The Streak's most serious challenge came last year when Grass Lake had Hudson tied 8-8 and only a couple of minutes were left. With the ball on Grass Lake's 12, Saylor outlined a sequence of plays on his last time out, then sent his quarterback to the huddle with this message: "Tell the players I love them." Hudson scored as the gun sounded, and everyone went nuts.
In the week before No. 72 the town was on both a Hudson high and a Hudson High high. John Decker, the man who says President Cleveland was his cousin, remarked, "We're not class-conscious here, because we don't have any. Who cares? This is Utopia. It's a place where a man's word is good. My car is sitting out there with the keys in it."
Herb O'Neill runs a gas station. He used to have pandas painted on it. Not long ago the pandas went under the brush (cost: $150), and today the side of his station says HUDSON, MICH. HOME OF THE NATIONALLY FAMOUS HUDSON TIGERS.
Hudson's biggest problem at the moment, said Mayor Jim Dunne, is rusty water; its biggest joy is you-know-what. "We've had wonderful teams," he said, "and a little luck."
At the pep rally leading up to The Game, two things were apparent: 1) All high school gyms smell the same, and 2) the exuberance of the Hudson students for winning football is unbridled. There was a lot of commotion as the cheerleaders taught the kids how to chant S-P-I-R-I-T and P-R-I-D-E.
Student Jackie Wollet read a poem that said, in part:
The gun is fired,
The suspense is gone
You're now admired
For what you've done.
That was to thank the players for No. 71. Then she stressed the importance of winning No. 72. And, to a frantic ovation, Tom Saylor stepped out and said something befitting the mini-Lombardi he is. It was High School U.S.A. in full throat, the kind of experience that can make a skeptic tingle.
The main watering hole in Hudson is the American Legion hall, located just around the bend in the road from the cemetery. Don Murphy, who is 79 and played for Hudson between 1913 and 1917, was at the hall one evening last week, and he was asked if today's players are better. He conceded only that "they're faster, probably." Murphy said it has been "a little while" since he missed a Hudson game, home or away. He said his last absence was during World War II service. Barney Crittenden laughed and recalled his exploits on the 1925 team which, he says, never won a game.
On into the night it went. Barney, who has an all-conference stomach, said, "See how much fun we have talking about football? That makes it worth something, doesn't it?"