RIDGEFIELD – Coaches for Hudson’s Bay wear T-shirts that on the back reads “The time is now.”
With 2:35 left in the Eagles’ game Friday against Ridgefield, the time was now for Rafael Bauman.
After the Spudders had taken the lead with a field goal, Bauman returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown, sending Hudson’s Bay with a 28-24 win over the Spudders in a 2A Greater St. Helens League game.
“After they kicked that field, my coach says the most important play is the next play,” Bauman said. “So I just had to flush that, and try to get it back, and we did.”
And now, the Eagles are all alone atop the 2A GSHL standings.
Bauman took the kick on a bounce, sprinted straight up field, spun out of a tackle at the Bay 40 and raced to the goal line.
“I just saw a lane and I took it, really,” Bauman said. “I had some good blocks and it was gone.”
The previous time Bauman touched the ball, he took a shot to the midsection that left him vomiting on the field.
But a few minutes later, he responded with Bay’s biggest play of the year, so far.
“He’s a such a special kid,” Bay coach Mark Oliverio said. “He’s a senior, a leader. I think he just had that mindset that he was going to leave it all out there, more figuratively than literally. It was exciting to see him take the opportunity and do something with it.”
But make no mistake, the Eagles’ win was truly a team effort.
The offensive line took control in the first half as the Eagles grounded out long drives that led to touchdown runs by Rafael and Aqeel Bauman as the Bay took a 14-0 lead into halftime.
But the lead quickly evaporated in the second half. Brayden Malella hit Cash Hill with an 8-yard touchdown pass with 10:09 left in the third quarter.
After a Bay fumble two plays later, Cly Stephens powered in for a touchdown, tying the game 14-14 with 9:07 left in the third.
The Eagles did not fold, responding with an eight-play, 78-yard drive that was capped with Michael Miller’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Malukai Hodges. Bay led 21-14 with 4:31 left in the third.
An interception by Malella set up Logan DeBeaumont’s 21-yard touchdown strike to Noah Stromberg, and the game was tied 21-21 with 11:54 left in the game.
The two teams traded possessions around midfield before Ridgefield drove downfield late with Stephens rushing for 67 yards on three straight carries, giving Ridgefield first-and-goal at the 5.
But the Bay defense stiffened up to prevent a go-ahead touchdown.
“I think people really underestimate our defense,” Rafael Bauman said. “We have some of the best defensive players around. Tai Telea, Michael Brinson, our whole defense are just some dogs.”
Ridgefield celebrated briefly as Brandon Rogers 22-yard field goal gave them a 24-21 lead with 2:35 left.
Then Bauman made the play of the night.
With Woodland losing Friday, suddenly Bay stands alone as the only 2-0 team in the 2A GSHL.
“It just feels good,” Bauman said. “We’ve worked hard for this and just for it to start paying off, it feels good.”
The win improved the Eagles to 4-0 for the first time since 2001.
“This is a huge one, probably the biggest one in a while for us,” Oliverio said. “It was an electric night. I know everybody is on Cloud 10 right now.”
HUDSON’S BAY 28, RIDGEFIELD 24
Bay 7 7 7 7—28
Ridge 0 0 14 10—24
HB — Rafael Bauman 5 run (Joey Roeper kick)
HB — Aqeel Bauman 3 run (Roeper kick)
R — Cash Hill 8 pass from Brayden Malella (Carson Young kick)
R — Cly Stephens 4 run (Young kick)
HB — Malukai Hodges 19 pass from Michael Miller (Roeper kick)
R — Noah Stromberg 21 pass from Logan DeBeaumont (Young kick)
R — Brandon Rogers 22 FG
HB — R. Bauman 86 kickoff return (Roeper kick)
RUSHING — Hudson’s Bay: R. Bauman 15-72, A. Bauman 21-80, Talon Leon Guerrero 7-31, Michael Miller 1-2, team 3-(-3). Ridgefield: Cly Stephens 17-163, Brayden Malella 4-6, Rocco Wright 4-2, Logan DeBeaumont 2-(-12), team 1-(-15).
PASSING — Hudson’s Bay: Miller 4-6-1-65; Ridgefield: Malella 4-8-1-67; Logan DeBeaumont 4-12-0-39.
RECEIVING — Hudson’s Bay: R. Bauman 2-41, Hodges 1-19, Guerrero 1-5. Ridgefield: Stromberg 2-31, Hill 4-26, Landon DeBeaumont 2-37.