Although it seems unconventional, the Hartley High School football team covets practicing on Thanksgiving. That means the Hawks have won their region and are gearing up for a state semifinal.
The Hawks are only one step from repeating that tradition, as they walloped Independence 44-14 on Nov. 10 at Hilliard Darby in a Division III, Region 11 semifinal.
Third-seeded Hartley improved to 11-1 and will play fifth-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley in the regional final Nov. 17. Independence, seeded second, finished 10-2.
“The kids know if they win this (next) one, then they get to practice on Thanksgiving,” Hartley coach Brad Burchfield said. “And that’s a big deal for our guys.”
The Hawks dominated in the first half, outscoring the 76ers 37-0 and outgaining them 322 yards to 36. Hartley scored on five of its six drives in the opening half.
Tailback Elijah Carter rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown, while Alexander Blackmon rushed for three touchdowns. Flanker Phillip Cole finished with two catches for 59 yards and two carries for 63 yards.
The Hawks rushed for 321 yards, many of them on a power-toss play.
“They were committed to taking away power, they were committed to taking away off tackle and inside, and we were able to get some in there, but the perimeter was what opened up for us this week and we were excited to take it,” Burchfield said.
Hartley carried out its game plan to stop Independence running back Demontae Taylor, limiting the 76ers’ leading rusher to 36 yards on 12 carries in the first half. He finished the game with 109 yards on 22 carries, with most of the yards coming against the Hawks’ second-string defense in the second half.
“Chad (Douglas Jr.) is their great lineman and we figured we’d have to battle those two guys (Douglas and Taylor) as much as we can,” Burchfield said. “If we could force them into throwing the ball, we knew we’d be in pretty good shape.”
Independence’s season ends on a disappointing note, but the program won the City League-South Division title and advanced to the postseason for the first time since 2008.
Hartley, which won the Division IV championship in 2015 and 2016, is playing its first season in Division III. The Hawks have advanced at least to the regional final in eight consecutive seasons.
“We’ve been playing teams in higher divisions when we were in D-4 and D-5,” quarterback Anthony Carfagna said. “Nothing has really changed for us.”
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final HARTLEY 15 22 7 0 44 INDEPENDENCE
0 0 6 8 14