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Championship Repeat

  • Hartford senior Joe Wood celebrates after the Hurricanes defeated B.F.A.-St. Albans, 35-27, in the Division I Vermont high school football championship.(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    Hartford senior Joe Wood celebrates after the Hurricanes defeated B.F.A.-St. Albans, 35-27, in the Division I Vermont high school football championship.(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hartford senior linebacker Joe Wood lets out a scream after taking down B.F.A. - St. Albans' Nick Berno in the backfield during the Division I Vermont high school football championship in South Burlington, Vt., on Saturday, November 10, 2012. Hartford won, 35-27.<br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan

    Hartford senior linebacker Joe Wood lets out a scream after taking down B.F.A. - St. Albans' Nick Berno in the backfield during the Division I Vermont high school football championship in South Burlington, Vt., on Saturday, November 10, 2012. Hartford won, 35-27.
    Valley News - Ryan Dorgan Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hartford captains Nolan Frechette (84), Mike Dulac (70) and Joe Wood (10) get a thumbs-up as they go to accept their championship trophy.<br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan

    Hartford captains Nolan Frechette (84), Mike Dulac (70) and Joe Wood (10) get a thumbs-up as they go to accept their championship trophy.
    Valley News - Ryan Dorgan Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hartford's Taylor Potter makes a run for the end zone after picking off St. Albans during the second half of the Division I Vermont high school football championship in South Burlington, Vt., on Saturday, November 10, 2012. Hartford won, 35-27.<br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan

    Hartford's Taylor Potter makes a run for the end zone after picking off St. Albans during the second half of the Division I Vermont high school football championship in South Burlington, Vt., on Saturday, November 10, 2012. Hartford won, 35-27.
    Valley News - Ryan Dorgan Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hartford's Taylor Potter (6) makes a wide-open run led by Josh Claflin.<br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan

    Hartford's Taylor Potter (6) makes a wide-open run led by Josh Claflin.
    Valley News - Ryan Dorgan Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hartford senior Nolan Frechette chases down B.F.A. - St. Albans' Doug Saffo in the state championship game.<br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan

    Hartford senior Nolan Frechette chases down B.F.A. - St. Albans' Doug Saffo in the state championship game.
    Valley News - Ryan Dorgan Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hartford senior Joe Wood celebrates after the Hurricanes defeated B.F.A.-St. Albans, 35-27, in the Division I Vermont high school football championship.(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)
  • Hartford senior linebacker Joe Wood lets out a scream after taking down B.F.A. - St. Albans' Nick Berno in the backfield during the Division I Vermont high school football championship in South Burlington, Vt., on Saturday, November 10, 2012. Hartford won, 35-27.<br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan
  • Hartford captains Nolan Frechette (84), Mike Dulac (70) and Joe Wood (10) get a thumbs-up as they go to accept their championship trophy.<br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan
  • Hartford's Taylor Potter makes a run for the end zone after picking off St. Albans during the second half of the Division I Vermont high school football championship in South Burlington, Vt., on Saturday, November 10, 2012. Hartford won, 35-27.<br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan
  • Hartford's Taylor Potter (6) makes a wide-open run led by Josh Claflin.<br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan
  • Hartford senior Nolan Frechette chases down B.F.A. - St. Albans' Doug Saffo in the state championship game.<br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan

When it comes to Vermont football, there’s Hartford ... and then there’s everybody else. You see, Hartford just doesn’t lose.

The smallest Division I school in the state owns the most powerful football program around.

Since a near-monsoon washed the Canes off the field at St. Albans back in 2010, the Hartford High football team has been unbeaten and untouchable — through a span of 26 straight games — including two straight state championships.

And without a cloud in the sky on state championship day this season, it was perfect Hurricane weather and another notch in Mike Stone’s title belt. Like the old football saying goes: Hartford doesn’t rebuild, it just reloads.

One year after graduating 15 starting seniors — nine who played on the Shrine team and several who went on to play on the college level — the Canes came back and ran the table again for their fifth title in six years. Stone put the challenge to his young team before the season: “I don’t think (a state title) is beyond us. It’s something that I would say we should attain.

“If we don’t we’ll be disappointed.”

Over the course of the season, though, there were hardly any reasons to be disappointed.

Following a tight opener where the Hurricane engine took a while to find its stride, Hartford took off on a high-scoring ride through the state. That 13-7 victory over Colchester was the closest anyone came to the Canes all year until the championship game as Hartford outscored the opposition by an average 37-12 margin.

The offense was a typical Hartford attack: Pound the opposition with an unending stable of hard-hitting backs running behind a group of hard-hitting linemen. Hartford backs ate up yardage in gulps, led by Josh Claflin, who rushed for 1,467 yards and 23 touchdowns.

But there was little respite from the assault with Taylor Potter, Jon Carlson and Joe Wood running roughshod over the opposition. Carlson finished as the team’s second leading scorer (12 TDs) while he and Potter rushed for more than 750 yards each with Wood chipping in with over 600 yards.

“That’s what we do,” said Claflin. “We just keep pounding and pounding.

“Every single guy out there has a job to do, and they do it really well. It all starts with the (offensive line).”

The guys up front did their jobs as well, with senior Michael Dulac anchoring the offensive line along with sophs Will Todt, Kevin Ladka and Josh Avery, who was spelled in the title game by senior Matt Ocker.

Running through an undefeated regular season, Hartford earned the top seed in the state’s three-tiered playoff system. There was no let up.

In the quarterfinals, Hartford dismantled South Burlington, 54-20. In the semis, visiting Middlebury was little more than a speed bump, sent packing, 34-0.

That brought up a familiar foe in the finals: BFA-St. Albans — the last team to beat Hartford, back in October 2010.

The Canes already owned an earlier 33-7 regular season win over the Bobwhites this year, but Stone wasn’t taking anything for granted. “If we get them off the field, we’ll probably be OK,” he said on the eve of the game. “If we don’t, we will be in trouble.”

Stone had every reason to be wary. There was trouble brewing.

The Bobwhites gave up points, but also did some scoring of their own — closing within a score twice in the second half — including the game’s final moments when BFA scored to close within 35-27 and then recovered the onsides kick.

But the Hartford defense rose to the occasion, with Dylan Rice breaking up St. Albans’ fourth down pass to secure the victory.

“(Stone) always keeps us grounded during the game, and we needed that when it got close,” said Claflin. “That’s why it doesn’t matter to us what the score is; we just do our job.”

Claflin led the offensive charge with 142 yards and three scores, while Potter added 82 yards and a touchdown.

In the end, it was business as usual for Hartford. The formula of physical football and team-first camaraderie combined to bring another title to the Hartford trophy room.

“I think I’m most proud of this group for the fact that it responded all year whenever we had adversity,” said Stone after the game. “No matter what happened, they hung in there.”