The Tigers visit Liberty-Benton for a Division V Region 16 first-round playoff showdown at 7 p.m. Saturday.
After all, the undefeated Eagles followed up a 12-2 run in 2012 by steamrolling their way through the 2013 season, averaging 405 yards and 46.7 points per game while allowing just seven points per outing.
“They have a lot of weapons,” Huron coach Tony Legando said. “They use a lot of misdirection with a 6-foot-5 quarterback who throws the ball all over the lot. They have a wide receiver who was all-state last year and a big-time sprinter, and a fullback who is very big and physical.
“They run the triple option, the spread and they run the run-and-shoot, so they run
everything and are efficient in what they are doing.”
But the Tigers have been tested all season long.
“I guess we’re going to have to take the experiences we’ve had in playing teams that are hosting Division III playoffs games and a team that was a Division III state finalist last year,” Legando said. “We have to take those experiences and play the best we can with what we’ve learned.”
The three losses Huron suffered this year came against undefeated Perkins and 9-1 Clyde, both hosting Division III playoff games on Friday. The Tigers also played three Division IV teams in 2013, including Bellevue which went 6-4 a year after advancing to the Division III state final in 2012. The Tigers also handed Division VII powerhouse St. Paul its lone loss of 2013.
“We will remind our kids that our schedule has prepared us for this game,” Legando said. “In the football preview, the Register wrote about the 10 big ballgames to look for this year and we were in five of them, so if there’s a way to be prepared for a big game, our schedule has helped us get ready for a big playoff game.
“There are no excuses for the losses because we can win. But we’ve played a tough schedule, one that earned us the right to be in the playoffs. I think that schedule has prepared us about as well as you can get.”
The Eagles are 21-2 in the last two seasons, going 9-0 this year after Hardin Northern postponed football for the year. Liberty-Benton captured its first Blanchard Valley Conference crown since 2008.
Nathan Craft is the 6-5 quarterback for the Eagles, hitting 86 of 126 passes for 1,275 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore. Junior Austin Combs led the way on the ground with 1,206 yards and 26 touchdowns, while senior Chase Crooks had 38 receptions for 520 yards and six scores after placing in four events during last year’s state track meet.
In addition, senior Joel Bell rushed for 398 yards and nine scores, along with 19 receptions for 333 yards and two more touchdowns.
Impressive stats indeed, but the Tigers also averaged nearly 400 yards a game with an offense led by senior quarterback Cody Thompson.
The University of Toledo recruit passed for 1,485 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for 966 and 18 scores.
While Thompson was the clear leader, he spread the ball around. The Tigers got rushing yardage from 18 other backs and 11 Huron players caught at least one pass. Tommy Bogden chipped in 244 yards rushing and three touchdowns, while Matt Dewey hauled in 23 catches for 248 yards.
In addition, the Tigers are trying to rinse out the bad taste of last week’s 30-6 loss to Clyde.
“These kids have felt the pangs of defeat and they understand they’ve got to get better,” Legando said. “We have a team that has the talent to make the playoffs and these kids have the desire. They know how to get prepared and they know what they have to do.”