STEWART — Following Friday night’s now season finale, and amid all the team pictures, the visiting Green Bobcats hoisted Ethan Huffman high upon their shoulders.
It was only at least the fairest and honorable thing to do, as Huffman — ending up as the Bobcats’ sole senior this season —had carried them to their first, and only, victory.
That’s because Huffman hit for five touchdowns, including returning the opening kickoff along with a first-period punt, as Green got its first win under first-year head coach Chad Coffman — a 40-14 non-league rout of Federal Hocking in Athens County.
The Bobcats are officially winners for the first time in their seven games this year, as they also ended an eight-game losing streak.
Thus, what a way to go out for this campaign, as there were seven freshmen listed on the Bobcats’ Friday night roster — exactly a third of the 20-man team.
In addition to the senior Huffman, there were also only four juniors.
“We started five, six, seven freshmen on varsity football. For those guys to get experience and then to finish the year by making a long bus ride over here and play and win, it was a big deal,” said Coffman.
As part of a .500 season last fall, the Bobcats blanked and rolled the Lancers 52-0.
But this year, Green, given the option, opted out of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division VII state playoffs —prior to the deadline to do so on Sept. 24.
The Bobcats had scored just 28 points all season before Friday night —half of which came in a 22-14 loss against East.
Huffman had 30 points himself just in touchdowns against the Lancers, and added a two-point conversion run and completed a two-point PAT pass to Derek Salyers after his initial two TDs.
Those two scores were a 75-yard return on the opening kickoff and a 54-yard return on the game’s only punt —as he went untouched on both, bursting up the middle before breaking to the outside right on each run.
The punt return followed a nine-play Federal Hocking drive in which the Lancers took four minutes and 20 seconds off the first-quarter clock —as Huffman’s two-point pass to Salyers made it 16-0 Bobcats with only four minutes and 38 seconds gone by.
Huffman’s hat trick touchdown, a 25-yard jaunt, was also an untouched TD —making it 22-0 just five minutes later and following two Lancers turnovers on downs around Green’s one.
Huffman had 69 rushing yards on 14 carries, as he later scored from a yard out at the 3:07 point of the second stanza —and finally on a three-yard dive exactly 23 minutes later for the contest’s final score.
Coffman was happy for Huffman to close out his Bobcat career on such a high note.
“Ethan (Huffman) is a really good football player and he had a really good night. It was a great way for him to go out. I am glad he got to do that. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a kid return a kickoff (for a TD), a punt (for a TD), run for one and throw for one in the same game,” said the coach. “But for me, it’s always going to be the character piece of it. He was to me this year what you hope that your kids will be. He is just a stand-up kid who always was there early and stayed late. I am sure it’s hard playing with so many freshmen out there. But great character shown by him to do that all year. Then tonight he comes out and makes a lot of big plays for us.”
That he indeed did.
He also set up Green’s final first-half two TDs, answering the Lancers’ first score with another kickoff return — this one going for 70 yards and all the way to the Lancer 7-yard-line.
Then, with the Bobcats leading 28-8 and under three minutes to play in the second quarter, perhaps Huffman made his most impactful play of the entire game.
As a sophomore, Huffman was a first-team all-Southeast District Division VII defense back, and excelled in that role —along with others out of necessity— this year.
With the Lancers driving just past midfield, Federal Hocking converted quarterback Elijah Lucas completed a pass to Chase Hogsett from the Bobcats’ 44 —but Hogsett fumbled at the 18.
Huffman scooped up the loose pigskin at the 14, and ran it back all the way up the sideline to the Lancers’ 14 — going for 72 yards and giving Green one last opportunity at points prior to the half and for at least a 12-point swing.
Two plays later, and with only eight seconds remaining, Salyers scored on a 14-yard run for the 34-8 advantage.
“It was a very unique way to get them, but he made a lot of really big plays,” said Coffman. “You don’t see that everyday.”
Given Green’s, and specifically Huffman’s, big-play first-half scoring —the Bobcats had only run a dozen plays from scrimmage, and gained only 77 total yards over the first 24 minutes.
The Lancers actually outgained them (114-77) and ran 26 more plays, but three times over that span turned the ball over on downs —including the second which set up Huffman’s 25-yard scoring run.
