Hartford Prress Box By Jerrod Birmele
Hartford Soccer claims 3rd straight district title in thrilling fashion
Last week, the Hartford Indian Soccer team, ranked 14th in Division 4, competed on the postseason stage once again, as they hosted district action. The Indians came in to the week having won 15 straight matches, including a victory in their first match of districts. The competition would almost certainly take a leg up, and this group of men knew tougher teams would be waiting for them down the line. Tougher matches now will certainly help them later.
KADEN GOES AIRBORNE… Hartford Goalkeeper Kaden Johnson (00) goes up over multiple players, including his own teammate Danny Gutierrez (22), to catch the ball and create a goal kick, while Joel Soto (11), Nick Pultz (27) and Aaron Lopez-Robles (29) look on. Johnson made eight saves in Hartford’s 1-nil shutout of New Buffalo, securing the team’s third consecutive district championship. (Photo courtesy of Angie Johnson)
On Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 15, Hartford hosted Bangor in a district semifinal match. The Indians and the Vikings have already played twice this season, with the good guys having won both matches: 8-nil on August 28 and 5-3 on September 18. However, with both teams’ playoff hopes on the line, the crowd in attendance knew this one could be the closest match to date. It started that way, with Hartford only managing one goal in the first half to lead, 1-nil, at halftime. The match remained that way until the Indians scored three goals in the final 13 minutes to put Bangor away for good, and win the match, 4-0, advancing them to the district final.
On Thursday, Oct. 17, Hartford hosted New Buffalo for the district championship. The Indians and the Bison had not played a match against each other since the 2015 season, but considering both teams boasted great records, with Hartford at 19-3 and New Buffalo at 14-3-1, this had all the makings of an exciting match. With the largest crowd of the season on hand to witness this title game, Hartford got on the board in the 29th minute on a shot struck by Miggy Cardoso, that was initially stopped by the goalkeeper. The ball hit the post, struck the goalkeeper again and went into the net to make it 1-nil. The score remained the same all the way up to the final horn, with the Indians taking the district championship for the third straight season.
The defense was stout all match long, and goalkeeper Kaden Johnson recorded the shutout with an 8-save effort. Hartford is currently 20-3 on the season.
Hartford Football keeps playoff hopes alive with 42-6 Decatur throttling
Friday night, Oct. 18, the Hartford Indian Football team traveled to Decatur to take on the rival Raiders, in the first game of a two-game road trip to end the season. The Indians came into the game with a 4-3 record, and in order to keep their playoff hopes alive, they would likely need to win both this game, and next week against White Pigeon, to accomplish it. Both teams beat the Indians last year, so Hartford has revenge on their mind.
On a cool, brisk, but yet, sunny evening, Hartford played possibly their best game of the year-to-date. The Indians dominated on the offensive, and defensive, side of the ball, capitalizing on big offensive plays and key defensive takeaways. Hartford led 7-0 after one quarter and 14-6 at halftime.
They turned up the wick in the second half, turning a close ballgame into a rout. Hartford scored a touchdown in the third quarter to extend their lead to 21-6, before scoring three times in the fourth quarter to put the game completely out of reach. The final result was a satisfying, yet shocking, 42-6 victory over Decatur, keeping the Indians playoff hopes alive going into the final game of the season.
Hartford’s first score of the game came on 4th down, when quarterback Kyle Manning slipped into a hole in the Raider defense and made the run pay off, as he rumbled 66 yards for the touchdown. Placekicker Nick Pultz converted the extra-point, and Hartford led 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
The Indians added to their lead early in the second quarter, as Aaron Sinclair took the handoff and went three yards for the second Hartford touchdown of the night. Sinclair also caught passes of 25 and 33 yards on the same possession. Nick Pultz was successful on his second extra-point kick of the evening, to make it 14-0 early in the stanza.
Decatur responded with their lone touchdown of the night just seconds later, on a 77-yard touchdown run to cut into the Hartford lead. The extra-point attempt was blocked, and the Indians took a 14-6 lead into the locker room.
Hartford got their lone score of the third quarter on a big play and on their first play from the line of scrimmage in the half. Quarterback Kyle Manning hit Aaron Sinclair in stride, and the Indian junior did the rest, going 73 yards for the touchdown. Nick Pultz remained perfect in extra-point kicks, and extended the Indian lead to 15, at 21-6, early in the second half.
Hartford then put the game to rest with three rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter, with the defense having a major hand in the final two scores of the game.
The first score of the final stanza came from Aaron Sinclair, who scored his third touchdown of the game on a run from one yard out. Nick Pultz was successful on his fourth extra-point kick of the evening, extending the Hartford lead to 28-6 with just under 11 minutes left in the game.
The Indians defense forced a Decatur fumble on the ensuing possession, and paid it off in spades when Aaron Sinclair scored yet another touchdown, his fourth of the night, on a run from six yards out. Nick Pultz booted yet another extra-point kick through the uprights, giving Hartford a 35-6 lead with under 10 minutes left in the contest.
