Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

September 18, 2013

GC Game of the Week: Italy at Hubbard

Mike Phillips

Hubbard —  You could call the Hubbard Jags the walking wounded, but that’s not going to work around this team, a group of kids and coaches who simply don’t believe in making excuses.

Call them the running wounded.

The Jags are hurting but they haven’t slowed down, and don’t plan to any time soon, and that’s why Hubbard goes into Friday night’s game against Italy with confidence despite missing four two-way starters who make up eight positions on the field.

“We tell the kids all the time that somebody is going to get on the bus and somebody is going to step on the field and nobody cares what your situation is. The only thing that matters is that you get the job done,’’ Hubbard coach Craig Horn said. “There are no excuses. We don’t make excuses. We tell the kids that the world is full of people who make excuses of why they can’t get up in the morning and go to work. You can get your butt up and go get a job. Don’t sit around whining and crying.

“We don’t make excuses. We’re going to be tough and find a way to get the job done. We have injuries, but we still feel pretty good about this team.’’

The Jags are missing quarterback/defensive back Casen Martin (collarbone), running back/defensive back Logan McClinton (hamstring), tight end/defensive lineman Hudson Alderman (high ankle sprain) and OL/DL Chris Reid (lower back), but they are averaging 51 points a game and are 2-1 with their only loss coming to Bosqueville in a 36-35 overtime heartbreaker on the road.

“The good news is all the injuries are a week to week deal,’’ said Horn, who believes he will have everyone back for the district race. “We don’t want to bring them back too soon, and we will be better off in the long run for playing younger kids. We have (non-district) games this week and with Valley Mills and Kerens before we open district with Frost, and we have a bye week after that. I think we will get most of them back by the time we play Frost.’’

The younger kids have stepped in and — with a no excuse attitude — helped Hubbard roll right along. Horn is especially pleased with sophomore quarterback Braydyn Gillham, who also starts in the secondary, sophomore tailback Brandon Simpson, and sophomore linemen Josh Roberson and Austin Englehart.  

Simpson rushed for 49 yards on six carries and scored twice in Hubbard’s 60-7 win against Rio Vista last week, and Gillham replaced Martin and rushed for 62 yards and a TD on five carries.

“Braydyn is a good athlete. He was a a quarterback on a junior high team that didn’t lose a game and was our starting safety as a freshman, and Brandon Simpson had a real good game last week. He has a done a great job running the ball and we’ve asked him to go both ways. He’s running the ball and covering in the secondary.

“Instead of the seniors carrying the team, we have those sophomores. Like I told them last week, it’s a results-oriented world. Nobody cares. We expect to win every Friday night.’’

The seniors have stepped up, too. Horn said receivers D’Warren Simpson, who leads the Golden Circle in receiving (6 for 221 yards and three TDs) and Nick Johnson (3 receptions for 115 yards and 1 TD) have helped carry the load, and praised his seniors for their leadership.

“The leadership has been there and that’s been critical,’’ Horn said. “The older guys have kept their heads up high. They were here as freshmen when they went 0-10. They know expectations have changed. They’ve got to be the guys in the huddle and when the younger guys look at them they see confidence. The sophomores think they are invincible. They think if the Dallas Cowboys get off the bus that they can beat them.’’

Hubbard will need some confidence to stop Italy’s TaMarcus Sheppard, who is the go-to-guy for the Gladiators, who have lost two in a row and are coming off a 34-13 loss to Sunnyvale. But Italy could give Hubbard problems.

“They’re big up front and they have a real good athlete in TaMarcus Sheppard. I know him,’’ Horn said. “He played for me when I was coaching at Itasca. I coached with his dad. I know TaMarcus well. We don’t have anyone as fast as him. When you put a good athlete running behind a big offensive line it can be a slow and painful death. It’s not a pretty way to get beat. Were going to have to be creative with stunts and force them into third and longs.’’

Italy at Hubbard

7:30 p.m. Friday

At Jaguar Field

Radio: The Ranch (106.9 FM)

RECORDS: Class 1A D-I Italy 1-2. Class 1A D-II Hubbard 2-1.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Italy: C Kyle Fortenberry, DL Zain Byers, QB TaMarcus Sheppard, OLB Hunter Merimon. Hubbard: QB Braydyn Gillham, RB Branden Simpson, WR D’Warrren Simmons, WR Nick Johnson.

UPDATE:  Italy is favored to win District 6-1 D-I and could give a battered Hubbard team trouble .. the Gladiators have lost back-to-back games to Sunnyvale (34-13) and powerhouse Malakoff (67-15) two weeks ago) ... Sheppard rushed for 91 yards in a win against Maypearl and is the main threat on offense ... Hubbard has four injured players who make up eight starting positions, but sophomores Simpson and Gillham have filled in and coach Craig Horn has confidence in his younger players ... Hubbard is averaging 51 poiints and 436 yards per game .. The Jags won last year, 33-8 as Trey Henderson, who is healthy for this game, rushed for 192 yards on 34 carries and scored a TD and Simmons caught two TD passes.