PERRY TWP. — Apparently, there was no eureka moment for fourth-year Hudson head football coach Jeff Gough or his staff.
There was no trip to Mentor to ask coach Steve Trivisonno how to run its offense.
There wasn’t even a "mark-this-day-down" event either.
The decision to change offenses this past season to the hurry-up style came sometime early in the 2019 calendar.
Let’s just say it worked out well. Extremely well, as a matter of fact.
While the Explorers’ season came to an end after losing to Perry 37-27 in a Division II, Region 5 quarterfinal game last Friday in Perry Township, this year’s offensive numbers were staggering.
School records fell left and right in a year where Hudson rebounded from a 3-7 season the previous year to finish 7-4 and gain a share of the Suburban League National Conference championship.
When did the fast-tempo style offense become the plan?
"I think it was back in February," Gough said. "Our staff got together and talked about what can we do with our numbers, because we have so many.
"I’d love to say that I came up with that idea, but coach Trivisonno of Mentor was the first one in Northeast Ohio to use that plan."
The "numbers" gave Hudson the chance to platoon most kids either offense or defense. Why not? The Explorers had 87 teenagers on the roster.
"We learned from everybody," Gough said. "We tried to pull something from every successful offense. We have a fantastic program — middle school programs and kids coming out. We have numbers.
"With that, with the tempo we can go, go, go, go, go. Our guys are fresh because we are only playing one way. That was kind of the origin. The kids jumped into it. They embraced it."
While the skill-position athletes may have loved the idea from day one, the offensive linemen needed a bit more time to embrace it.
"We found out back when we started our morning conditioning," senior left tackle Evan Knipp said. "We did not like it. We thought it sucks because we were running."
Knipp and very likely all the doubters at the beginning of the year changed their opinions.
"It grew on us," Knipp said. "It was kind of, ‘I don’t want to run,’ but once we understood the merit of it, we thought wow this is a really, really powerful tool.
"When we got to install it and started running it on some defenses, we found they couldn’t keep up with us. It helped our offense thrive and succeed. We definitely are grateful that we did it. We put in the hard work and that’s why we were successful. That’s a direct result of the hurry up."
The new tactic was not unleashed immediately.
Hudson didn’t even run the offense during scrimmages. It wasn’t unveiled until the season opener — a 46-41 loss at Solon.
That point total was the most scored in a loss in school history. Despite the setback, the hurry-up strategy was off and running.
"This was a total team effort," Gough said. "We had meetings with them back in March and they set some pretty lofty goals. When they actually believed in it, it may have been that first or second drive against Solon when they saw guys tired and saw us getting into the end zone."
That probably was the first drive: an eight-play, 70-yard march that took just 1 minute, 58 seconds off the clock and put the Explorers on top early 7-0 at Solon.
That would be a typical drive for Hudson all season as it held the ball an average of just a little more than 20 minutes per game.
The Explorers ran 736 total plays from scrimmage to 717 by their opponents and outgained them 4,559-4,077 in total yardage. On the scoreboard, where it matters the most, Hudson outscored the opposition 432-306.
As a result of this high-octane offense, the scoring records began to fall.
The Explorers scored 405 points during the regular season to top the previous mark of 393 set by the Mitch Guadagni-led 2014 team that reached the Division I state semifinals.
All told, the offense averaged 414.5 yards per game, toppling the mark set in 2014 of 412.3.
Junior quarterback Jacob Paltani tied the single-season scoring mark with 138 points, matching Josh Holden’s 1998 total.
With his 1-yard sneak in the fourth quarter last Friday, he recorded his school-record 23rd touchdown. Holden had the previous record of 22.
The 5-foot-7, 140-pound Paltani ended the season with 1,564 yards rushing (third most in school history) and 1,372 yards through the air and 11 touchdowns.
"Jacob is not really big, but he’s just tough and the kids follow him. He’s like having another coach out there.
"I’m happy he bought in because we put a lot on him. It wasn’t meant to be like that. It was fun watching him and the rest of the offense buy in. I can’t say enough about our offensive line. I am so proud of them."
The line included Knipp, Chris Slater, Mason McLaughlin, Alex Movshin, Kevin Toth and Colin Koennecke.
It wasn’t all Paltani.
Hudson had two 1,000-yard rushers. Junior running back Drew Lightner ended with 1,090 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Junior Luke McLaughlin caught 10 passes in one game for 182 yards in a win against North Royalton and had 39 receptions on the year for 625 yards and five touchdowns. Sophomore Colin Pierce caught 34 passes for 426 yards and six scores. Of the Explorers’ 57 touchdowns, only one was scored by a senior.
To add to the underclassmen theme, junior kicker Jake Vidmar converted all 53 of his point after tries and 10-of-12 field goal attempts. He has now booted a school-record 68 consecutive extra points.
"I’m so proud of our seniors," said Gough, who was the team’s offensive coordinator this fall. "Coming in with a brand new offense, all new terminology, formations, signals, they just bought in. The way we had to practice was completely new for everybody.How we lifted weights changed, everything changed."