HUDSON — Turnarounds at Hudson High aren’t a new trend for the football program.
After 25 years and only one postseason appearance, the Cobras were able to breakthrough for their second berth in 2005 when they reached the Class 3A region finals. A couple of seasons later in 2007, after a brief down year in 2006, Hudson returned to the postseason and would earn another trip in 2009.
But a downward spiral would soon follow after quarterback Zack Wynn graduated. Hudson would suffer back-to-back 0-10 seasons before former Gaither coach Mark Kantor took the helm. Modest steps in the right direction took place in 2012, as Hudson broke its losing streak and finished 3-7.
“When I got the gig here at Hudson, a lot of people told me I was going to have to have some patience because it wasn’t going to turn around as fast as I’d like it to,” Kantor said. “I made a phone call to my mom and told her what everyone said, and I told her, ‘That’s not me. We have to flip this thing quickly.’”
The team is nearing five wins, the same it had in 2009 when it last reached the postseason. And tonight, Hudson (4-1) heads to John Benedetto Stadium to face non-district, undefeated Land O’ Lakes (5-0), arguably the best team in Pasco County, but the Cobras say otherwise.
“We’re going to go out there and prove it’s not about how many athletes you have, but about the coaching and team aspect,” Hudson running back Noah Siegrist said. “It would really mean a lot to us if we could go out there and beat Land O’ Lakes. They beat Mitchell and we feel right now we would beat Mitchell and they beat us in the spring, so it would bring some closure to the team.”
Siegrist has been the heart and soul of Hudson’s offense the past two seasons and his senior season is proving to be his best yet. The 5-foot-8 tailback has rushed for 680 yards on 104 carries, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. A 1,000-yard season is within reach, but Siegrist is also being complemented by quarterback Joey Caruso (34 of 61 passing, 397 yards) and Fivay transfer Zach Russell (276 yards, five touchdowns).
Opposing Hudson is Land O’ Lakes’ uptempo offense led by James Pensyl. The 6-foot-5 quarterback has been difficult to stop for Pasco County defenses, as the junior has completed 89 of 155 passes for 1,277 yards and 10 touchdowns and an interception. However, the Cobras secondary, though, leads the county in interceptions with eight and Russell leads the unit with three picks and two pass deflections.
“It’s a great challenge for us,” Kantor said. “Both teams are playing very competitive football right now and (Land O’ Lakes) is so athletic. The Pensyl kid can throw lights out. Would beating them make our season? Not really. We have other goals in mind with district games to follow, but we’re going to go over there and play competitive and see where the chips may fall.”
PREDICTION: All seven correspondents, Mike Camunas, Andy Villamarzo, Bart O’Connell, Kyle LoJacono, Chris Errington, Steve Campbell and Kenny Sanders, who cover Pasco County football for the Tribune pick Land O’ Lakes to win.
Correspondent Andy Villamarzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.