By SCOTT JACKSON
Courier sports writer
---- — ALBIA — To get to 5-0, according to Albia head football coach Jerry Staton, would have been a great breakthrough moment for his team.
The same opportunity had slipped through the hands of the Blue Demons each of the past two years thanks to losses against eventual district champions Mediapolis and Bondurant-Farrar. To achieve that kind of start certainly would feel like milestone moment for an Albia team with high hopes for this 2013 season.
The end of the fifth game this season came this past Friday night for the fourth-ranked (2A) Blue Demons. It was on Homecoming night and it featured a rematch with the same Bondurant-Farrar team that kept Albia from last year’s 5-0 mark.
Try as they may, the Blue Jays of Bondurant could keep Albia down for good again in 2013. Brett Leshen and Zach Hugen wouldn’t let it happen.
The senior quarterback and wide receiver came through in the clutch again last Friday when the team needed them to, hooking up on a game-winning touchdown from 35 yards out midway through the fourth quarter. It led the Blue Demons to that elusive fifth win as Albia rallied from a fourth quarter deficit for the season week in a row.
The 42-36 thriller over Bondurant-Farrar last Friday followed an equally tense 21-20 road escape at Davis County for Albia. After weeks of winning with a variety of players stepping up, Leshen and Hugen showed last Friday an ability to be a very unstoppable passing combination, especially coming off the duo connecting on a 33-yard game-winning touchdown at Bloomfield a week earlier.
“I just had faith that we could score anytime we wanted to as a team,” Hugen said after catching eight passes for 270 yards Friday in a career night for the Blue Demon senior. “I can’t say enough about my offensive line making the blocks for Brett. I just go out there and make the catches. It becomes pretty easy when you’re part of team that executes as well as we do.”
It wasn’t just offensively that Hugen stepped up for Albia. Doubling up on defense and special teams, Hugen got last Friday’s game off to a unique start by tackling Grant Petersen in the end zone on the opening kickoff to give the Blue Demons a 2-0 lead on a safety four seconds into the contest.
Hugen also delivered the final blow on defense, hitting Blue Jay wide receiver Harrison Vermie to ensure the sophomore did not come down with a fourth down reception in the final minute that would have kept a potential game-winning drive for Bondurant-Farrar alive.
“We have a tough defense that always comes up huge when we need it to,” Hugen said. “I knew the rest of my teammates had been there all day long for us on defense, so I just went out there and made sure to prevent a last touchdown from happening.”
Hugen, however, could rarely be stopped from jaunting into the end zone. All four of his scoring catches last Friday came with Leshen finding his top receiver in the field, forcing Hugen to outrun possible Blue Jay defenders.
All four times, that is exactly what Hugen did, catching passes from 51 and 48 yards out in stride with a step on a defender. Hugen’s two 35-yard scores, one that opened the Albia scoring in the first quarter and the final one that closed it out, came with a defender trying to cut down the Blue Demon speedster in the field of play.
“Zach Hugen is a hard guy to stop at receiver,” Staton said. “There’s a catch he was able to make (against Davis County) even while he was having his jersey pulled. He’s just a tough kid to slow down.”
The last two weeks have tested Albia’s ability to pull together to keep a perfect record intact. After winning the first three games of the season easily by a combined score of 158-13, the Blue Demons have shown the capability to pull out very close contests.
Leshen’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Hugen two weeks ago at Davis County rallied the Blue Demons from a 20-14 deficit midway through the fourth quarter. Last Friday, Bondurant-Farrar responded after giving up a game-opening safety to score touchdowns on consecutive drives to open a 12-point first half lead.
And even after rallying from that deficit to take a one-point lead, the Blue Jays tested the resilience of the Blue Demons once more by driving right down the field twice to take seven-point leads with go-ahead touchdowns each time after an Albia score. Led by Leshen, who contributed to all six Blue Demon touchdowns, the Blue Demons saved the best for last shutting out Bondurant-Farrar in the final quarter while consecutive touchdown connections to Hugen finally rallied Albia for a lead that would stick at 42-36 with under seven minutes left in the contest.
“We haven’t won five straight games forever. To win the fifth straight game against a team as good as Bondurant-Farrar is huge for us,” Leshen said after piling up 304 of his 373 total yards through the air, going 11-14 with five touchdowns passing the football Friday. “It feels good whenever we are in those close situations that no one is getting down on each other and every keeps doing their jobs. It’s awesome to see.”
For head coach Jerry Staton, seeing his team come through in the final minutes is a tribute to the hard work the Blue Demon players have put in to be the better team when a game is coming down the stretch.
