LUCAS — He etched his name into the state record book, but Lucas senior Carson Hauger didn’t feel like celebrating Saturday afternoon.
The Richland Bank Athlete of the Week, Hauger returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown during the third quarter of the Cubs’ 28-6 loss to small-school juggernaut Marion Local in the Division VII state championship game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.
It was the first ever kickoff return for a touchdown in Division VII championship game history and the longest kickoff return for a score regardless of division.
“We were getting our blocks, but I just had to make a move, make one man miss,” Hauger said. “Our entire kickoff return coverage was perfect. I saw an open lane and just took it.
“Right now that means nothing to me, honestly.”
That speaks volumes to his character, veteran coach Scott Spitler said.
“That’s the type of kid he is. He doesn’t want to talk about it,” Spitler said. “He puts the team first.”
Hauger had six tackles on the afternoon, including five solo stops. He also picked off a pass deep in Lucas territory during the third quarter to short-circuit a potential Marion Local scoring drive.
“He’s battled a shoulder injury all season and he keeps making plays for us,” Spitler said.
One of the Cubs’ most versatile athletes, Hauger returned five kickoffs for touchdowns this year. He was one of quarterback Logan Niswander’s top targets on offense and a lockdown cornerback on defense.
Lucas picked off two passes against Marin Local, giving them 19 on the season.
“We knew they liked to run (crossing routes). We were very disciplined and expected that to happen,” Spitler said. “They made the plays that they’ve been making. They’ve been ball-hawks all season for us back there.”
Marion Local has appeared in nine straight state championship games. The Flyers won their 11th state crown, matching Cleveland St. Ignatius for the most since the Ohio High School Athletic Association introduced the playoff format in 1972.
“They were probably one of the most physical teams we have played,” Hauger said. “It was awesome to play them. It was something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives, regardless of the score.”
Lucas was making its first ever appearance in the state championship game. The Cubs had lost in the regional finals in 2015 and 2018 before breaking down the door this fall.
Cubs’ fans showed their appreciation afterward, standing and cheering as Hauger and his teammates accepted the runner-up trophy. The announced attendance for the Division VII championship game was 4,451.
“I love our small town. We have five hundred and how many people? It looked like we had more than that in the stands. It’s insane,” Hauger said. “I couldn’t ask for a better town to live in and better fans or a better community.”