HUDSON — The Hudson Pirates came out throwing.
The state’s top-ranked team in Class A figured it would need to put the football in the air to win its state quarterfinal matchup against Highland.
But after three incompletions and two punts on its first two possessions, Hudson went back to doing what it does best.
Senior Christian Seres rushed for a season-high 259 yards and four touchdowns as the Pirates used a 27-point second half in a 41-14 home win Friday night.
“We’ve always been a second-half team,” Hudson coach Justin Brekke said. “We definitely responded well to some adversity in the first half and we really came back strong after that.”
The Pirates (11-0), second in the state last year, now return to the UNI-Dome for a semifinal matchup against West Hancock at 10 a.m. next Friday.
“It’s great to be going back to the Dome,” Brekke said. “To get that taste of it last year just makes you hungry to want to get back there again. Everybody has been working really hard for another chance to play there.”
Highland (8-3) came out strong Friday in a game that was deadlocked 14-14 at halftime before Hudson took control with its dominant second half.
The 5-foot-10, 187-pound Seres, running behind an offensive line with five new starters this season, carried the ball 35 times. He earned his yards with his longest run covering 27 yards.
“Our offensive line did an amazing job,” Seres said. “Our line really stepped up tonight. Those guys had an awesome night.”
Hudson attempted just six passes as senior quarterback Jacob Murray completed three for 34 yards with the running game clicking. Murray, a veteran who has passed for more than 900 yards this season, ran for a 10-yard touchdown in the second half.
Hudson broke the game open with its superb running attack and with its defense limiting the Huskies to just two first downs in the second half.
The Pirates held Highland quarterback Trey Lasek to 18 rushing yards in the second half after he ran for 137 in the first two quarters.
Seres scored on a pair of short runs after the break with Murray and fullback Ethan Fulcher also running for second-half scores.
“Our game plan wasn’t necessarily to run as much as we did,” Seres said. “But the running game was working for us, so we just stuck with it. It was a physical game and we just kept playing hard the whole time. We never let up.”
A wild first half ended in a 14-14 deadlock.
Lasek broke loose on a 71-yard run to open the scoring before Hudson came back with two scoring runs by Seres.
Lasek then broke free again on a 24-yard TD run to even the score 14-14.
“We knew Lasek was going to be tough to stop,” Brekke said. “Nobody has stopped him all year.”
Highland blocked a punt late in the first half and drove to Hudson’s 3, but Payton Stuart picked off a Lasek pass to end the threat.
“That was huge for us,” Brekke said. “We were kind of on our heels a little bit. To get a big momentum play like that going into the half was absolutely huge.”
Seres is looking forward to making the eight-mile trip back to play in the UNI-Dome.
“This is what we’ve been working for all year and it’s exciting to be playing at the Dome in back-to-back years,” Seres said. “We just have to keep grinding and be more physical than the other teams. That’s what has worked for us all season.”
Hudson 41, Highland 14
Highland 7 7 0 0 — 14
Hudson 0 14 7 20 — 41
High– Trey Lasek 71 run (Brody Burton kick)
Hud – Christian Seres 3 run (Austin Appleton kick)
Hud – Seres 18 run (Appleton kick)
High – Lasek 24 run (Burton kick)
Hud – Seres 4 run (Appleton kick)
Hud – Jacob Murray 10 run (Appleton kick)
Hud – Seres 9 run (Appleton kick)
Hud – Ethan Fulcher 23 run (kick failed)
First downs 9 15
Rushes-yards 37-175 47-314
Passing yards 55 34
Comp-att-int 5-20-3 3-6-0
Punts-avg. 4-28.5 4-24.0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 6-45 5-45
HIGHLAND – Lasek 18-155, Hahn 10-24, Adamson 6-7, Sosa 3-minus 11.
HUDSON – Seres 35-259, Fulcher 4-32, Murray 3-6, Staebell 2-2.
HIGHLAND – Lasek 5-17-2, 43 yards, Hahn 1-1-1, 12 yards, Adamson 0-1-0.
HUDSON – Murray 3-6-0, 34 yards.
HIGHLAND – McFarland 1-19, Hahn 2-12, Lasek 1-12, Stewart 1-9, Adamson 1-3.
HUDSON – Staebell 2-31, Rodriguez 1-3.