BROADVIEW HEIGHTS — For a team used to a high level of success for the past seven-plus years, it was a long wait for another win.
Including losses in the regular-season finale last year to Wadsworth and a first-round playoff loss at Brush, the Hudson football team had lost five straight games.
That skid came to an end with an exclamation mark as the Explorers rolled past host Brecksville-Broadview Heights 27-0 in the Suburban League National Conference opener for both schools Friday.
The defense stymied nearly everything the Bees tried as Brecksville totaled just 93 yards from scrimmage.
In an era of spread offenses and high scoring games, the shutout was Hudson’s first since week five of 2016 (a 31-0 win against North Royalton). The Explorers (1-3) have now recorded 13 shutouts since the last time they went scoreless themselves — 119 games ago in 2008.
"We talked all week long about starting fresh and winning our league," Hudson head coach Jeff Gough said. "Brecksville is a great opponent. We’ll celebrate this one, go watch some film to see what we can correct and then all eyes will turn to Nordonia."
For Gough, who doubles as defensive coordinator this year, the shutout was special.
"That’s awesome," he said. "We rolled a bunch of guys on the D-line. We are trying to build that depth, but you have to give it up to the defensive linemen. They have been growing each week. They did a really nice job, staying disciplined and getting to the football."
Senior linebacker Michael Caniglia had a big game behind the defensive line, recording three tackles for loss in the first half alone.
"That was pretty big for us," Caniglia said. "Our defensive line did a great job this week and our secondary obviously did too because they couldn’t throw the ball. It was a great team effort. It was a good win for us as a team. That’s what we needed. Everything was going our way."
With their starting quarterback, Joe Labas, lost to an injury earlier this season, the Bees (0-4) sent out two different packages with a passing quarterback in Garrett Kubitz and a running one in Ronald Wilson.
They had very limited success.
Kubitz completed 7 of 16 passes for just 34 yards, while Wilson ran 18 times for 40 yards and never attempted a pass.
While the Hudson defense was stopping the Bees, the Explorers’ offense was stopping itself in the early going. Hudson was flagged 12 times on the night for 109 yards and fumbled twice in Brecksville territory on its first five touches.
The scoreboard stayed at 0-0 until the final seconds of the first half.
After a short Bees’ punt, Hudson had the ball just 31 yards from the end zone with 2 minutes, 9 seconds left in the half.
Two holding calls backed the Explorers up to the 44-yard line with a third-and-33.
Quarterback Liam Brennan connected with Luke McLaughlin over the middle for 24 yards, setting up a fourth and nine with 42 seconds left in the half. McLaughlin, a sophomore, caught seven passes on the night for 92 yards.
On fourth down, Brennan connected with Zach Palmer on the left sideline for 13 yards to the Bees’ 7. After two incompletions, Brennan spotted another sophomore, Drew Lightner, on the right side and Lightner took it in for six with 18 ticks on the clock. Jake Vidmar’s kick made it 7-0.
Lightner, a running back, gained 107 yards in 21 attempts.
After a fumble on the first play of the second half, the offense began to hit on all cylinders and the defense recorded three straight three and outs.
With a TV chopper hovering overhead the Explorers looked good for the camera on their next touch. Hudson marched 75 yards in nine plays.
Brennan, who completed 19 of 29 passes for 248 yards and three scores, connected on all four of his passes during the drive, starting it off with a 22-yard pass to McLaughlin and ending it with a 16-yard strike to McLaughlin.
The latter stretched to ball across the goal line and the lead was 14-0.
"I took a moment with the kids and said this is sweet," Gough said. "We’re playing underneath a helicopter. The execution was awesome.
"Liam hit a number of different receivers. It’s exciting when you spread it around like that."
The Explorers added to their lead later in the third quarter with another drive that had to overcome two holding calls.
Brennan was 4 of 5 in this march, including a 38-yard pass to sophomore Jacob Paltani. The lone incompletion was a dropped touchdown pass by Peyton Miller but the senior redeemed himself two plays later, catching an 18-yard touchdown for a 21-0 advantage.
The Bees managed just two first downs in the second half and Hudson added a late score on a time-consuming drive. Lightner ripped off a 30-yard run in the 75-yard, 12-play effort.
The backups took over late in the drive with junior quarterback Ryan Neher completing a fourth-and-goal 20-yard post pattern pass to Palmer for the final six points with 1:15 to play.
The Explorers are scheduled to visit the Knights in a National Conference showdown Friday at Boliantz Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.