HUDSON — It didn’t call for an "act of true love" like it did for Elsa and Anna.
It didn’t require a soon to be king of the beasts to confront his past so he could restore order in his native Pride Lands.
Like the two classic films, though, the Hudson football team had to overcome some substantial adversity to create its own version of Arendelle and the "circle of life."
"We’re Frozen; we’re The Lion King," Explorers head coach Jeff Gough said.
There was no evidence that evil, cunning villains such as Prince Hans or Scar dressed up in red and white colors Friday evening.
But Hudson discovered just how potent its magic was when it learned how to harness its powerful but extremely dangerous sorcery. Thus, Hudson took its rightful place on Pride Rock last Friday night.
With a Disney-like twist, of course.
Thanks to a 46-yard field goal by long-distance kicker Caleb Junko as time expired, the host Explorers stunned Suburban League National Conference juggernaut Wadsworth 37-35 at Hudson Memorial Stadium.
Junko, who also is a member of Hudson’s boys soccer team, has a specific role on the gridiron that may not be considered particularly glamorous.
His job is to boot kickoffs, punts and of course, long field-goal attempts.
Junko has to do much of the dirty work on the pitch as well. Last Friday, the junior two-sport standout did his best Simba impersonation. At least for one night, Junko was the king of Hudson’s not-so-grassy plains.
"I play right back, so I’m a defender," Junko said of his role on the soccer field. "I get some assists. I can kick it pretty far. They put in Jake Vidmar to win the game for us, but they [the officials called a five-yard penalty] pushed us back a little farther.
"Jacob [Paltani] had a great hold. The second it came off my foot, I knew. It felt amazing; it’s such a great feeling."
To say the Explorers were the considerable underdogs is akin to saying Anna and Kristoff were meant to be together from the beginning.
Hudson’s improbable triumph snapped Wadsworth’s 15-game National Conference winning streak. The two-time defending National Conference champs finished 12-1 last season while the Explorers, thanks to an array of injuries, finished a modest 3-7.
The mighty Grizzlies’ previous conference loss took place nearly three years ago. Appropriately enough, that defeat also came courtesy of Hudson (2-2, 1-0), which earned a 24-17 victory.
"I’m so proud of these guys," Gough said. "This is fantastic."
One could argue it was "fantastic" from beginning to end.
The lead changed hands eight times as the momentum seemed to switch 180 degrees with every blink of an eye.
"That was one for the ages," Gough said. "It was a back and forth game. It felt like a playoff atmosphere. This is what Ohio football is about."
Gough’s first-year quarterback played a pivotal role in ending the Explorers’ seemingly eternal winter.
Paltani, a junior, ran for 146 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries. He also connected on 17-of-26 passes for 246 yards and another score.
But none of that would have mattered if Paltani’s hands failed him on the final play. Let’s just say that supposedly simple catch and place of the pigskin was about as leisurely as performing a craniectomy.
"I was freaking out," Paltani said. "I was afraid I might mess up the hold. It was a great snap [from Patrick Just]. I had a good hold and it was just a phenomenal kick by Caleb. It was crazy. The best experience of my life so far, probably."
Paltani almost had his evening come to an abrupt end several minutes before the epic kick. He suffered an injury and was forced out of the game for one play.
The timing wasn’t particularly convenient. That’s because Wadsworth scored two touchdowns in a span of 18 seconds to take a 28-20 lead.
No worries for the fearless next-man-up Hudson squad, though.
Senior Ryan Neher took one snap under center when Paltani left the field. It was quite a beauty.
Neher completed a 65-yard pass to Alex Oppelt to move the Explorers to the Grizzlies’ 5-yard line.
"I love how selfless he [Neher] has been," Gough said. "He was voted a captain by his teammates and you can see why. He’s ready every time his number is called. I love what Ryan can do with his arm."
Paltani returned to the huddle and scored on the next play to cut Wadsworth’s advantage to a single point.
Hudson eventually took a 34-28 lead, thanks to a crucial defensive stop and another long pass.
The Explorers stopped Barret Labus on fourth-and-1 from Hudson’s 5 and then Paltani delivered a perfect strike to Luke McLaughlin for a 76-yard touchdown just 10 seconds into the fourth quarter.
However, the seesaw battle continued and the Grizzlies took their final lead (35-34) of the game when Trey Shaffer connected with Ethan Korecky on a 46-yard TD pass. Blake Turano converted the last of his five point after tries.
The Explorers’ hopes appeared to be crushed rather harshly when Hudson fumbled deep in Grizzlies’ territory with a little more than 90 seconds left.
But the Explorers refused to go away.
Hudson used its two remaining timeouts and forced a punt, thanks to a strong defensive effort.
As a result, the Explorers got the ball back on Wadsworth’s 40 with just 29 seconds to go.
The rest, of course, is history.
"I watch a lot of Disney movies with my 3-year-old," Gough said. "Every season is completely different. Like those movies, they have their own story. It’s up to us."
Hudson’s other foot specialist, Vidmar, converted 26- and 34-yard field goals, respectively, to keep his team within striking distance. Vidmar has converted all six of his field-goal tries thus far. The Explorers also got another solid game from running back Drew Lightner, who gained 77 yards.
Shaffer completed 15-of-26 passes for 263 yards and three TDs and Anthony Cirino had a rushing touchdown for the Grizzlies. Wadsworth’s Jack Grice also scored on a fumble recovery in the end zone.
Princess Elsa and a determined big cat named Simba endured much dismay before riding off into the sunset. When it comes to a certain rival that makes its home near Route 94, Hudson hopes its castle gates will never be locked again.
The Explorers, who are scheduled to host conference rival Brecksville-Broadview Heights this Friday at 7 p.m., also want to avoid another lonely, hopeless encounter in the desert.
It’s a good bet they would prefer not being discovered by fellow outcasts such as a meerkat or a warthog.
"Every Disney movie starts with a horrible tragedy and adversity," Gough said. "All of a sudden, you identify that adversity. We’re going to come back and have a happy ending."