Week 3- Warren G. Harding (1-1) @ Hudson (2-0)
In two games this season, senior Dom Foster has accounted for five of Warren G. Harding's nine touchdowns. The Syracuse commit has done so in four different ways as he has ran for two, thrown one, caught one, and return an interception for a touchdown. In fact, his 48-yard pick 6 of Youngstown East came about four minutes after his teammate, fellow senior Anthony Dukes, returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown. It was the first time in twenty years that the Raiders returned two interceptions for touchdowns in not only the same game, but the same quarter. In week 3 of 2001, former Raiders Ivan Carmichael (90 yards) and Rob Massucci (31 yards) opened up Harding's game against M.M. Robinson (CA) with back-to-back pick 6's in what was a school record 44-point first quarter en route to a 71-0 victory.
The aforementioned efforts of Foster and Dukes were part of the defensive clinic put on by the Raiders, who only surrendered a school-record 9 total yards against the Golden Bears, in a 55-0 victory. Junior wide receiver Devin Boss caught the first touchdown pass of his career, a 25-yard toss from Foster who also opened up the game with a 17-yard touchdown run. Senior Brysen Powell scored the sixth rushing touchdown of his career, the first of this season, on a 17-yard run early in the second quarter while Dalys Jett followed up with a 15-yard scoring run on the next possession.
With a 42-0 halftime lead, the final two quarters were played with a continuous clock as long as the lead remained 30 points or more. That was the case as Harding closed out the third quarter with a 14-yard touchdown run for freshman Drew McCowan while sophomore Javontae Jones closed out the scoring output with a 37-yard run for six points late in the fourth quarter. Like Boss, those were the first touchdowns of their varsity careers. It was very important for Harding head coach Steve Arnold to get his young guys some quality reps as they prepare for a very tough stretch of the season.
Speaking of "tough," I'm not sure there a better word to describe the football program of Harding's week 3 opponent in Hudson, who is coming off of a thrilling game that was the polar opposite of Harding's triumph over East. On the final play of regulation on the road against Euclid from the Hudson 38-yard line, quarterback Jaggar Pallay dropped back, avoided a sack, stepped up in the pocket, and threw a bomb to senior wide receiver Colin Pierce, who outjumped two defenders at the Panthers' 25 yard line, hauled in the catch, and raced to the endzone as time expired for a 62-yard touchdown to give the Explorers the clutch 40-34 victory.
As much of a adrenaline rush as Hudson's victory had to bring on Friday, if you're familiar with their program, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Over the last decade, they've set an extremely high standard of excellence and have gone through some of the more elite programs in Northeastern Ohio. From 2011 thru 2015, former head coach Ron Wright led the Explorers to an overall record of 53-11. That included memorable playoff victories over the likes of Cleveland St. Ignatius and Mentor in 2014. After Wright stepped down from the position in the spring of 2016, Hudson handed the keys of the program to then-defensive coordinator Jeff Gough, who has since been upgraded from interim to official head coach. His career record of 39-19 includes two postseason wins over Harding, which includes a 35-6 demolition of the Raiders in the 2020 playoffs.
Despite losing an extremely talented '21 class to graduation, the Explorers continue to blow wind into their sail with their disciplined, high paced no-huddle offense and tenacious defense. They're led by senior running back Aiden Lal. The future Air Force Falcon has soared to a fast start this season as he has already amassed 362 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns on 41 carries. Expect him to do a lot of running behind 6-foot-4, 260-pound sophomore offensive tackle Tommy Ricard, who gained valuable experience last season as a freshman starting on varsity alongside current Rutgers Scarlett Knight Kevin Toth Jr. Pallay has stepped in nicely at quarterback as he's currently 32-of-51 for 512 passing yards, five touchdowns, and just one interception while also accounting for 82 rushing yards on 25 carries. Pierce has been his favorite target as he has nine catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns. Ryan Evans (13 carries for 95 yards and two touchdowns), Vincent Matolka (four catches for 64 yards and one touchdown), Ryan Spohn (8 carries for 62 yards), and Jake Varga (7 catches for 83 yards) are among the other Explorers to watch out for in their offense. Look for Evans and Ryan Suydam to cover a lot of ground in their defensive secondary.
After a disappointing season-opening loss to Medina, Harding bounced back and played a much cleaner game against their old rival in Youngstown East. This week, another one of their biggest challenges of the season awaits in Hudson, who has already proven to be a big headache for the Raiders. The only prescription that the Raiders can combat that nagging pain with is 48 minutes of smart, hard nosed football against one of the hottest programs in Division II-Region 5. It wouldn't be a surprise if this eventually proved to be the first of two matchups between this two this season. For now, Harding will look to travel to Aurora Road and get their first-ever victory over Hudson.