference standings with Stow-Munroe Falls and Brecksville-Broadview Heights, is scheduled to visit National Conference rival Cuyahoga Falls Sept. 30 at Clifford Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.