HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP — Entering Friday’s game between Hubbard and Geneva the conversations mainly revolved around a strength of each team— the running game.
But it was passing that changed the course of the game in Geneva’s 22-19 Division III, Region 9 second-round win over Hubbard. With the win, Geneva secured its second postseason win in school history, and will travel to Chardon next Friday.
On Geneva’s first third and long situation in the first quarter, quarterback Ben Scibona threw an interception. Three plays later, on a 3rd-and-21, Hubbard’s quarterback Evan Jarvis followed suit.
“As advertised, both quarterbacks can throw some interceptions, and they did,” Geneva coach Chip Sorber said.
However, Hubbard already held a 7-0 lead at that point, and the interception appeared to be less of an issue for a rushing attack that drove down the field methodically in the first half. Jarvis and running back Timothy Caffee combined for three first half touchdowns, as Hubbard held a 19-7 lead.
Geneva received the ball to start the second half and drained almost nine minutes off the clock. The offense converted both fourth downs it faced on the drive, and Scibona snuck in for a 1-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 19-14.
Scibona followed up the touchdown with a sack on 3rd-and-5, coming off the left edge unblocked, to force Hubbard’s first punt of the day. Geneva’s defense figured out Hubbard’s run-heavy offense in the second half.
“It was the quarterback, who was gashing us in the first half,” Sorber said. “They were running a little ‘RRO’ a run-run-option play, a jet power read, a player that we run. So we made some adjustments on the defensive line on how to handle that jet power read play, and we were able to shut it down in the second half.”
Geneva’s drive stalled following the punt, but the defense forced Jarvis to fumble on a 3rd-and-9 carry on Hubbard’s next drive. Three plays into the drive, running back Charlie Taylor ran for a 47-yard touchdown, but the play was called back due to holding. Taylor finished with 19 carries for 90 yards.
Eight plays later, Scibona was expected to complete a pass on 3rd-and-14 with about four minutes left in the game with Geneva’s season on the line. He entered the down 0-for-6 with two interceptions for the game.
He dropped back and found Cole Smith at the 5-yard line, setting up a go-ahead score by Taylor to give Geneva its first lead of the game.
“We ran a post-wheel scheme right down there at the end, and they had everybody up,” Sorber said. “Right before the snap I told Ben [Scibona] look for Cole [Smith] on the post, and he sure did.”
A blocked punt created a late opportunity for Hubbard with about a minute left, but Geneva’s defense held strong. Smith intercepted a last-second pass inside Geneva’s 10-yard line to seal the win.
“It’s a testament to our offseason program,” Sorber said. “We felt they would be very strong in the first half, and we would have to weather the storm and get to the second half, where I think we thought our conditioning and our weight room would start to make more of a play.”
Chardon, which is the No. 1 seed in the region, beat Warren Howland 49-14 on Friday night.
“We’re on Cloud-9 here for the moment,” Sorber said. “Obviously, it’s a huge, huge deal. This was a legitimate playoff team. A very good football team, and there should be no doubt that we deserve to be where we are right now.”
Sorber is looking forward to next Friday's game.
“I coached there for a long, long time,” he said. “Their head coach, I coached him there, we coached together there. I was the OC [offensive coordinator] there for a long, long time. I cut my teeth coaching at Chardon with Bob Doyle.
“I bleed black and red if I ain’t bleeding grey and scarlet because I love Chardon. I installed this offense there, and that’s what they’re running. You’ll see it on full effect next week.”