The final touchdown of the game came on another short field, courtesy of an interception by the Indian defense. On the next play from scrimmage, quarterback Kyle Manning kept the ball, and scored on a run from nine yards out. Nick Pultz’s extra-point kick was once again successful, bringing us to the final score of 42-6 in favor of the good guys.
Offensively, Hartford outgained Decatur in total yards by a wide margin, 419-144. Of the 419 yards of total offense for the Indians, 244 were rushing yards and 175 were passing yards. Kyle Manning led the rushing attack, carrying the ball 11 times for 122 yards and two touchdowns, while Aaron Sinclair added three touchdowns, along with 108 yards on 25 rushes. Manning was 6-of-8 passing for 175 yards and a touchdown. Sinclair was the leading receiver, catching four passes for 134 yards and a score, and Joe Beebe made the other two receptions for 41 yards.
Defensively, Hartford was paced by Yair Delgado with eight tackles, including one for a loss. Alex Cook had six tackles in the winning effort, while Joe Beebe added five tackles. Beebe and David Fernandez had fumble recoveries, while Tye Phillips recorded an interception.
On special teams, Nick Pultz was perfect on extra-point tries, going 6-for-6 on the evening.
Hartford is currently 5-3 on the season, and has a 4-3 record in Southwest 10 Conference play. The Indians will finish the regular season on the road this Friday, Oct. 25, as they travel to White Pigeon to take on the state-ranked Chiefs. White Pigeon will come into the game at 7-1 on the season. Should the Indians win, they would be an automatic qualifier in the playoffs that will start next week.
Hartford Volleyball endures another tough week; finishes 0-5
Last week, the Hartford Indian Volleyball team played their final conference match of the season, as well as participated in the Southwest 10 Conference tournament on the weekend. The Lady Indians began the year promising, but have hit a rough patch as of late, having not won a set since Sept. 26. If the team wishes to be part of the conversation in a potentially wide-open district, they need to turn it around quickly, or it could mean another early postseason exit.
On Wednesday, Oct. 16, the Lady Indians played their final conference, and home, match of the season against White Pigeon. The two teams had been going different directions as of late, with the Lady Chiefs moving up the conference standings, and Hartford going in the opposite direction. For Hartford, unfortunately, the losing skid moved to five straight matches, as the Lady Indians were swept in straight sets: 25-13, 25-14 and 25-13.
On Saturday, Oct. 19, the Lady Indians participated in the Southwest 10 Conference tournament at Mendon. The event began with matches in pool play to set brackets for later in the day. The Lady Indians suffered four straight set defeats in pool play, falling to Centreville by scores of 25-10 and 25-6, to Decatur by scores of 25-5 and 25-10, to Bangor by scores of 25-19 and 25-13 and to Bloomingdale by scores of 25-20 and 26-24. The ladies did not qualify for the championship bracket, which ended up being won by the Lady Bulldogs of Centreville.
In terms of statistics for the entire tournament, Hartford was led in aces by Lainey Goodson and Alexis Snodgrass, who each served three aces, while Gillian Kuehnle served two aces. Megan Nelson led the team in kills with 10, while Snodgrass put away seven kills. Goodson led the team in digs with 24, while Nelson added 23 kills and Descenya Rodarte posted 13 kills. Other statistical leaders included Nelson with 19 assists and Mercedes Requenes with two blocks.
Hartford is currently 10-32 on the season, and finished 2-7 in conference play. As a result of the regular season and the tournament, the Lady Indians finished 8th of 10 teams in the conference standings. The ladies play in one match this week, on Friday, Oct. 25 at 1:00 p.m. The match will be at Watervliet, and for a really great cause. It is the annual “Dig Pink” game, honoring those who are fighting, or who have been lost, as a result of cancer. Come out and support both communities in this worthwhile effort.
Hartford Cross Country hits trails in two races, regional meet looms
Last week, the Hartford Indian Cross Country teams hit the trails twice, in their final Southwest 10 Conference jamboree of the season and in a weekend invitational. These meets would represent the final opportunity to prepare for regional competition, which is on the horizon in the coming weeks.
In the final conference jamboree of the season, run on Wednesday, Oct. 16 at Bangor, the Hartford men placed 5th out of eight teams, while the Hartford ladies placed 2nd out of six teams.
On the men’s side, the team was led by Jacob Morales, who placed 16th overall with a time of 19:09, while Joey Lehmkuhl clocked in with a time of 19:12, good enough for 17th place. The top five runners also included Aldo Acevedo in 27th place (20:08), Hunter Bloom in 32nd place (21:18) and Arulio Delgado in 37th place (21:48).
On the ladies side, the team was led by Yovana Naranjo, who placed 7th overall with a time of 22:06, while Jasmin Janicki clocked in with a time of 23:07, good enough for 12th