HUDSON — Though their game at Anclote next week will decide a district championship, no one for Hudson was thinking about that after Friday's 26-16 win over River Ridge.
They were too busy soaking up the victory — and the playoff berth it clinched.
"Playoffs" was repeated about 100 times by coaches and players during the celebration. Though it has been a short postseason drought, that 2009 team sneaked in at 5-5. And over the next three years, the Cobras managed only four victories.
Now at 4-0 in Class 5A, District 7 (6-2 overall), the Cobras can earn a home game in the first round of the playoffs by beating the Sharks (4-0).
"Someone call the Sheriff's Department. There's going to be a party in downtown Hudson," Cobras coach Mark Kantor said.
River Ridge did its best to try to spoil the party.
The Royal Knights (3-5, 2-2) rallied from a 16-0 first-quarter deficit and overcame two fumbles in the third quarter. But a third fumble was too much, leading to a short field and Hudson going up by 10 on Joey Caruso's quarterback sneak with 5:39 left.
Noah Siegrist ran for 173 yards on 27 carries and scored Hudson's first two touchdowns. Nate Binder made the go-ahead field goal, a 27-yarder, with 8:23 remaining as the Cobras answered River Ridge's tying score. Caruso started the drive with a 20-yard pass to Nate Munson, part of an 11-for-15, 128-yard performance.
"We knew we had to get the momentum back," Caruso said. "We just relied on the five guys up front, and I tried to be smart with the ball."
The Cobras opened with touchdown drives of 60 and 80 yards, and they converted both two-point conversions on Caruso passes to Christian Thomas and Justin Erwin.
A shanked punt late in the first half gave River Ridge hope, and a 25-yard gain on a screen pass by Darian Harrington finally got it going. On fourth down from the 13, Patrick Mathieson connected with Craig Bell. Ben Perdomo's run on the two-point conversion made it 16-8 at halftime.
River Ridge fumbled twice within minutes in the third quarter, the second on a muffed punt. On one, Hudson reached the 6 before a penalty and Jordan Harris' sack forced a long field goal try that lineman Nick Schoepf blocked.
River Ridge tied it on a 35-yard pass from Mathieson to Trevor Duke and Perdomo's two-point conversion run with 35 seconds left in the third quarter.
Hudson had its answer. But with the margin just three, the Knights had a chance to win. A chop block turned a productive Perdomo run into second and 28. Then came the third fumble, recovered by Hudson's Dylan Crowder at the 17.
A good chunk of the Cobras' success on the ground came on misdirection plays, including direct snaps by center Robbie McCarty. Zach Russell had four catches for 41 yards to go with 38 on the ground.
Perdomo finished with 75 yards on 16 carries, missing some time during the second half after a hard hit by Thomas.