Canes Football Bags Third Straight Crown

  • Hartford High School football players Greg Shinn, left, Josh Claflin, Paige Larmie, Dylan Rice and Jonathan Carlson cheer with their teammates at South Burlington High School yesterday after the Hurricanes beat BFA-St. Albans, 35-27, to complete their second straight undefeated season and claim their third consecutive Vermont Division I state championship.<br/><br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan

    Hartford High School football players Greg Shinn, left, Josh Claflin, Paige Larmie, Dylan Rice and Jonathan Carlson cheer with their teammates at South Burlington High School yesterday after the Hurricanes beat BFA-St. Albans, 35-27, to complete their second straight undefeated season and claim their third consecutive Vermont Division I state championship.

    Valley News - Ryan Dorgan Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hartford players celebrate their 35-27 win over BFA-St. Albans for the VPA Division I title yesterday in South Burlington, Vt.<br/><br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan

    Hartford players celebrate their 35-27 win over BFA-St. Albans for the VPA Division I title yesterday in South Burlington, Vt.

    Valley News - Ryan Dorgan Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hartford’s Taylor Potter, left, makes an interception of a pass intended for BFA-St. Albans’ Ryley Mangan (34).<br/><br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan

    Hartford’s Taylor Potter, left, makes an interception of a pass intended for BFA-St. Albans’ Ryley Mangan (34).

    Valley News - Ryan Dorgan Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hartford High School football players Greg Shinn, left, Josh Claflin, Paige Larmie, Dylan Rice and Jonathan Carlson cheer with their teammates at South Burlington High School yesterday after the Hurricanes beat BFA-St. Albans, 35-27, to complete their second straight undefeated season and claim their third consecutive Vermont Division I state championship.<br/><br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan
  • Hartford players celebrate their 35-27 win over BFA-St. Albans for the VPA Division I title yesterday in South Burlington, Vt.<br/><br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan
  • Hartford’s Taylor Potter, left, makes an interception of a pass intended for BFA-St. Albans’ Ryley Mangan (34).<br/><br/>Valley News - Ryan Dorgan

South Burlington, Vt. — In its most challenging game of the season, the Hartford High football team responded like champions.

Playing through a rare close game in last night’s Vermont Division I title game against BFA-St. Albans, the Hurricanes scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns and withstood a Bobwhites rally for a 35-27 win and their third straight D-I title.

It was the closest game since the season opener for unbeaten Hartford (11-0), which won six games this autumn by at least 20 points. That included a 33-7 win over BFA in Week 2, but last night the Bobwhites showed considerable improvement.

It’s the second straight perfect season for the Canes, who also had back-to-back undefeated seasons in D-II in 1992-93.

This was as satisfying as any championship for 26th-year Hartford coach Mike Stone, who improved to 9-3 in finals.

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

Senior running back Josh Claflin had 142 yards and three touchdowns for the Hurricanes, who led 14-3 in the first quarter, but by only a pair of extra points, 21-19, late in the third quarter.

Short scoring runs from Taylor Potter (82 yards, touchdown) and Claflin put Hartford up 35-19 with 6:38 to play, but the Bobwhites (9-2) drew closer on their next drive.

Aided by a pair of pass interference penalties against the Canes — one on fourth-and-long — BFA marched 70 yards in 12 plays. BFA quarterback Nick Jaslowich (10-for-20, 91 yards) connected with Darren Callan for a 20-yard touchdown over the middle, and Jaslowich assumed a receiver’s role for the 2-point conversion. He hauled in a pass from running back Doug Saffo (40 carries, 154 yards) to make it 35-27.

The Bobwhites recovered the ensuing onside kick near midfield with 3:19 to play, but couldn’t move the chains. Saffo was stuffed for a 1-yard gain and a 3-yard loss, and Jaslowich threw two incompletions. Hartford’s Dylan Rice broke up the fourth-down pass intended for Nick Berno, and fullback Joe Wood converted a third-and-1 on the ensuing Hurricanes drive to seal the win.

“That’s what we do; we just keep pounding and pounding,” said Claflin, who unofficially finished with 1,467 yards and 23 TDs this year.

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

Potter gave Hartford a spark to start the game, returning the opening kickoff 47 yards and running three times for 39 yards on the ensuing possession, the last four on a touchdown run to make it 7-0 following Rice’s PAT.

Rice recovered a BFA fumble on the kickoff return, but the Canes gave it right back on a Jonathan Carlson fumble four plays later. Callan’s 20 yard-run helped get the Bobwhites into the red zone, though the drive stalled after a block in the back penalty and BFA settled for Robert Kelly’s 27-yard field goal to make it 7-3.

Potter again set up a short field with a 43-yard return, then had a 15-yard run to the BFA 20. Claflin did the rest with the next three carries, including a 12-yard scamper to the left to make it 14-3.

BFA scored nine unanswered points from there, a 33-yard Kelly field goal setting up Dylan Callan’s recovery of a bounding squib kick to give the ball back to the Bobwhites. Jaslowich converted on third down before Saffo’s 2-yard dive made it 14-12. The 2-point conversion failed.

“We were trying to get the ball up in the air and fall on it to keep Hartford’s offense off the field,” BFA coach Geoff Murray said. “We were fortunate that it worked for us and we were able to convert.”

The Canes punted it back and BFA returned the ball 25 yards to put it in position to take the lead. The Bobwhites got to the Hartford 25 before Kelly’s field goal attempt couldn’t quite hit from 43 yards, his down-the-middle kick smacking low off the crossbar.

The Canes marched 80 yards for an important score before halftime, QB Greg Shinn connecting with Kyle Ruffing for a 37-yard gain on the right sideline to help set up Claflin’s 13-yard score to make it 21-12.

“That pass was big and obviously that score was big,” Stone said. “That lent us a little breathing room.”

The Canes needed it as BFA scored on a 1-yard Saffo run late in the third quarter to make it 21-19. Hartford responded with a nine-play scoring drive, going up 28-18 on Wood’s 1-yard score.

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

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.