By Tris Wykes

WINDSOR – Everything felt a bit off Saturday during the Hartford High football team’s 57-36 loss at Windsor.  It was opening day for Vermont’s gridiron action.

The national anthem recording began halfway through the song. There were only seven players on a side and the only padding they wore was their helmets. 

Windsor High’s Owen Abrahamsen runs away from Hartford’s Alex Bushway.

Running plays were not allowed, the quarterback was considered “sacked” if he held the ball longer than four seconds and there were no kickoffs or punts, though extra-point attempts were kosher. 

The biggest difference, however? The fact that linemen played but didn’t play on the line. Instead, they acted as defensive backs and receivers, tight ends and linebackers. That model, used during the first and third quarters, tipped the field in the smaller, more-agile Yellowjackets’ favor. 

“All the respect to Windsor for coming out hard and beating us today, but this is not our type of football,” said Hartford senior defensive back and receiver Alex Bushway. “If we had our big boys in helmets and shoulder pads, I’m very confident that we’d come out on top.”

Hurricanes coach Matt Trombly called the size and speed mismatch between the teams’ stoutest players “a major discrepancy”. However he said his team must handle the adjusted aspects of one-hand touch caused by Covid-19 virus precautions.

Instead of playing exclusively Vermont Division I foes, Hartford is confronting the likes of Springfield, Woodstock and Bellows Falls, although Middlebury and Brattleboro are also on the schedule.

“Some of the smaller schools we play against this year don’t have the 270- and 300-pound guys we do,” the seventh-year coach said. “Their linemen are (more nimble) and it’s a learning process for everybody, the officials included.”

Windsor High linemen Austin Gauld, left, and Roger Petermann celebrate a Yellowjackets score.

Hartford scored all five of its touchdowns with its skill players and Windsor racked up five of its eight touchdowns with linemen. The Yellowjackets also appeared to be more fired up and better prepared, although Trombly didn’t agree.

“They didn’t know what to expect,” he said of his linemen. “They’re essentially learning a whole new way to play football and being asked to do things they’ve never had to do before.”

“It’s frustrating as a coach, because we’re asking them to compete against guys they were going to struggle against physically.”

Senior quarterback Jordan Place threw four touchdown passes for Windsor, which also received three from sophomore Maison Fortin. Senior lineman Caden Lockwood caught two scoring tosses, a pair of 2-point conversion throws and added an interception return for a touchdown.

Hartford senior quarterback Cole Jasmin threw each of his team’s touchdown passes, two to junior Jacob Seaver, who also caught three 2-point conversions. Senior Jacob Dwinell made two touchdown catches and Bushway had the other. Senior Kobe Peach kicked two extra points.

“Our style is to grind the ball and run it and it’s going to be a little time before we’re used to doing it differently,” said Trombly, who complimented the play of linemen Jackson Balch and Harry Gaudette. 

“We’ve only got a handful of defensive coverages in and we have guys who are new to covering people in space.”

Hartford High’s Cole Jasmin (13) raises his arms in an attempt to block an upcoming extra point. Jumping is not allowed in such situations.

Trombly said during the preseason that he would limit 7 on 7 prep time to save practice periods for skills such as form tackling and line play. The thought is that Hartford must also progress this autumn in ways that will help it come the next full-contact season.

Saturday, the visiting coach didn’t back off that approach. 

“We have at least two (segments) of practice that are traditional-football based,” Trombly said. “Tackling and fundamentals and our run game. I hope we’ll be back to normal next year and if we didn’t do that, we’d be at a huge disadvantage.”

Hartford plays a home-and-home series with Bellows Falls on Wednesday and Friday, visiting the Terriers for the first of those clashes. Windsor does the same with Brattleboro, hosting the Colonels on Wednesday.

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Windsor High’s Caden Lockwood catches a pass ahead of Hartford’s Brody Tyburski (25) and Jacob Dwinell.