The Bobcats only gained 152 total yards on 31 plays, as 23 of those were rushing attempts that produced all but 25 yards.
Huffman and Salyers each attempted four passes, as Huffman completed two and Salyers one — as Salyers’ completion went for 18 yards while he caught both of Huffman’s completions.
For Federal Hocking, it had 229 total yards on 66 plays, as the senior Lucas — the Lancers’ answer to Huffman — had 110 rushing yards on 23 carries and completed 6-of-18 passes for 48 yards.
Both teams fumbled twice and lost one.
Damian Snedden scored both of the Lancers’ touchdowns —a pair of one-yard runs including the first which made it 22-8, combined with Lucas’ two-point conversion pass to Kameron Shaffer.
Snedden’s second score capped a dozen-play, 53-yard, five-and-a-half minute march to open the third quarter, making it 34-14 and still within striking distance with only 18-and-a-half minutes to play.
But the Lancers followed up the Bobcats’ turnover on downs with another of their own, as Green then drove nine plays from midfield and over five-and-a-half minutes for its final score —Huffman’s three-yard plunge with just over four minutes left.
The Lancers, like Green, opted out of the state playoffs —although the Athens Countians were a Division VI program.
In fact, Federal Hocking —which went 2-3 —opted out of its Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division schedule, and even planned not to participate in the playoff rankings had the Harbin computer points system been in effect.
The Bobcats, meanwhile, are two years removed from their first winning season —and first state playoff appearance in three decades.
As for 2021, the Bobcats should be better —and definitely will be much more experienced.
“Our experience level is so much higher heading into this offseason. We just had guys this year that hadn’t played varsity football,” said Coffman. “They still have to put in the work and the time to get better, and that’s going to be the key for us. But they got a taste of winning tonight, so I think they know what they need to do and what it feels like and what it takes from a work perspective. Our last three weeks of practice have been by far our best all year. For that to pay off, play better football and getting a win tonight is real important.”
Most importantly for Huffman, who saved some of his best Bobcat football for last.
“Ethan will be missed greatly by the program, and probably more for his character than his play. And he is a real good player,” said Coffman. “Proud of the way he played and how he led our young kids all year.”
* * *
Green 40, Federal Hocking 14
Green 22 12 0 6 —40
Fed Hock 0 8 6 0 — 14
G— Ethan Huffman, 75-yard kickoff return (Ethan Hoffman run), 11:48, 1st (8-0 G)
G— Ethan Huffman, 54-yard punt return (Derek Salyers pass from Ethan Huffman), 7:22, 1st (16-0 G)
G— Ethan Huffman, 25-yard run (kick blocked), 2:19, 1st (22-0 G)
FH— Damian Snedden, 1-yard run (Kameron Shaffer pass from Elijah Lucas), 4;09, 2nd (22-8 G)
G— Ethan Huffman, 1-yard run (pass failed), 3:07, 2nd (28-8 G)
G— Derek Salyers, 14-yard run (run failed), :08, 2nd (34-8 G)
FH— Damian Snedden, 1-yard run (run failed), 6:30, 3rd (34-14 G)
G— Ethan Huffman, 3-yard run (kick failed), 4:07, 4th (40-14 G)
First downs 10 15
Plays from scrimmage 31 66
Rushes-yards 23-127 48-181
Passing yards 25 48
Total yards 152 229
Cmp-Att-Int. 3-8-0 6-18-0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-1
Penalties-Yards 6-48 7-62
Punts-Ave. 0-0 1-30
RUSHING —Green: Ethan Huffman 14-69 3TD, Kaleb LaFollette 5-31, Derek Salyers 2-17 TD, Nathaniel Bennington 2-10; Federal Hocking: Elijah Lucas 23-110, Ethan McCune 15-24, Chase Hogsett 6-38, Damian Snedden 3-9 2TD, Jayden Basim 1-0
PASSING — Green: Ethan Huffman 2-4-0-7, Derek Salyers 1-4-0-18; Federal Hocking: Elijah Lucas 6-18-0-48
RECEIVING — Green: Nathaniel Bennington 1-18, Derek Salyers 2-7; Federal Hocking: Chase Hogsett 3-32, Kameron Shaffer 3-16
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved