Bounce back week was a success for the Warren G. Harding Raiders as they looked to improve upon their week one loss to Medina. Heading into week 2, the task was still the same -- come home with a victory and build momentum going into a tough week three matchup versus a very stout Hudson Explorers football team. Akron Buchtel played a very hard fought football game that came down to a key 3rd down and 9 on the Raiders' own 35 yard line. Backup quarterback Drew McKowan, who came in for an injured Dalys Jett, delivered a strike to wide receiver Nau'Jeat Jones for a gain of 14. The rest was history as the Raiders ran with tailback Ryan Powell and finished in victory formation for a 14-7 win.
Going into the game the matchup to watch was Buchtel's defensive line with three senior defensive linemen, one being highly recruited at multiple colleges, versus the Raiders offensive line that struggled to get on their feet against the high powered Medina offense in week one. After watching the film and talking with our offensive line coaches, the Raiders continue to build each week and put on a strong offensive performance from the line point of view in week two. It is very important that the offensive line and the entire offense continues to build each week in practice as Hudson will be a tough battle.
As far as the offense as a whole, junior tailback Ryan Powell carried the ball 19 times for 86 yards, an average of 4.5 a carry and earned one touchdown. Powell coughed the ball up once, and needs to continue to run hard in between the tackles even when the game is heading into the late quarters. Senior quarterback Dalys Jett left Friday's matchup versus Buchtel and did not return to the game. Sophomore Drew McKowan entered the game in the third quarter and finished with a strong performance, going 4/5 for 44 yards and connecting on the game winning slant route for a gain of 14 yards. McKowan got rid of the early jitters, settled down, and became a leader on the football field. The growth from his very first snap being a fumble on 3rd and 2 to putting the team on his back with nice throws, ultimately throwing for the win, shows the type of competitor he is and will need to be moving forward.
Another positive was that the Raiders won the time of possession and utilized that as an advantage. If the Raiders continue to run the ball successfully, throw when they need to, and their defense gets off the field early, there is no reason why the Raiders do not come away with a week three victory over the Hudson Explorers.
Hudson head coach Jeff Gough enters his seventh season at the helm with a 48-22 record, finishing with a 9-3 record last season. The Explorers are off to a 2-0 start and are a fast, physical, and extremely senior oriented football team. On the defensive side of the football the Explorers are a mix of a 4-3 defensive front and a 3-3 stack. They are roughly in their 4-3 defense 65 percent of the time and then they do switch up their approach to the 3-3 stack the other 35 percent. As far as the secondary, be ready to see a multitude of coverages. The Explorers run cover 1,3 and 4, with the goal of messing with the mind of the opposing team's quarterback.
The biggest worry heading to this matchup and something that Hudson does extremely well is their offensive approach. Hudson relies on a no huddle offensive attack game plan. If you put Harding's week one and two opponents together, you get the Hudson Explorers. In week one, Medina was no huddle and ran an offense that was predicated on getting the football out fast and efficiently. In week two, Buchtel had a strong defensive line with big and strong athletes who can get after it. This week, Hudson will be even faster with their no huddle approach and their athletes are even bigger and stronger than Buchtel's. There are times where Hudson is lining up and snapping the ball right when the whistle is ready to be blown by the official. The Raiders' defense needs to line up and know their alignment and assignment all while playing fast and physical.
Senior quarterback Jagger Pallay looks to continue his success from a year ago when he finished with 20 total touchdowns, going 148-for-251 and 2,190 yards. Pallay in week one versus Solon, a team that the Harding Raiders scrimmaged early in August and won 3-0, threw the ball 22 times, going 11 for 22 for 151 yards and rushed for 93 with a score. Pallay has experience and is ready to perform at a high level, especially versus a Harding secondary that may be without senior cornerback Dalys Jett.
Along with the quarterback play, it can not go unnoticed that Hudson's offensive line is one the best that Harding will play this season. Hudson's OL is big, physical and extremely strong, giving opponents trouble reaching signal-caller Jagger Pallay. The offensive line opens up massive holes and helps junior running back Ian Ludewig in the running game. Ludewig in week one versus Solon rushed for 125 yards that included a touchdown. Between Pallay and Ludewig, the Raiders need to be able to slow down these two offensive athletes in order to be successful on Friday night.
Matchup to Watch: Hudson's extremely stout offensive line versus Raiders' defensive line.
Last week, the matchup to watch was Buchtel's defensive line versus Harding's offensive line. After a lackluster week one, the Raiders knew their offensive line had to become more of a unit, and in week two they held their own against a very stout Buchtel defensive line. There is no question that heading into this week the roles are reversed with the Raiders needing to have a big game out their defensive line in order to apply pressure and force errant throws, similar to what should have occurred in week one versus Medina. Hudson has one of the best offensive lines that the Raiders will face all season. It is imperative that Harding's Ny'sier (Ny) Coleman, Jaden Hudson, Tamari (TJ) Jackson and Cayden Murphy have a massive impact and get pressure on Hudson's senior quarterback Jagger Pallay.
If the Raiders defense can get lined up quickly, know their alignment and assignment, and play fast and physical football on the defensive side, it will help the offense get into better positions to succeed. The offense needs to sustain drives like they did against Buchtel and win the time of possession game. If that is done successfully, the Raiders will come home with a week three victory. If not, it may be a long night for the Harding Raiders at Mollenkopf Stadium this Friday night.
At a Glance:
Warren Harding Raiders
Head Coach: Steven Arnold
Years as HC: 11
Record Last Year: 5-6
League: All-American Conference
Defense: 3-4, 4-3
Aug. 19 at Medina - Loss - 10-33
Aug. 26 vs Buchtel - Won - 14-7
Sept. 2 vs Hudson
Sept. 9 at Massillon
Sept. 16 vs Ursuline
Sept. 23 at St. Vincent-St. Mary
Sept. 30 at Boardman
Oct. 7 vs Mooney
Oct. 14 at Chaney
Oct. 21 at Fitch
At a Glance:
Head Coach: Jeff Gough
Years as HC: 7
Record Last Year: 9-3
League: Suburban League American Conference
Offense: Spread / No Huddle Offensive Approach
Defense: 3-3 and 4-3
Aug. 19 vs Solon - Win - 14-13
Aug. 26 vs Euclid - Win - 35-0
Sept. 2 at Harding
Sept. 9 vs Twinsburg
Sept. 16 at Wadsworth
Sept. 23 at Brecksville-Broadview Heights
Sept. 30 at Nordonia
Oct. 7 vs North Royalton
Oct. 14 at Brunswick
Oct. 21 vs Stow-Munroe Falls
The Raiders will face off against the Hudson Explorers on Friday, September 2nd 7 p.m. at Mollenkopf Stadium.
Ticket Information: Tickets are sold online. We are not affiliated with the school and can not change the policy. Make sure to head to this link (https://wghathletics.org/event-tickets) and buy tickets ahead of time. There will be none sold at the gate.