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Canes Sink Lakers Again in D-I Football Quarterfinal

  • Hartford High School's Reece Thompson (53) tackles Colchester High School's Andrew Spencer (44) on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017, during a game between Colchester and Hartford in White River Junction, Vt. Hartford won, 53-13. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hartford High School's Kody Rhodes (28) runs with the ball on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017, during a game between Colchester High School and Hartford in White River Junction, Vt. Hartford won, 53-13. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Colchester High School's Zack Morin (17) gets brought down for a sack by Hartford High School's Mehdi Orogi (56) on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017, during a game between Colchester and Hartford in White River Junction, Vt. Hartford won, 53-13. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hartford High School's Tyler Hamilton (12) motions to throw for a 2-point conversion on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017, during a game between Colchester High School and Hartford in White River Junction, Vt. Hartford won, 53-13. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hartford High School's Austin Gaudette (7) brings in a pass while being guarded by Colchester High School's Andrew Spencer (44) for a 2-point conversion on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017, during a game between Colchester and Hartford in White River Junction, Vt. Hartford won, 53-13. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, October 27, 2017

White River Junction — Colchester High football coach Tom Perry opened up the playbook and threw everything but the kitchen sink at second-seeded Hartford in Friday’s VPA Division I quarterfinal match. If only there had been an actual kitchen sink to throw; the Lakers probably would have tried that, too.

Perry’s squad truly tried everything. It opened the game with a flea-flicker tossed back to senior quarterback Zack Morin. It faked a punt down by two scores in the first quarter. It tried two onside kicks — one down by 32 points to open up the second half and another late in the third quarter down by 40.

None of it worked as the Hurricanes (8-1) scored seven rushing touchdowns on its way to a 53-13 victory.

It’s hard to fault the Lakers for getting desperate. For the last three years, Colchester, a seventh seed that finished its season 3-6, has drawn Hartford in the first round of the D-I tournament. Last year, Hartford won 48-6. Colchester’s season ended with a loss to the Hurricanes, a result the Lakers have sustained in five consecutive meetings between the two teams.

“It’s a curse,” Perry said when asked what it was like to face Hartford in the D-I quarterfinals every year. “Matt (Trombly, Hartford’s head coach) calls it a tradition. … If you want to get to the top of anything, you’ve got to beat good teams to get there. We get to come here and play a good team every year. They’re well-coached, and they’re hard-nosed. These are the kinds of teams you have to beat if you want to get to the top of anything.”

The win advanced Hartford to the D-I semifinals against No. 6 Mount Mansfield, which upset No. 3 Burlington, 21-15, in its quarterfinal game. The Canes and Cougars meet on Friday night at Hartford.

The game got out of hand just 12 seconds into the first quarter. Colchester received to start the game. The Lakers’ first play, a flea-flicker tossed back to Morin to pass, sailed over the quarterback’s head and into the backfield. Colchester recovered the ball but lost 18 yards. It punted three plays later.

Hartford, meanwhile, operated at peak performance, needing only 10 plays to score three touchdowns on its first three drives of the game.

Senior quarterback Tyler Hamilton scrambled for a 39-yard touchdown on the second play of the Hurricanes’ opening drive. Hunter Perkins finished off a seven-play drive with a five-yard touchdown run, and Nick Porter scrambled for a 28-yard touchdown run later on in the first quarter. Hartford took a 24-0 lead into the second.

“We’re amped up,” Hamilton said. “I thought this was one of our better put-together games.”

Added Trombly: “It’s the playoffs. Anything can happen; you’ve just got to find ways to win, do stuff other teams might not be prepared for. The flea-flicker is something we didn’t expect. Luckily, it went our way. But our philosophy is to expect the unexpected.”

Morin was 5-for-10 passing in the first half and suffered a beating from Hartford’s relentless front seven. Four of Colchester’s five first-half drives ended in fourth-and-long situations.

“We threw everything we had at them,” Morin said. “We tried everything we thought would work.”

But Hartford kept pounding. Hamilton scored again on an eight-yard quarterback keeper just three minutes into the second quarter. The Canes led at halftime, 32-0, and added to it just 43 seconds into the third quarter with a 48-yard run by Kody Rhodes. Porter scored two more touchdowns in the second half.

Colchester got on the board midway through the third quarter, a seven-yard touchdown run from Andrew Spencer. An subsequent onside kick attempt was recovered by Hartford, but a fumble gave the Lakers another chance. Morin took advantage with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Bailey Olsen. It was all too little, too late.

“Coach has been telling us all week that’s what they would have to do,” Hamilton said of Colchester’s trickery. “We were expecting it.”

Hamilton said Friday’s win felt like redemption after a disappointing offensive performance against Essex in a 12-7 win last week. Putting 53 points on the scoreboard, he said, helps shake off some of the rust.

“It definitely redeems us (from last week),” Hamilton said. “I thought we played a lot better defensively.”

For Trombly, Hartford’s fourth-year head coach, another trip to the semifinals is special considering the losses it suffered to graduation after last year’s undefeated championship season and the injuries and setbacks it dealt with early in the fall. This season, he said, his squad has earned its stripes.

“All year, we’ve had the thing with young kids, but we also have some older kids that have been through it, like Hamilton, Porter, Rhodes, (lineman Justin) Bettis,” Trombly said. “Those guys have been there and have a little bit of an expectation of what’s going to happen over the course of the next few weeks, if we’re successful. They’re pulling along the younger guys, who have shown great maturity since day one when things went kind of south in the first couple of weeks.

“We didn’t know how things were going to turn out, and they’ve done the unexpected.”

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.