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Mahler: Vote Early and Often for Hartford Football

Taylor Potter and Hartford High, shown during their state title win in November, are aiming for a national crown now. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

Taylor Potter and Hartford High, shown during their state title win in November, are aiming for a national crown now. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

There is no question that Hartford High has the best football team in the entire state of Vermont. The numbers bear that out. The little school that could has dominated the Green Mountain gridiron, winning the last three straight Division I state titles and a total of 10 division crowns in Mike Stone’s 26-year tenure.

They do it with the same hard-nosed system, passing the torch from one grown-up group of Mini-Canes to the next generation. The plays are the same; the families are the same. Only the given names of the players change.

At Hartford, they just win.

The state of Vermont knows it. The Upper Valley knows it. And now the rest of the nation will learn it.

For the past two weeks, a USA Today high school sports survey has been asking football fans from around the nation to select the top football team in the country. In other words, the people’s champion.

And guess what happened? The Canes proved to have championship-level fans as well.

Did you expect anything less?

“We haven’t thrown a block since November, and we’re still moving up in the rankings,” Stone laughed. “But it’s great so many people are excited about this. It shows what support we have in the community.”

The competition began on Jan. 7, with 64 schools vying for a $500 prize and the chance to be named the top high school football team — as chosen by fans — of 2012. Sixteen teams advanced to the second round, which ended Monday.

Each state, plus Washington D.C., had a representative in the competition. The highest-ranked champ in each state, as determined by the Massey computer rankings, automatically qualified for the contest, which is how Hartford was selected. In addition, the USA Today high school sports editorial staff chose 13 at-large teams.

As Hartford athletic director Joe James explained in an email to the Hurricane faithful: “In the first round of voting, Hartford finished in the top 16 and advanced to the second round. During second round voting, from Jan. 11-14, you crazy Cane fans, well ... went CRAZY! We led the country in voting through the entire weekend, but got edged out by a school near Binghamton, N.Y. on Monday.”

That still put Hartford into the Final Four, against Archbishop Moeller, of Cincinnati; Jordan, of Sandy, Utah; and Maine Endwell, of Endwell, N.Y.

Now, let’s be honest — nobody is claiming that the hometown Hurricanes are going to beat that kind of heady high school competition like Moeller or any of those other national football powerhouses on the gridiron. According to the USA Today rankings, Moeller is No. 11 nationally, Endwell is No. 56 and Jordan is No. 99. Hartford? No. 439.

But this isn’t about which school can score the most points on the football field. It’s about which school can rack up the most fan support on a computer keyboard.

And once again, Hartford finds itself playing the part of David versus the Goliaths of the gridiron world. Just check out the populations of these opponents: Endwell, N.Y., 11,445; Sandy, Utah, 89,200; and Cincinnati, 296,222. Then there are the Hurricanes, from the cozy neighborhood of White River Junction, with a population of 2,286.

But numbers have never stood in the way of Hartford’s success. Hartford is the smallest Division I school in the state. During the football season, the Canes rolled undefeated through schools nearly twice their size, outscoring those opponents by nearly a 3-to-1 margin. Now they are facing cities with thousands of more citizens available to ring up the vote total.

But none of that matters to the Canes. Because at Hartford, they know that size doesn’t matter, only heart and soul. And that’s where the community comes in. To win this title of top high school team, the Canes are going to need your continued help and support. All you need is a computer and an accurate typing stroke.

You can do it from your home, from your phone, on the road or in your bed. At breakfast, lunch or dinner. Daytime or nighttime. Women and children; senior citizens and high school seniors. Come one, come all. Anyone can vote … and vote often, too, because it’s a popularity contest, not a sports competition. As a matter of fact, stuffing the ballot box is the accepted road to victory.

The voting ends tomorrow at 11 a.m., so time is of the essence. Start limbering up those fingers. Carpel tunnel syndrome is no excuse. There is no age requirement or restriction. Put on your Hartford jerseys and fire up that laptop.

To register your vote for the Hurricanes, log onto http://contest.usatodayhss.com/ and let the voting begin. Let’s add a national championship to the Hartford trophy case.

Don Mahler can be reached at dmahler@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.