HUBBARD — Sometimes, the mark of a good team is to be able to win on nights when you must overcome injuries and not necessarily play your best game against a quality opponent. That description sums up Friday night for the Hubbard Jaguars and may set the tone for the rest of the season.
Hubbard was outgained 301-183 yards, had nine fewer first downs, and ran just a little more than half the offensive plays than the Wildcats, but still found a way to win, beating the Cayuga Wildcats, 28-20, in the final non-district game before a large homecoming crowd.
Hubbard, coming off its first loss of the season last week, closes out non-district play at 4-1, and now has a week off to prepare for a huge District 11-2A DII game with rival Dawson in two weeks at Jaguar Field.
Senior Cooper Martin set the tone early, returning the opening kickoff 79 yards to give Hubbard an early 6-0 lead just 12 seconds into the game. It would not be Martin’s only big play of the night.
“Our special teams played great,” said Hubbard head coach Russell Anderson.
Cayuga, closing out a tough non-district schedule to prepare for District 9-2A DI play, responded with a 14-play, 66-yard drive that used up almost the entire first quarter.
Casen Grasch scored on a 4-yard run close out the drive, and then added the two-point conversion to give Cayuga an 8-6 lead with less than four minutes remaining in the opening quarter. The drive took more than eight minutes off the clock.
Hubbard would retake the lead early in the second quarter on a 6-yard run by senior QB Logan Morris, and then Morris would find TE Billy Stone for the two-point conversion to put the Jaguars up, 14-8.
The big play on the drive came early when Morris connected with Tyler Pierce on a 50-yard competition on third down and long. The catch-and-run by Pierce would move the ball down to the Wildcat 15-yard line to set up the touchdown run.
In addition to his 57 yards passing, Morris would also lead the Jaguars in rushing with 76 yards on 10 carries.
After Cayuga tied the score up with a pass from Caden Mulican to Austin Jenkins late in the second quarter, Hubbard’s Shelby Noppenny returned the short Wildcat kickoff to midfield. Add on a personal foul penalty against the Wildcats, and Hubbard was in great field position at the Cayuga 35-yard line with just over three minutes remaining in the half.
It would not take long as Martin scored on a 25-yard run with exactly two minutes remaining in the half to give Hubbard a 21-14 lead. Martin finished the night with 52 yards rushing but was not done with the big plays.
On the ensuing possession, the Wildcats quickly moved into Hubbard territory but fumbled after a 10-yard pass completion at the Jaguar 35-yard line. Martin then scooped and the fumble and returned it down the visitor sideline 65 yards for a touchdown with only 14 seconds remaining in the half.
For Martin, it was the football trifecta, scoring a touchdown on offense, on defense, and on special teams in less than two quarters.
The extra point by Sebastian Olvera gave Hubbard a 28-14 advantage at halftime.
The Wildcats would open the second half the same way they began the game, with a long drive for a touchdown.
This time it was a 13-play, 77-yard drive that consumed more than five minutes of the third quarter. Mulican’s second touchdown pass of the night, this time to Billy Kelly, cut the lead down to 28-20 after a failed two-point conversion run.
Kelly also added 61 yards rushing on the night, second to only Logan Vaughan’s 71 yards on the ground for the Wildcats.
The rest of the night belonged to an injury-ravaged Hubbard defense as Cayuga tried to get the tying score.
“We were a little banged up and had some players in new spots,” said Anderson. “We also rotated our defensive lineman and it showed late in the game on both offense and defense.”
The Jaguars defense would come up with big play after big play as Hubbard held Cayuga to only 45 yards the rest of the night to protect the one possession lead.
The biggest play for the defense occurred late in the third quarter when the Wildcats moved just past midfield and into Jaguar territory but were needing to convert a fourth down and short to keep the drive alive.
Cayuga went deep on the play as a Wildcat receiver had slipped behind the Hubbard secondary, but Noppenny recovered well and deflected the pass at the last moment, giving the ball back to the Jaguars.
The Cayuga offense would not threaten again.
Now Anderson and the Jags can turn their attention to the week off and getting healthy before hosting that big district game with Dawson.
“We’re going to get healthy and go to work next week,” said Anderson.
After Dawson’s win tonight, both teams will enter the game with identical 4-1 records, but everyone is now 0-0 in district.