Control of the NOC Valley Division and a possible AP state poll championship are now in the hands of the Hudson Explorers.
Mentor coach Steve Trivisonno made it clear the Cardinals are focusing more on the big picture than on the error-filled 48-minute snapshot that was a 41-27 loss Thursday night in front of an overflow crowd at Hudson Memorial Stadium.
"What's important is the next one. Everybody got all gung-ho about this one, but it's about what you do starting two weeks from now," Trivisonno said referring to the start of the playoffs on Nov. 8. "We've been here before. Played St. Ed's and St. Ignatius in the regular season and lost and ended up coming back and beating them in the playoffs. That's what really matters.
"We made some mistakes tonight, turned the ball over, did some things we couldn't do to win. On the road in a tough game we have to play better. It wasn't a very well-played game or a well-coached game for us. We will see what we are made of now because it is all about getting better."
The Cardinals will see what they are made of and try to rebound from their first loss of the season when they host Strongsville in the season finale on Halloween night at the JTO. Hudson clinched at least a share of the NOC Valley with the win and can win the league outright by beating Twinsburg in Week 10.
On Thursday, Mentor (8-1) jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead on a TD run by Alex Mathews, but Hudson scored the next 19 points of the game and the Cardinals could not overcome committing a season-high six turnovers or Explorers senior QB Mitch Guadagni's big night. The Toledo recruit shook off four interceptions to amass 363 total yards running and passing and throw five touchdown passes in helping the Explorers remain unbeaten at 9-0.
"He is pretty good," Trivisonno said of Guadagni. "He makes them dangerous. He gets out of a lot of trouble with his legs. I thought we did a great job in coverage. We picked him off four times. We did enough things there, but we have to make plays in other phases."
Mentor cut a 19-7 deficit down to 19-13 at halftime on two Tyler Thompson field goals, but Guadagni threw his third touchdown of the night to Reid Robinson to extend the lead to 26-13. After a 60-yard TD run by Jake Floriea drew the Cardinals to within six points again, Guadagni improvised a play and hooked up with Will Hogan for a 24-yard score and Hudson lead was 32-20 starting the fourth quarter.
Another TD run by Floriea kept the Cardinals within striking distance in the fourth quarter, but Guadagni's final TD toss of the night all but sealed the deal with 5:26 remaining and a 35-24 lead.
Mentor senior defensive lineman Trevor Morrison, who had one of the four interceptions for the Cardinals on the night, credited Guadagni, but also was confident the team would bounce back quickly.
"(Guadagni) is really mobile and he is a special kid, and to be honest we hope to see them again in the playoffs," Morrison said.
"I think we already have put his loss behind us. Now it is about getting better and getting ready for Strongsville and the playoffs in two weeks."
Michael Ballantine, Kenny Cook and Marc Walton each had interceptions along with Morrison for Mentor.
Trivisonno said Mathews injured his ankle on the first series of the game and was not available in some key moments for the Cardinals, including a fourth-and-goal situation at the 1-yard line that resulted in a Hudson stop and fumble recovery.
Hudson enjoyed the edge in total yardage, 463-424, but the teams were even in first downs at 22 apiece.
Jason Blizzard had five catches for 115 yards. Floriea ran for 108 yards and passed for 207. Eddie Daugherty added 72 rushing yards for Mentor.