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2001 season preview:
Bayuk hopes Eagles ready to take next step
By Ryan Briggs
Allied News Sports Editor
Two years ago the Hubbard Eagles reached the state playoffs for the first time in school history. Last year the Eagles advanced to the regional finals before falling to Copley, 17-8, in the OHSAA Division III tournament.
Now 11th-year head coach Jeff Bayuk (68-36) would like to see Hubbard take that next step following last year's 9-3 mark. But that won't be easy as the Eagles are a marked team this year, although it appears the Eagles are headed in the right direction based upon a 47-22 thrashing of Cleveland-John Hay last Friday night.
"You work so hard and try to get the team to the point that they're winning and you set yourself for people to put a bull's-eye on you," said Bayuk, Hubbard's all-time wins leader. "Everyone's taking a shot at you."
However, Bayuk's charges are willing to accept the challenge of being a favorite in the Trumbull Athletic Conference.
"I think that inherently makes you better," Bayuk said of expectations. "You know that people expect more from you."
Leading the way once again is senior tailback Anthony Smith. The 6-2, 175-pound speedster ran for 1,464 yards last season while averaging nearly 7 yards per carry. Smith earned Heralded 22 accolades last year, as well as All-TAC-8, All-County and All-Northeast Ohio honors. Last year, Smith averaged 122 yards per game and eclipsed the 100-yard mark seven times. Smith ran for 314 yards against rival Brookfield and also stormed through Kennedy Christian's defense for 191 yards and two scores last year. According to Bayuk, Smith has officially received 16 NCAA Division I scholarship offers, including Notre Dame, Syracuse, Ohio State and Pitt.
Like Smith, fullback Jerad Jordan is a 3-year starter and rambled for over 800 yards last year while serving as a lead blocker for Smith. "We feel pretty blessed to have both of them back," Bayuk said.
Junior Gabe McKee and senior Matt Smith are vying for the quarterback's job. Bayuk felt that McKee may be a better runner but Smith is more of a passer.
"We're really lucky to have two quarterbacks of their caliber," Bayuk said. "They make each other better, which is making our team better."
The real uncertainty, however, is along Hubbard's offensive line. All five starters graduated, including 2-time All-Ohio honoree Steve Pompili.
"We have a lot of replacements up front," Bayuk said. "We lost some experienced guys and some size."
Without a dominating offensive line, the Eagles will incorporate a spread package into their game plan to utilize their skill players. "Without the size, we're going to need to attack the perimeter in a variety of ways," Bayuk said.
In 2000, about 80 percent of Hubbard's offense came on the ground.
Like the interior line, the wide receiver slots remain undecided. Senior David DeSantis leads a rather young group of athletes vying for playing time. Junior John Dominic and senior Dean Marshall return at tight end and will be challenged by Sam Rakyta, another senior.
Defensively, seven starters return from last season, including defensive tackles Mike Flaugher and Donnie Smith, key players in Hubbard's 4-4 scheme.
"I feel pretty good about our defensive tackles," Bayuk said.
Lidel Hilson is back at defensive end. Also back are linebackers Antonio Owens and Matt Clark. In the secondary, Anthony Smith and McKee return after starting in 2000. Dominic is penciled in at inside linebacker next to Clark, having to replace the graduated Ron DeJulio.
"We feel a little bit stronger about our defense than the offense," Bayuk said. "There are some spots we have to fill."
McKee is back for his second season as punter. Stefan Hayek, a soccer player, also served as a placekicker in the season-opening rout of John Hay.
Last season, Hubbard finished a half-game behind Liberty in the TAC-8 standings with a 4-1 mark. Because of a teachers' strike at Champion, Hubbard did not play the Golden Flashes and thus, played one less game than Liberty, which fell to Hubbard, 15-14, in the regular season.
Bayuk thinks that Lakeview, the league's third-place team in 2000 is a favorite for the league title, as is TAC-8 newcomer Girard. Bayuk also felt that Brookfield could surprise people this year. Bayuk is assisted by Steve Hunt (offensive ends, defensive backs), Ron DeJulio (running backs, linebackers), Mickey Sikora (defensive coordinator), Rod Greenamyer (offensive coordinator), Rich Perline (special teams) and Denny Mathews (secondary/receivers).
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