ST. MARYS — From the game’s very first drive, the Smethport Hubbers seemed determined to make sure Friday night was going to be different.
A week after picking up just seven first downs and gaining 160 yards of total offense, Smethport rolled down the field for four first downs on its opening drive, and capped it off with a 21-yard score to put points on the board for the first time in nine quarters.
It would set the tone for a dominant night of football on both sides of the ball.
A week after getting shutout in its regular season finale to Elk County Catholic, the Hubbers rolled past those same Crusaders, 28-6, to set up a date — another rematch — with Coudersport in next week’s District 9 Class A semifinals.
After allowing 169 yards to ECC (5-5) running back Sam Kaul and 195 rushing yards total in an 18-0 loss that gave the Crusaders home field advantage, Smethport clamped down up front. The Hubbers’ defense did not allow a play over 20 yards all game, and limited Kaul to just six yards on three carries.
The performance, especially with such a marked improvement on both sides of the ball, was surprising to perhaps everybody around D9 — except for the guy who knows Smethport (6-4) best, its head coach.
“We didn’t really do anything differently defensively, quite frankly,” he said. “The kids just had another week under their belts with practice and reps and great job by the scout team this week. We were ready to go tonight defensively.”
The other major key to the much-improved effort defensively, according to Jack, was his team’s ability to move the ball on offense.
After Braedon Johnson caught that 21-yard touchdown pass from Noah Lent on Smethport’s first drive, the Hubbers stuck with what was working.
Lent connected with Braedon Johnson (13 yards) and Bryent Johnson (26) on touchdown passes in the second quarter.
After 24 minutes of play, a stunned Elk County Catholic team went into the locker room down 22-0.
The Crusaders had turned the ball over twice and had 56 total yards of offense.
“In the pregame I told the kids, ‘It doesn’t matter what happened over the past three weeks. It doesn’t matter what happened over the past nine weeks. Everybody is 0-0 right now, so go out there and get a ‘W’ tonight,” Jack recalled.
The third quarter featured much of the same, with the Crusaders unable to pick up a single first down. Their defense utilized some halftime adjustments, however, and did not allow the Hubbers to pick up much in that quarter.
It did help ECC to finally break free on the scoreboard early in the fourth quarter when Mason McAllister connected with John Wittman on a 15-yard touchdown pass.
But the Hubbers had no intention of letting ECC build upon that momentum. Smethport capped off a drive just a few minutes later that forced the Crusaders to burn all three of their timeouts with another touchdown pass. This time it was Lent to Bryent Johnson, an exclamation point on what was a stellar performance from the sophomore gunslinger. Lent finished 9-for-12 with 84 yards and four passing scores. And with his legs, he picked up 123 yards on 23 carries.
“Noah Lent, after being bottled up the last couple of weeks, tonight he put the ball where it needed to be when it needed to be there,” Jack said.
As for Lent’s favorite targets — Johnson and Johnson — they too were unleashed after several unproductive games.
Braedon Johnson finished with 70 yards rushing, 33 yards receiving and a 50-yard punt return. Bryent had 44 yards through the air, 28 yards on the ground, and an interception.
“Braedon and Bryent tonight made some big plays for us tonight,” Jack said. “Braedon specifically, the kid never stops. He’s a nightmare to tackle, we got some good blocks up front for him tonight, and he was able to make some good things happen with his quickness.”
For Elk County Catholic, leading rusher Leo Gregory was limited to just 36 yards on the ground. Gregory had the Crusaders’ biggest play from scrimmage on the day, a 20-yard catch from McAllister. But Smethport forced them into 13 plays that went for either no gain or a loss.
“I’ve said all along that the defense has been playing well all year,” Jack asserted. (Defensive coordinator) Jim Berlin does a great job and he has a great feel for the game making those blitz calls and when he needs to make them.”
Up next for the Hubbers: another shot at revenge. After losing to Coudersport 42-0 two weeks ago, Smethport will face those undefeated Falcons Friday night at Bradford’s Parkway Field at 7 o’clock. Coudy also ended Smethport’s season in the District 9 title game a year ago.
“We know that right now they are the class of the league. We are going to get rested up here and get right back to work tomorrow morning and do what we can to give them a game.”
“We know that right now they are the class of the league,” Jack said. “We are going to get rested up here and get right back to work (Saturday) morning and do what we can to give them a game.”
AT ST. MARYS
Smethport 6 16 0 6—28
Elk Catholic 0 0 0 6—6
First Downs: S: 15, E: 6; Rushes/Yards Rushing: S: 40-221, E: 25-70; Yards Passing: S: 84, E: 59; Comp-Att-Int: S: 9-12-0, E: 8-12-1; Penalties: S: 9-80, E: 7-75; Fumbles-Lost: S: 2-1, E: 3-2; Total Yards: S: 295, E: 122; Offensive Plays: S: 56, E: 40
Passing: S: Noah Lent 9-12-84-4-0; E: Mason McAllister 8-12-59-1-1
Rushing: S: Lent 23-123, Braedon Johnson 10-70, Bryent Johnson 7-28; E: John Wittman 6-22, Raivis Bobby 3-14, Sam Kaul 6-3, Leo Gregory 8-36, Stephen Bobby 2(-7), McAllister 1-2
Receiving: S: Bryent Johnson 4-44-2, Braedon Johnson 4-33-2, Burritt 1-7; E: Gregory 1-20, John Wittman 3-19-1, Bryan Schatz 2-17, S. Bobby 1-4, Kaul 1-0
S: Braedon Johnson, 21-yard pass from Lent (Lent run failed), 8:56
S: Braedon Johnson, 13-yard pass from Lent (Lent run), 11:52
S: Bryent Johnson, 26-yard pass from Lent (Braedon Johnson run), 9:26
E: Wittman, 15-yard pass from McAllister (Bobby PAT missed), 8:09
S: Bryent Johnson, 16-yard pass from Lent (2-pt pass failed), 3:42