By Scott McNeish / Adrian Daily Telegram
Perfect complements, perfect for their system, on a perfect team.
Hudson High School running backs Drew Milligan and Chris Robbins have each rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season, and they each did it in their own way. Two different, yet effective, styles helped the undefeated Tigers reach the state semifinals for the fifth time in school history.
There’s Robbins, the muscle-bound steamroller known for his thunderous crashes into defenders.
Then there’s Milligan, the elusive speedster who zips, darts and cuts with lightning-like quickness.
Robbins and Milligan.
Thunder and lightning.
In a game reliant on power and speed, the Hudson backfield has plenty of both. This dynamic duo creates the perfect offensive storm.
“Their styles fit what we do,” Hudson coach Chris Luma said. “We look to hit teams off-tackle or outside, and then we try to catch them with traps up the middle. Drew and Chris are perfect for those roles, and they’re a big reason for our success.”
Robbins, a strapping 5-foot-10, 185-pound fullback, employs a specific strategy with the football in his hands. He doesn’t want to absorb punishment.
He wants to deliver it.
“I’m trying to run people over,” Robbins said. “That’s the most fun.”
The senior has rushed for 1,079 yards and 18 touchdowns while helping Hudson (12-0) match a school record for wins. He’s the go-to guy for dives and traps up the middle. The tough yards. Tests of strength Robbins tends to pass.
“He doesn’t get brought down on first contact,” Hudson quarterback Nathan Smith said. “It takes a couple more people to bring him down.”
That’s because Robbins runs with strong balance that stems from staggering lower-body strength.
“He takes some really good hits,” Luma said, “some real shots, but the guy’s like a stump. The strength in his legs is incredible.”
Milligan, on the other hand, rarely takes good hits. He rarely takes hits period. The 5-foot-6, 145-pound junior tailback has rushed 141 times for 1,247 yards (8.8 yards per carry) and 19 touchdowns to lead Hudson’s Wing-T attack.
“I like to make people miss,” Milligan said. “I’m looking for open field, and then I just run.”
Teammates watch in awe as Milligan escapes situations where defenses appear to have him bottled.
“It’s almost like he’s slippery,” Smith said. “He’s hard to get a hold of and bring down. He seems to slide off tackles, make another cut and get upfield.”
But Milligan packs some power, too.
He’s not afraid to lower a shoulder, throw a stiffarm, fight and claw for extra yardage.
“He’s a pretty tough runner,” Robbins said. “Even though he’s really quick, and he’s usually the guy who’s getting outside and outrunning people, he can definitely shed some tackles when he has to.”
The perfect storm
One rumbles with force. The other flashes with speed.
Thunder and lightning.
Two distinct running styles have fused to create one productive offense. The key lies in the choice facing opponents. Should they concentrate on Milligan and contain the outside? Or should they beef up the inside to stop Robbins? Does it matter?
When defenses target one talented runner, Hudson has another to run wild.
“Some games, the other team will try to jam the middle, and once they do that, Drew’s gone outside,” Robbins said. “And if they try to key in on Drew, a lot of times that’s when my big runs happen.”
Milligan and Robbins combined for 194 rushing yards in last week’s 42-41 win over Mendon, which entered the game having allowed 21 points all season. Hudson’s 42 points marked only the third time over the past two decades Mendon has allowed as much in a game.
“We like a challenge,” Milligan said. “We’ve had to face some opponents in the past that people said teams couldn’t run on them.
“We like those kind of games.”
They have another in Saturday’s Division 7 semifinal at Ortonville-Brandon High School.
Hudson’s opponent, Ubly, has stuffed the run this postseason. The Bearcats, who will strive for their second straight trip to the state finals, yield just 42 rushing yards per game. They have not allowed a rushing touchdown in the playoffs.
The perfect challenge for the Tigers’ perfect backfield complements.
“We just need to keep it up,” Smith said. “We need to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”