A glance at the individual statistics of the Hartley High School football team tells a lot about what got the Hawks to their second state championship game in four seasons.

A glance at the individual statistics of the Hartley High School football team tells a lot about what got the Hawks to their second state championship game in four seasons.

They liked to run the ball, and they were really good at it.

Most of the time, Hartley handed the ball off to senior running back Sam Mackowiak, who often ran up the middle and scored 29 touchdowns among his 334 carries.

When quarterback Jared Brandewie wasn't handing off to Mackowiak, he often ran it himself.

As simple as the Hawks made playing power football seem while going 13-2, with their only losses coming to Coldwater 41-16 on Sept. 6 and 24-7 in the Division V state final Dec. 7 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon, it was the nuances inside their play calling that made their offense so difficult for opponents to stop.

One thing that separated Hartley from the other teams it faced during the playoffs and even most of the regular season was it had a pair of dynamic athletes in seniors Alonzo Saxton and Jacob Mercier, and the Hawks took advantage of that.

Sometimes, Saxton and Mercier were on the field at the same time. They were on the first play of the third quarter of the state final, when Saxton took the handoff from Brandewie and passed for a 30-yard completion to Mercier to set up Hartley's only touchdown.

One of the Hawks' other big plays was an 18-yard run by Saxton on a double handoff.

Hartley found ways to intermingle jet sweeps, misdirection plays and traps, and one of its biggest plays this season actually came through the air when Brandewie found Mercier for a 50-yard touchdown during a 21-14 overtime win over Ready in its regular-season finale Nov. 1.

Mix in that the Hawks often try onside kicks, rarely kick off long and consider anything inside midfield to be four-down territory, and they were the only team in their division that had a real shot at beating Coldwater.

One player, as it turned out, trumped Hartley's combination of size, power running and speed during the state final.

Coldwater quarterback Brody Hoying, who is the cousin of former Ohio State players Bobby Hoying and Ross Homan, was named state Offensive Player of the Year in Division V.

The Cavaliers also were a run-first team as they made their second consecutive state-title run, but no quarterback in Division V had the all-around talent of their junior, who was in his first season as a starter.

Hoying threw for 21 touchdowns and more than 1,800 yards, but it was his feet that made him special. Despite being just 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, he averaged 8.6 yards per carry and ran for 33 touchdowns.

Hoying rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns in the regular-season meeting against the Hawks and nearly duplicated those totals in the state final, rushing for 145 yards and three scores.

Hartley outgained Coldwater both times this season, but the Cavaliers were good enough defensively to solve the Hawks' mixture of running plays.

During the first half of the state final, Hoying connected with Mitch Schoenherr four times for 53 yards.

At halftime, Hartley coach Brad Burchfield adjusted his defense to limit potential passes from Hoying to Schoenherr, and the only pass Coldwater attempted during the second half was a halfback pass that Mercier intercepted.

There was little the Hawks could do, though, to stop Hoying on the ground.

That's how much of a difference one special player can make, particularly one who has the ball in his hands as often as Hoying.


Jarrod Ulrey is a ThisWeek sportswriter. Follow his blog, "On the Recruiting Trail," for the latest in central Ohio high school recruiting news.