By Tris Wykes
Copyright Octopus Athletics 2021
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION – It was during the Friday night football game’s third quarter and with the result no longer in serious doubt that the Hartford High student section sang along with the Backstreet Boys’ 1999 hit, “I Want It That Way” as it was pumped over the public-address system.
“Ain’t nothing but a heartache… tell me why,” the kids crooned during the season opener, but it was the St. Johnsbury Hilltoppers across the field that were sore and confused. Beaten on the scoreboard and beaten up on the field, the visitors staggered back to their rented coach bus on the painful end of a 41-9 score that no doubt raised eyebrows across Vermont.
“We had a lot of youth and inexperience out there,” said Hurricanes coach Matt Trombly. “All good athletes, but they hadn’t played under the lights before and they certainly stepped up tonight.”
Chief among them was Hartford quarterback Brayden Trombly, a sophomore and the coach’s son, making his first varsity start after beating out senior Colin Vielleux during the preseason. Number 10 completed all five of his passes for 110 yards, three of his tosses going for touchdowns of 24, 20 and 28 yards during the first half.
The hosts didn’t ride the rookie’s wing to victory, but the younger Trombly looked utterly relaxed, at times even chiding his father to get play calls in more quickly. Confidence is contagious and the Hurricanes clearly caught what their quarterback had to offer.
“I’m really happy for him because he’s worked long and hard since he was little and at the youth levels,” Matt Trombly said as his players whooped it up not far away. “He went to a lot of camps and through workouts with our older guys when he was younger.
“He really made a lot of progress through (preseason) camp and earned his way to being a starter. The work that he’s put in, it really showed tonight that he’s the guy.”
Was Pops nervous? Trombly said no.
“I wouldn’t call it butterflies, because I step back and separate myself from being a dad in this capacity. I’ll talk to him tonight when we’re at home and take the coach’s hat off so we can enjoy it together.
“I had concerns going in and didn’t know what to expect with him being a sophomore and in a high-pressure situation.”
Ezra Mock, Trenton Bird and former soccer standout Tarin Prior each caught a touchdown pass and sophomore Brody Tyburski carried six times for 67 yards that included a 55-yard sprint for a score. Brandon Potter rushed seven times for 46 yards and the Hurricanes produced 175 yards of offense.
St. Johnsbury, which reached the 2019 Division I final and beat Hartford for the 2017 crown after losing to the Hurricanes the year before, was also in the 2014 title game. The Hilltoppers have been one of the state’s premier programs since that time but were overmatched Friday. The game was halted half a dozen times so visitors could receive medical attention.
“Coming out of the scrimmages, I wasn’t quite sure how we’d react, but we showed we’re not afraid to play with the big guys,” Trombly said.
Prior, the basketball team’s point guard and the lacrosse team’s goaltender, excelled at soccer his first three years of high school. He’d never played football previously, but not only pounded kickoffs, extra points and punts, but looked sharp at receiver. His first conversion attempt was blocked.
“When he approached me, I told him we’d love to have him,” Trombly said. “This was his first time stepping on a football field and it was on one of the biggest stages in Vermont. We haven’t had a guy kick like that in a long time and it’s just another weapon in our arsenal.”
St. Johnsbury received the opening kickoff but Hartford’s Potter intercepted a Quinn Murphy pass on the third play from scrimmage, setting the Hurricanes up at the Hilltoppers’ 19-yard line. Mock ran for a touchdown on the hosts’ first snap but it was nullified by a penalty. No matter, Brayden Trombly cooly hit Mock for a 24-yard touchdown on the next play.
St. Johnsbury drove to the Hartford 7-yard line on its next possession but a penalty and an incomplete pass gave the hosts the ball on downs. The Hurricanes soon punted, but on their next possession, drove 75 yards in nine plays and scored on a 22-yard pass from Trombly to Prior, who then kicked the extra point.
Hartford’s 13-0 lead held up through halftime and after it received the third quarter’s opening kickoff, it drove 65 yards in seven plays and went up 20-0 on Mock’s 2-yard touchdown run and a Prior kick. The sophomore carried nine times for 55 yards during the evening.
St. Johnsbury’s Murphy, harassed all night, completed 13 of 24 pass attempts for 81 yards and had two passes intercepted. The junior carried 12 times for 10 yards and Anthoni Guinard and Jacob Silver combined for seven carries and 49 yards and a 20-yard touchdown run by the former. Silver caught three passes for 26 yards.
Hartford hosts BFA-St. Albans next week.
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