COUDERSPORT — There have been plenty of memorable finishes in the storied history of Smethport Hubber football.
But perhaps none were as wild — or as meaningful — as what took place at the end of Friday’s game against Coudersport.
Trailing 20-7 with less than six minutes to play, the Hubbers capitalized on a series of incredible plays to rally all the way back and defeat the Falcons, 21-20, and put an exclamation point on their undefeated season with a Small School North Division crown.
“I’m just elated right now,” Smethport coach Adam Jack said. “I’m so proud of the kids and we’ve talked for two years about mental toughness and overcoming adversity. It looked pretty dire right there.”
It took everything the Hubbers (9-0, 5-0) had, and then some, to rally from 13 down. Smethport took over down two scores with 5:36 left in the game and having been outplayed by Coudy (5-4, 4-1) for the first 42 minutes. But all it took was one big play to completely change the tide of the of the defacto North title game.
Quarterback Grant Ognen hooked up with Alex Sanderson for a 41-yard strike to cut Coudy’s lead to 20-14 with an extra point. The two seniors connected on a 48-yard touchdown earlier in the game, and Jack and his coaching staff dialed up the same play on a do-or-die drive.
“They gave us a coverage there that we thought we could take advantage of,” Jack said. “Actually, Coach Berlin saw it first and then they saw it upstairs and we just went back to it there in crunch time. I have to give Grant credit and he made some big throws when we needed them.”
But it was on the Falcons’ next drive that the vaunted Hubber defense would strike. Pinned inside their own 10-yard-line and on a third-and-long, Coudersport tried a pitch play. Blake Kinner jumped the toss, swatted it down and, after a scramble for the loose ball, it was recovered by Smethport’s Dale Burdick in the end zone.
In the span of just 61 seconds, the Hubbers went from being on the brink of an upset loss to having the lead.
“I batted it down and I was biting on the dive all night and they kept pulling it, and then the last time Coach said option and I stuck with them,” Kinner said. “I knew it was coming.”
That wouldn’t be the end of the game’s insanity, however.
With over four minutes left to work with, Coudersport drove the ball into Smethport territory when Burdick intercepted Hayden Keck’s pass to seemingly clinch the Smethport win. But Burdick was tracked down and tackled from behind on the return, losing the football and allowing the Falcons to take over with a fresh set of downs.
But just as it’s done all season, Smethport’s defense was up to the task and stopped Coudersport on four consecutive plays to finally finish off the ballgame.
“I can’t think of a better way for us to get that go-ahead touchdown than having our defense make a play like that to recover that ball in the end zone,” Jack said. “They’ve carried us all year long. I’m just so proud of all these kids.”
Friday’s game will be incredibly tough for the Falcons to swallow. Coudy played a nearly flawless game for three-and-a-half quarters, but just couldn’t execute in crunch time. Steve Kelly had 32 carries for 123 yards in the game, but after his 56-yard touchdown in the third quarter, the senior was held to just nine yards on eight carries. Smethport’s defense, which came into the game having allowed just 13 total points over its previous three games, was also able to hold Coudersport to just three first downs in the second half.
“Our mindset was to stay in the game to have a chance and no matter what happens we have to finish the game,” senior running back Nathan Hollowell said. “We always try to finish the game the best we can, and I think we were clutch doing that tonight. We all wanted to win that badly.”
For the Hubbers, this season’s success is just another in a long line of dominance in District 9. Although the 9-0 record is Smethport’s first winning season since 2004 — and first perfect year since 2001 — it was hard not to think of some of those undefeated Smethport teams of the 80s and 90s at the conclusion of Friday’s game.
“I remember being 12 years old watching T.J. Reed and the 1985 Hubbers going 9-0 and that set the standard for me right there in my mind,” Jack said. “Being fortunate enough to be on some teams that went 9-0 under Carl DeFilippi, my whole goal coaching was to give these kids the same feeling that I was able to experience. It’s been all about them, and getting them to that same spot, and I’m just so thankful that it happened for them tonight.”
The Hubbers will be the No. 1 seed in the upcoming District 9 Class A playoffs, and will await their next opponent. For now, Jack and his Hubbers can just enjoy being the only undefeated team in D-9 this season with the community that has supported them from the start.
“The town and the community have just been great to us the entire season and the offseason,” Jack said. “That’s been just as important for the experience of these kids as our success. They have been great and all year and especially tonight.”
“I guess were able to handle adversity and the crowd kept us in the game,” Kinner added. “I can’t thank them enough for coming all the way out here, and just sticking together with us.”
Smethport 0 7 0 14—21
Coudersport 0 13 7 0—20
First Downs: S: 9, C: 8; Rushes/Yards Rushing: S: 24-72, C: 39-231; Yards Passing: S: 193, C 61; Comp-Att-Int: S: 11-18-0, C: 3-10-1; Penalties: S: 4-20, C: 5-47; Fumbles-Lost: S: 2-1, C: 3-2; Total Yards: S: 235, C: 283 Offensive Plays: S: 43, C: 48
Passing: S: Grant Ognen 10-16-191-2-0, Noah Lent 1-3-2-0-0 ; C: Hayden Keck 3-10-61-1-1
Rushing: S: Blake Kinner 13-46, Nathan Hollowell 8-20, Lent 2-6; C: Steve Kelly 21-123-1, Keck 8-35-1, Kolby VanWhy 6-30, Travis Gleason 2-11, Thomas Wilson 2-32
Receiving: S: Alex Sanderson 7-142-2, Bryent Johnson 2-24, Dale Burdick 1-21 Hollowell 1-6 ; C: John Minor 1-29-1, Thomas Wilson 2-34
C: Keck, six-yard run (Dalton Keglovits PAT good), 7:21
C: Minor, 29-yard pass from Keck (Keglovits missed PAT), 4:44
S: Ognen, 48-yard pass from Sanderson (Noah Costa PAT good), 3:02
C: Kelly, 56-yard run (Keglovits PAT good), 6:19
S: Sanderson, 41-yard pass from Ognen (Costa good), 5:36
S: Burdick, one-yard fumble recovery (Costa PAT good), 4:37