ATTICA - In looking for a bounce-back win at Seneca East, Hopewell-Loudon constantly had to bounce back from several big plays before it emerged back on the winning side.
For the first time in Brian Colatruglio's six seasons at the helm, the Division VI ninth-ranked Chieftains were playing a regular season game following a loss. Just about every time they needed to step up against a Seneca East team looking stay atop the Midland Athletic League, they got the necessary plays.
Twice in the second quarter, the host Tigers had first-and-goal and couldn't come up with a touchdown. In between those two possessions, Hopewell-Loudon marched 80 yards for its second score, and that swing proved pivotal in a 26-21 victory on a squishy field at Seneca East's new athletic complex.
"I like that, the resiliency, not only from play-to-play, but from last week to this week," said Colatruglio, whose team improved to 5-1 (2-1 MAL). "We really bounced back. We had a great week of practice, our attitude was real positive, and we had to come on the road and play in some soggy conditions against a pretty good football team."
Hopewell-Loudon's defense yielded 279 passing yards to SE's quarterback tandem of Cody Kidwell and Zach Michalski, but it rose to the occasion when needed most.
Kidwell turned a potential no-gain keeper into a 46-yard touchdown sprint at the 9:02 mark of the second, and Sergio Elias' first of four PAT kicks tied the game at 7.
H-L 26, Seneca East 21
Hopewell-Loudon 7766- 26
Seneca East0777- 21
H-L - Matt Brickner 4 pass from Ethan Fuller (Cody Ickes kick), 5:31
SE - Cody Kidwell 46 run (Sergio Elias kick), 9:02
H-L - James Roush 4 run (Ickes kick), 2:34
H-L - Aaron Kapelka 19 run (Ickes kick failed), 6:20
SE - John Scherley 69 pass from Kidwell (Elias kick), 3:55
H-L - Brickner 9 run (Ickes kick wide left), 2:22
SE - Tyler Crapo 2 pass from Zach Michalski (Tyler Johnson kick), 1:38
RUSHING: Hopewell-Loudon - Kapelka 14-109; Brickner 12-102; Roush 12-39; TEAM 2-(minus 3); Fuller 1-6. Seneca East - Kidwell 21-90; Nick Hughes 2-1; Crapo 1-(minus 2); TEAM 1-(minus 10).
PASSING: Hopewell-Loudon - Fuller 10-18-0-155; Brickner 0-1-0-0. Seneca East - Kidwell 6-15-0-141; Michalski 7-12-1-138.
RECEIVING: Loudon - Brickner 5-42; Chapman 2-80; Jaren Wickham 2-19; Kapelka 1-4. East - Crapo 7-90; Scherley 2-81; Jamie Schafer 4-54; Michalski 1-39; Kidwell 1-15.
The Tigers (3-3, 2-1) appeared poised to take the lead when Tyler Crapo corralled Matt Brickner's fumble at the H-L 28, and on third-and-20, Crapo took a receiver screen 31 yards to the 7. But a second-down penalty and Kidwell's incompletion left the Tigers with third down from the 9, and Miles Chapman intercepted when Michalski tried to squeeze a TD pass into double coverage.
Hopewell-Loudon followed with an eight-play drive, fueled by Matt Brickner's 43-yard run out of the Wildcat formation. Ethan Fuller found Jaren Wickham for 20 yards to the 9 on fourth down, and two plays later, James Roush pounded across the goal line from 4 yards out. Cody Ickes' second PAT made it 14-7 with 2:34 left in the half.
Seneca East, working with no timeouts, nonetheless gave itself another scoring chance, as Kidwell's 30-yard hookup with Crapo and his 39-yarder to Michalski off a third-down scramble put the ball at the H-L 3.
But Kidwell had to fall on a bad snap for a 9-yard loss, and after two incompletions (one of which netted a defensive holding penalty), the Tigers tried a 23-yard field goal on third down. Elias' kick was wide right, and the Chieftains maintained their touchdown cushion at halftime.
"We gave up a lot of big plays, and it's something we've kind of hung our hat on that we don't do," Colatruglio said. "But we bounced back. The stop at the end of the first half was really big. We gave up a goofy play and they got 'er down there, and we sucked it up and made the big play. [We] went in at the half with the lead, and with the way we run the ball ... we feel pretty good going into the second half with the lead."
Seneca East coach Ed Phillips said those possessions illustrated why Hopewell-Loudon has maintained its high level of success, including two state runner-up finishes, for most of the decade.
"We had those two drives that we're there to put us up, tie us and, as things are, potentially win the game," Phillips said. "We just didn't finish the drives, and I give them all the credit in the world. Where they've been the last few years, and reaching the high level they have, it's because when they're in those situations, and they finish and make the play.
"They took advantage of some mistakes we made and kept us out of the end zone two times, and that was the difference in the game."
Hopewell-Loudon, which had scored on its first possession when Brickner hauled in a 4-yard screen pass from Fuller on fourth down, took the second-half kickoff and moved 73 yards on 11 plays. Aaron Kapelka's 19-yard run up the middle provided the points at the 6:20 mark of the third.
The Chieftains finished with 253 rushing yards, as Kapelka had 109 and Brickner 102. Fuller wasn't robust through the air, but his 10-of-18 passing for 155 yards included several third-down conversions.
"He made some big plays, especially on third down," Colatruglio said. "The way we run the ball, if we convert those third-and-7's, third-and-8's, it allows us to keep going, wearing on them and keep finding things with our three backs."
Seneca East responded less than three minutes later. On third-and-24, Kidwell beat the blitz and dumped one over the middle to John Scherley, who sprinted 69 yards for a touchdown.
The Tigers forced two H-L punts and got a turnover on downs in the red zone after that, but they punted right back each time. Brickner's 9-yard touchdown run, which came five plays after Fuller hit Chapman on a slant for 32 yards on third down, gave H-L a two-score lead again.
Michalski found Jamie Schafer for 50 yards to set up his 2-yard score to Crapo two plays later, with 1:38 remaining. But Brickner recovered the onside kick, and Kapelka busted a 42-yarder on second down to allow H-L to take a knee a couple of times.
Those two running backs also shined on defense, as Kapelka had two sacks from his end spot and Brickner, an outside linebacker, had two batted passes and a sack.
Kidwell had 90 yards rushing, but he was bottled up for just 26 in the second half.
"I was proud of our guys," Phillips said. "We went down and in under a minute put that touchdown on the board to give ourselves a chance, and we an onside kick away from having a chance to win the game.
"Their goal is to be where Hopewell is. I believe in them, and I believe we'll be there someday. But tonight, Hopewell did the job, they deserved to win and they're a great football team."