LYNDHURST — After two tough losses to open the 2019 football season, the Hudson Explorers looked to end that skid when they hosted 0-2 Brush Friday.
That elusive first win didn’t come on Friday the 13th. It took another day to complete.
With lightning in the vicinity of Hudson Memorial Stadium, the game was halted with three quarters in the books and the Explorers comfortably ahead.
Saturday morning ACT tests and soccer on Murdough Field then threw wrenches into plans to resume play.
The game finally was completed Saturday in the early afternoon as Hudson put the finishing touches on its convincing 34-12 victory in Lyndhurst. With the win, the Explorers improved to 1-2 on the season.
"I’m feeling a lot better than [Sept. 6]," Hudson head coach Jeff Gough said. "It took two days, but we finally pulled it out. Give the kids credit for being able to come back out. They came out and took care of business right away and our JV [junior varsity] set the tone."
The Explorers cruised to a 48-16 victory over the Arcs in the JV contest.
The fourth quarter began in bright, sunny conditions with Hudson facing a third and 14 from the Brush 29-yard line. Hudson, which led 27-6 at the time, made short work of the rest of the game.
A little more than a minute into Saturday’s action, Drew Lightner crossed the goal line on a 7-yard power run up the middle for a 34-6 advantage. The Arcs added a late TD for the final 34-12 score.
For Lightner, the touchdown capped off a huge night/afternoon. The junior running back topped the 100-yard rushing milestone for the third straight week as he ran for 110 yards on 26 carries. He also scored four touchdowns.
This was only the 24th time in school history that an Explorer has recorded four or more TDs in a game. He joined a list of 22 former players to accomplish the feat that includes Hall of Famer Dante Lavelli and current Minnesota Vikings’ linebacker Ben Gedeon.
"The offensive line did a really good job," Lightner said. "Our whole game plan was to run, run, run. We executed really well. Not a whole lot of breakaway runs. Slowly but surely, we worked them and the tempo exhausted them. They [the Arcs] were gassed."
Lightner’s longest run was 10 yards. He scored from a yard away twice, 5 and 7 yards, respectively.
Lightner was far from the only star of the game. Junior quarterback Jacob Paltani carried the ball 27 times for 116 yards and had the two longest runs for his team on the night of 27 and 13 yards, respectively.
Unlike a week earlier when it had four plays of more than 50 yards in a 35-28 overtime loss to Strongsville, the Explorers were more methodical with 251 yards in 68 attempts.
And then there was the defense.
Thirteen times, the Explorers held the speedy Brush backs to zero or negative gains. Most notably were their efforts with a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Brush had first and goal at the Hudson 1. The Explorers’ defense stopped the Arcs from reaching the end zone. Therefore, Brush had to settle for a field goal.
Unfortunately for the Arc, that didn’t go so well either.
Hudson’s Dane DiGeronimo blocked the kick and teammate John Innamorato recovered it.
"That goal-line stand was amazing," Gough said. "To get a stop like that and a blocked field goal, that’s amazing. The defense as a whole was incredible. I give a lot of credit to not only the defense but to coach [Jake] Brandy [defensive coordinator], coach [Addison] Carbone and coach [Dave] Verhotz for the adjustments they made on the fly. They [the Arcs] came out with a brand new offense that we didn’t practice against at all."
The Explorers opened the game with an 80-yard, 13-play march. Lightner and Paltani took turns grinding out runs between the tackles. Lightner got his first touchdown with 8:29 left in the first quarter on a 1-yard burst up the middle.
The defense gave Hudson the ball right back when Adam Oscarson recorded the first of his two fumble recoveries on the night on Brush’s first snap from scrimmage.
Just 22 yards from another score, the Explorers opted for three points. Jake Vidmar knocked through the 22-yard kick for a 10-0 lead.
Lightner’s second touchdown came at the end of 54-yard drive following Oscarson’s second fumble recovery. His second-effort burst up the middle made the score 17-0 at the half.
Lightner scored again early in the third after Hudson got the short field following a high snap on a Brush punt attempt. It took two plays to go the nine yards and increase the lead to 24-0.
The Arcs got their first points of the season on an 80-yard TD pass from Keyshawn Johnson to Octavian Harris to make the score 24-6. The 2-point conversion attempt failed.
The Explorers countered with a nice march with senior quarterback Ryan Neher at the helm. The possession stalled after 11 plays, but Vidmar’s foot was true again from 23 yards out for a 27-6 advantage with 42 seconds left in the third period.
Vidmar has been quietly filling the shoes of Hudson’s all-time leading scorer Grant Gonya, who is now at Youngstown State University. Vidmar had made all four of his field-goal tries this year and has converted all 13 of his extra points.
"He has been doing fantastic," Gough said. "Jacob has been mister automatic. We trust in him. He worked his butt off this offseason. He’s continued the tradition of specialists we have had."
Forty-two seconds after Vidmar’s second field goal, the game was halted due to lightning.
This is the second time the Explorers had to finish a home game on the road. In 2009, their season opener was concluded at Medina. The Explorers have finished six games in their history. They are 6-0 in those contests.
Hudson is scheduled to return home to play Wadsworth in its 2019 Suburban League National Conference debut. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Grizzlies saw their 23-game regular-season winning streak end with a 31-28 loss to Medina.