“I think true platoon football wore (Bondurant-Farrar) down,” Staton said. “In the fourth quarter, they didn’t score and we were still moving the football. There’s something to be said about having fresh legs out there on the field in those final minutes.”
After passing consecutive tests by earning a pair of wins in the fourth quarter, No. 4 (2A) Albia now finds themselves standing alone as the only unbeaten area team. The 5-0 overall record includes a 3-0 mark in Class 2A, District 6.
Only one other district team also stands without a loss heading into the sixth full week of the high school football season. That team would be PCM (3-2, 2-0), who just happen to be the next test for the fourth-ranked Blue Demons as the two teams meet tonight in Monroe with control of the district title on the line.
That means that Albia has yet another test to pass tonight; avoiding a letdown. If the Blue Demons can rise to the occasion one more time and earn six straight wins to start the year, a district title and a much easier road to the UNI-Dome will be within the grasp of the Monroe County squad.
“We get a very good running back and an all-district linebacker back this week, so that will make us even better,” Staton said. “We don’t play the scoreboard. We just try to play as hard as we can play each play and be the better team on each play. If you can do that, you might be the best for a while. Nobody’s the best forever, but we can be the best we can be right now.”
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No. 6 (2A) Albia 42, Bondurant-Farrar 36
B-F 14 7 15 0 — 36
Albia 9 7 13 13 — 42
Scoring By Quarters
A — Safety (Zach Hugan tackles Grant Petersen in the end zone), 11:56
BF — Paul Kubrak 55 yard run (Dillon Stafford kick), 9:03
BF — Grant Petersen 5 yard run (Stafford kick), 5:17
A — Zach Hugan 35 yard pass from Brett Leshen (Justin Bossard kick), 2:55
BF — Sam Duffy 18 yard pass from Drake Fuller (Stafford kick), 4:29
A — Bre. Leshen 2 yard run (Bossard kick), 1:24
A — Griffin Osing 17 yard pass from Bre. Leshen (pass failed), 7:06
BF — Petersen 3 yard run (Petersen pass from Fuller), 2:33
A — Hugan 51 yard pass from Bre. Leshen (Bossard kick), 1:13
BF — Fuller 8 yard run (Stafford kick), :15
A — Hugan 48 yard pass from Bre. Leshen (Bossard kick), 11:51
A — Hugan 35 yard pass from Bre. Leshen (kick failed), 6:57
First downs 		22 		23
Rushes-yards 		48-253 	43-209
Passing yards 		140 		304
Total Yards	 	393 		513
Comp-Att-Int 		15-22-2 	11-14-0
Return Yards 		7-154 		5-56
Fumbles-Lost 		0-0 		2-2
Penalties-Yds 		6-54 		4-20
RUSHING — Grant Petersen 29-98 yards, 2 TD, Drake Fuller 17-96 yards, TD, Paul Kubrak 2-59 yards, TD.
PASSING — Fuller 12-18, 106 yards, TD, 2 INT, Kubrack 2-4, 34 yards.
RECEIVING — Sam Duffy 6-74 yards, TD, Dillon Stafford 3-22 yards, Dalton McLerran 2-15 yards, Isaac Beitz 1-13 yards, Petersen 2-13 yards, Jarrid Clark 1-3 yards.
TACKLES — Clayton Beck 6, Cole Bailey 5, sack, fumble recovery, Tucker Ksiazek 5, Austin Gallagher 4, Petersen 4, Duffy 3, McLerran 3, fumble recovery, Tanner Perry 3, Matthew Eckert 2, Aaron Johnson 2, Cole Schlenker 2, Stafford 2, Beitz, Clark, Andrew Mask, Zachary McIntosh, sack, Connor Meislahn, Harrison Vermie.
RUSHING — Griffin Osing 8-72 yards, Brett Leshen 11-69 yards, TD, Ryan Sarver 20-64 yards, Matt Baker 2-4 yards.
PASSING — Bre. Leshen 11-14, 304 yards, 5 TD.
RECEIVING — Zach Hugen 8-270 yards, 4 TD, Osing 1-17 yards, R. Sarver 1-17 yards, Bre. Leshen 1-0 yards.
INTERCEPTIONS — Bre. Leshen 1-45 yards, Hunter Weldon 1-11 yards.
TACKLES — Blake Lawless 11, sack, Blake Bayer 8, Bre. Leshen 8, Hugh Sinclair 8, sack, Justin Bossard 6, Bryce Leshen 6, R. Sarver 6, Weldon 6, Dalton Folkerts 5, Osing 5, Josiah Harris 3, Baker 2, Eli Bishop, Bret Freshwater, Conner McDonough.