Local Team Falls Short in State Championship Game

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Fred Hubbard had a touchdown and a key kickoff return to help Crystal Falls Forest Park end a three-year title-game losing streak in a 22-14 win over Fulton-Middleton in Friday's Division 8 state championship game.
The Trojans (13-1) won state titles in 1975 and 1976 -- the first two years of the championships -- but had gone 0-8 since, including losses the last three seasons.
The Pirates (13-1) were trying to match their 1998 title.
Fred Hubbard returned the second-half kickoff to the Fulton-Middleton 31-yard line, and Josh Siler finished the short drive with a 4-yard run. A two-point pass made it 14-0.
Fulton-Middleton answered with a 48-yard touchdown pass from Matt Stephens to Ben Weber on third-and-17, but missed the extra point.
The Trojans increased the margin on the second play of the fourth quarter when Hubbard scored on a 15-yard run. Kyle Roberts then hit Andrew Gussert for the two-point conversion and a 22-6 lead.
Dillon Trefil's 2-yard run with 6:07 left made it 22-12, and Clevelyn Jefferson pulled the Pirates within eight with a 2-point conversion run, but the Trojans ran out the clock.
Crystal Falls Forest Park opened the scoring midway through the second on Kyle LaVacque's 2-yard run, but the two-point conversion failed.
Forest Park coach Bill Santilli, who played on the 1975 championship team, said the final clock-eating drive was key to winning the title.
"I told them before they went out there that everything was riding on us moving the chains and keeping the ball," he said.
Santilli struggled to compare the feelings of winning the title as a player and as a coach.
"In 1975, I had teammates -- these young gentlemen are more like my children," he said. "They were both incredible feelings, but to win as a coach -- this is awesome."
The win also means the Trojans avoided matching the Buffalo Bills' dubious achievement of four straight championship-game losses.
"There's the sign at the edge of town that says `Welcome to Crystal Falls', and it lists that we were the runners-up in 2004, 2005 and 2006," tackle Chris McCarthy said. "My brother told me that if we lost again, he was going to put a Bills sticker on the sign."
Fulton-Middleton coach John Winkler felt that, even with their lack of success, the Trojans had an advantage with three straight trips to the Silverdome and Ford Field.
"We were facing a team that's been there before and had a lot of experience," he said. "We kept fighting, but they just kept making plays."

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