By Tris Wykes

WOODSTOCK – The downtown streets here are reliable territory for speed traps, but the Woodstock High football team was unable to slow visiting Hartford on Wednesday, falling 31-13. Vermont is utilizing a 7-on-7, touch format as a precaution against the Covid-19 virus this season.

The Hurricanes’ Kobe Peach caught a touchdown pass, kicked a 30-yard field goal and booted four extra points. Jacob Dwinell caught two touchdown passes and Connor Tierney hauled in one. Cole Jasmin threw for three scores and Colin Vielleux tossed another for Hartford, which won its fifth consecutive game following an opening loss at Windsor.

Hartford High assistant coach Marc Bucklin, left, speaks with quarterback Colin Vielleux (11).

“The kids look at the scoreboard, but wins and losses shouldn’t be the litmus test right now,” said eighth-year Woodstock coach Ramsey Worrell. “It’s how kids are developing and are we making progress? And we are.”

Woodstock’s points came when Colby Eaton threw one touchdown pass to Robby Macri and another to Jake Carey. Eaton added an extra point after the first score. Worrell said he used his JV players extensively but plans to utilize his starters more Friday when the teams meet again at Hartford.

Hartford (5-1) opened the scoring when Jasmin hit Peach for a touchdown pass five seconds into the second quarter. Woodstock answered fewer than two minutes later when Eaton hooked up with Macri, but the Hurricanes struck for the next four scores, leading 17-7 at halftime.

“Being a wing-T (formation) school, this allows us to practice a whole different aspect of the game that we can build on for next year,” said sixth-year Hartford coach Matt Trombly. “Cole’s a big tall kid who can stand in the pocket and throw the ball around, so (7-on-7) fits his abilities and allows him to excel.”

Hartford High’s Jacob Dwinell hauls in a pass.

Worrell said he was pleased with a passel of newcomers, including Carey, who joined the team 10 days ago. Nixon Malik, Otto Nisimblat, Alex Rice, Eric Blanchard and Liam Harper also came in for pra

An oddity to the contest was the length of time officials allowed the quarterbacks to throw. This season’s rules supposedly place a 4-second limit on the signal-callers before a “sack” is awarded. However, Jasmin and Eaton sometimes had far more time to operate.

“Right now, we’re just getting a lot of inconsistency,” Trombly said, noting that the zebras, like players and coaches, are adapting as the campaign progresses. “Some officials call it as soon as it gets to four seconds and others let it go another second or two.

“I think they’re doing the best they can, but everybody in the stands or on the sidelines has the clock going in their heads. My suggestion, especially for the playoffs, is to use a hand count like a basketball official does when the ball’s going up the court.”

The first and third quarters are reserved for “linemen” but smaller schools like Division III Woodstock sometimes don’t have enough of them. Trombly, who oversees a Division I program, said some opponents have been using JV skill players instead. He hopes the honor system isn’t abused come playoff time. 

“We’re going to play our big guys when it’s their turn, although it’s frustrating asking a 250-pound guy to cover someone smaller,” Trombly said. “How we regular who’s a lineman comes down to integrity.

“You have to do the right thing and trust the other coach is going to do the same.”

Hartford High’s Kobe Peach, right, lines up for a kick attempt. Standing with arms upraised are Woodstock’s Robby Macri (12), Liam Harper (11), Corey White (15) and Otto Nisimblat (10).

Despite occasional mismatches, the boys who used to populate the trenches are enjoying themselves, Trombly said. 

“The big guys are loving being able to run around and catch balls and get their pictures in the paper,” the coach said. “It’s a whole new element for them. Sure, everyone wants to be playing real football but they’ve come around to reality.”

Vermont officials announced Tuesday that each region of the state will stage its own postseason. Woodstock (0-5) will be grouped with Hartford, Windsor, Springfield, Brattleboro and Bellows Falls – the teams that have populated its regular season slate.

Notes: The Wasps attempted a hook-and-ladder lateral play on the game’s final snap, but the second man dropped the ball… Referees don’t handle the football this year, a modification because of health concerns. That means the offense must retrieve the pigskin after overthrown passes. Woodstock’s Willy Underwood undertook this chore following one play, but he heaved the ball far over his huddled teammates’ heads, sending one of them hustling in the opposite direction… The Wasps often huddled near the sideline, leaving center Caleb Palazzo, one of the team’s two seniors, waiting alone on a hash mark. At one point, Palazzo put his hands in his pockets while killing time… There were no printed rosters or public-address announcements to keep fans updated on players’ identities or actions. “We’re bare bones here,” said first-year Woodstock athletic director Jack Boymer, 31. Boymer is a 2007 Woodstock graduate who played on three football state championship teams and was previously the Hartland Recreation Department’s athletic director.

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Woodstock High’s Eric Blanchard (87) and Jake Carey (17) slap hands after the latter’s touchdown catch.