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Hartford Grinds Out Victory

  • Hartford's Nick Porter lets out a yell as he scores a touchdown for the Hurricanes. The Hartford Hurricanes defeated the Rice Green Knights 21-8 at Hartford High School on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Rice quarterback Ryan Byrnes has his mask grabbed by Hartford running back Zachary Burek at Hartford High School on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. The Hartford Hurricanes defeated the Rice Green Knights 21-8. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • The Hartford student section cheers on their team. The Hartford Hurricanes defeated the Rice Green Knights 21-8 at Hartford High School on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hartford Running Back Dylan Tucker makes an interception against Rice Running Back John Rousseau at Hartford High School on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. The Hartford Hurricanes defeated the Rice Green Knights 21-8.(Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Rice wide receiver Andrew Snell comes up short for a long pass downfield on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. The Hartford Hurricanes defeated the Rice Green Knights 21-8. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, September 15, 2018

White River Junction — Hartford High football coach Matt Trombly may have found something special in his backfield.

Hurricane running backs Nick Porter, Reece Thompson and Zachary Burek all contributed touchdowns for Hartford in Friday night’s 21-8 victory over Rice. The trio netted a combined 239 rushing yards to help the Canes (2-1) come back from an early deficit and score three unanswered touchdowns.

But the win wasn’t pretty. Hartford’s offense sputtered at the start, managing only 26 yards of offense in the first quarter. Rice senior quarterback Ryan Byrnes was mobile and deadly, finding wide receiver John Rousseau in a tight window for an early 8-0 lead, with Byrnes following the touchdown with a quarterback sneak on the conversion. Byrnes finished the game 13-for-49 on the ground and 5-for-18 in the air for 116 passing yards.

Rice (2-1) finished the first quarter with a second and 3 and Hartford’s 3-yard line. The Hurricanes’ defense held Rice on three straight plays, taking over just outside its own end zone.

“Fighting back after that loss last week (27-14 at Middlebury), I think that lingered a little bit,” Trombly said. “Our guys were not quite settled in. But we got into a little bit of a rhythm, some stuff worked and we settled down and went forward from there.”

Hartford answered just before halftime, Thompson finishing off a six-play, 44-yard drive with a 5-yard run up the middle for the Canes’ first score. Rice led, 8-7, at halftime, but momentum had shifted in Hartford’s favor.

“We started to play our game, in the second half especially,” Thompson said. “We started controlling the ball and playing Hartford football, running up the middle and lining on them and going hard.

“They got the jump on us. We just needed to wake up.”

The Canes took the lead four minutes into the second half. Thompson intercepted a Byrnes pass near the Rice 25-yard line on on the visitors’ second play of the third quarter, returning it to the Knights’ 1-yard line. Burek then plowed forward for the score, giving Hartford a 14-8 lead. 

Porter added an insurance touchdown 1:06 into the fourth quarter, shedding tackles on a 12-yard run for his second touchdown of the season. Sophomore kicker Kobe Peach was 3-for-3 on PAT kicks. Dylan Tucker also had an interception later in the fourth to help secure the win. 

Porter finished the game with a team-high 17 carries for 86 yards. The senior said he’s embraced the highlighted role this season.

“My season was solid last year; I kind of just wanted to repeat that,” Porter said.

“Taking on that role as captain, we have a bunch great guys as captains. I hope we can just lead this team. We’ve got big shoes to fill from the last couple of years.”

Thompson added 14 rushes for 79 yards. Burek finished the game with 13 carries for 74 yards. Trombly said he was pleased with the way his team bounced back from last week’s loss.

“I think we were a little antsy to see how we would bounce back from last week,” Trombly said of his team’s slow start. “We knew (Rice) was a great team coming in. I think we were waiting to see like, ‘Was the first week a fluke? Really, how good are we?’

“Once they settled in and saw that they could play with anybody, things started to go our way.”

But Trombly admitted his team still has some work to do. The Canes took 10 penalties costing them a combined 70 yards, putting Hartford in difficult situations.

“We just struggled to find rhythm tonight,” Trombly said. “The penalties (were) something that kills any type of rhythm or momentum you get. ... You just can’t recover from that. We’re fighting through that.

“I’d like to say it’s inexperience, but we have some guys that have been here a while. They’ve been to the big dance (and) should know better. I think we were just a little undisciplined tonight.”

Hartford hosts Rutland next Friday. The Raiders, like Rice, fell from the undefeated ranks with 29-28 to BFA-St. Albans on Friday.

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