Hudson football's offense runs wild in victory over Wadsworth

Rob Barrone
Correspondent
Hudson's Aiden Lai breaks into the open during the Explorers' 62-42 win at Wadsworth Sept. 18.

How good is the 2020 Hudson Explorers offense?

Aiden Lal has a high assessment.

“We feel we have the most high-powered offense in the state,” the junior running back said.

Hudson improved to 4-0 by racking up a 62-42 victory at three-time defending Suburban League National Conference champion Wadsworth (1-2). The Explorers are averaging nearly 50 points per game thus far.

The Explorers' offense seemed to scored at will Sept. 18 at Art Wright Stadium, scoring nine touchdowns and racking up 596 yards in total offense

“Every game we expect to do this, honestly,” Lal added after his breakout game with 104 yards rushing and four touchdowns.

Hudson running back Drew Lightner eludes a Wadsworth defender during the Explorers' 62-42 win over the Grizzlies Sept. 18 at Art Wright Stadium.

Lal added even more depth to the offensive attack that already had deep threats in Luke McLaughlin and Colin Pierce and features a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in quarterback Jacob Paltani and running back Drew Lightner.

Lal came into the game with two touchdowns and 165 yards rushing through three games.

Twelve possessions ended with: nine touchdowns, one punt and an interception. Perhaps Hudson's most impressive possession was its last, as it ran off a 13-play drive that took the final 9:54 off the clock.

The final touch was designed to keep the Grizzlies and quarterback Mitchell Evans off the field. Hudson ran the ball every play, grinding out 50 yards in those 13 plays.

“We talk about goals for each drive. That’s going to be our goal … to run this clock out,” Hudson coach Jeff Gough said. “I’m so proud of those guys. That’s how you want to finish up a game.”

The Explorers' longest scoring drive was its first, and it took only 1:50 off the clock and took nine plays.

Lightner capped off that first possession powering up the middle from 3 yards out. Jake Vidmar tacked on the first of his school-record tying eight extra points. He now has 100 extra points in his career in 101 attempts.

Lightner ended with a career-high 196 yards on the ground on 19 attempts and three scores. He led a Hudson rushing attack that ran for 354 yards on 38 carries and eight touchdowns.

“This was awesome. The O-line did a great job. I don’t know how many yards we rushed for, but we scored on almost every drive,” Lightner said. “Those guys (up front) put in so much work at practice, and it shows.”

Hudson quarterback Jacob Paltani awaits the snap during the Explorers' 62-42 win at Wadsworth Sept. 14.

“I credit our offensive line: Kevin Toth and Colin Koennecke, our two tackles and our interior line Orion Beh, Alex Movshin and Chris Slater had a body on a body. They love doing what we just did out there, and their pass protection was phenomenal. They haven’t surrendered a sack yet,” Gough said.

While Hudson’s offense was incredible, scoring the second most points in a game in school history, the Grizzlies weren’t too far behind. Wadsworth totaled 496 yards mostly behind the efforts of Evans.

Evans was banged up a week earlier in Wadsworth's 63-49 loss to Nordonia but showed little signs of a knee injury. His first run ended in a 74-yard touchdown, which tied the game at 7-7 early.

Evans closed the contest with 100 yards on nine rushes and two scores while passing for 381 yards (22-38) and three more scores.

Hudson answered the Grizzlies' first score and stayed ahead the rest of the game. Lal’s 31-yard burst around left end made the score 14-7.

After a Wadsworth fumble, the Explorers upped the lead to 21-7 after one period, as Paltani hit Vincent Matolka for a 6-yard touchdown.

Paltani connected on 21-of-30 passes on the night for 242 yards.

The hosts countered quickly when Barret Labus took a short pass from Evans and raced 62 yards down the Hudson sideline to make the score 21-7.

The visitors punched back with a drive that had Cade Tonozzi make back to back catches for 37 total yards to set up a Lightner 1-yard touchdown (28-14).

After confusion on the downs, where Wadsworth nearly got an extra down, Evans punted from his end zone. Unfortunately he was roughed, and with a second chance, the Grizzlies drove to another score. Evans ran it in from 7 yards out to close the gap to 28-21.

Hudson replied when Lal got his second touchdown, capping a four-play possession with a 26-yard run around right end.

Wadsworth punted on its next touch, and Hudson scored quickly when Lightner broke a run up the middle for a 63-yard score and a 42-21 advantage.

Wadsworth scored again with 44 seconds left in the first half. Labus ran the last four yards to make the score 42-28.

The Explorers tried to answer before the clock ran out, but Paltani’s heave to the end zone as time expired was picked off for Hudson’s only turnover on the night.

The hosts took the second half kickoff and marched 80 yards in 10 plays and taking time off the clock to limit Hudson’s possessions. Evans found Labus again this time for a 41-yard TD, making it 42-35.

The Explorers scored quickly on each of their next three possessions. Lal ran for 2 yards, Paltani raced for a 19-yard score and Lal got the final Hudson touchdown with 11:11 to play on a 3-yarder.

Wadsworth did mix in one touchdown, a 20-yard pass to Labus, in the third quarter to close to 49-42 at the time. However, two three-and-outs closed out its evening.

The Explorers will travel to Highland (2-1) Sept. 25 at 7 p.m.