by Craig Beck
St. Johnsbury Academy's Greg Wernecke had a day that most football players only dream about, but it wasn't enough as the Hilltoppers fell to Hartford, 40-15.
Wernecke had two interceptions, running one back for a touchdown, had two blocked kicks and numerous tackles to throw the Hurricans for losses.
After Hartford forced the Academy to punt, it took the Hurricans one play to reach paydirt. From the Hartford 49-yard line, QB Jed Jannisse found Chris Ballou wide open on the right flat for the TD. Sam Goodwin's kick was blocked by Wernecke, making the score, 6-0 with 10:08 left in the first half.
On its next possession the Hilltoppers were able to get the ball down to the Hurricans 16 before they had to turn it over on downs. The big play of the drive which started at the SJA 31 was a 39-yard run by Tim Gaffney, which was set up by a nice fake by QB Justin Lavely and a nice block by fullback Brent Johnson.
The Hilltoppers Ryan Bennett intercepted a Hartford pass giving the Academy great field position with the ball on the Hurricans 32, which SJA got to the three before turning it over on downs.
Hartford the marched the ball down the field, only to have Lavely come away with an interception at the 'Toppers 30.
Once again the Academy moved the ball getting it down to the Hartford 26, before relinquishing it on downs.
On a first-and-10 from the SJA 30, Jannisse threw a pass that bounched of one of his own players, that Wernecke picked up and rumbled down the left sideline for a 73-yard TD. Matt Robinson's kick was good and the Academy held the lead, 7-6 with 5:36 left in the half.
On SJA's first possession of the second half, facing a fourth and three, Robinson went back to punt, the ball was snapped over his head, which looked to be a sure loss giving Hartford good field position. Robinson scooped up the ball and threw a strike to Trace Barrett to pick up a first down.
In the third quarter Hartford tallied two touchdowns to take the lead. Jannisse scored the first TD on a 2-yard keep with 8:21 left in the quarter, followed by a Halleck Pogue 1-yard dash to paydirt with 1:17 left in the quarter. On the first TD, Hartford got a 2-point conversion run from LaClair, on the second TD, Goodwin's kick was good making it, 21-7.
After the Hurricans scored with 7:46 left in the game on a 28-yard pass play - Goodwin from Jannisse - and Goodwin's kick was good, Hartford was up, 28-7.
The Hilltoppers didn't quit though and came right back on a 34-yard pass play from Lavely to Robinson. With 6:25 left in the contest the Academy was back to within 13.
Coach Bruce Johnson decided to go with the on-side kick. It looked like it was going to work, as Robinson kicked the ball to the left, which hit a Hartford player and bounced back towards the Academy, only to have the ball roll past the oncharging 'Toppers and be recovered by the Hurricans.
From there it took Hartford five plays to score. The final three yards were covered by Halleck Pogue up the middle. Goodwin's kick failed, which made the score, 34-15 with 4:37 left.
Hartford tallied its last TD with 24 ticks left on the clock, as Geoff Conrad raced up the right sideline for a 34-yard TD. Daryl Dean's kick was blocked by Wernecke.
quot;They were big and strong,quot; said Johnson. quot;In the first half they made some errors that gave us some opportunities, but in the second half they pounded the ball at us. We just ran out of gas in the fourth quarter.quot;
quot;We did a lot of good things though. We optioned well and for Justin's first start at QB he did an outstanding job. On defense Werncke was outstanding, it was by far his best game of the year.quot;
The Hilltoppers (0-7) play at Spaulding on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Hartford 40, SJA 15
Hartfordnbsp;nbsp;nbsp; 6 0 15 19 - 40 St. Johnsburynbsp;nbsp;nbsp; 07 0 8 - 15
First Quarter H - Ballou 51 pass from Jannisse (kick blocked) 6-0, 10:08
SJA - Wernecke 73-yard Interception return (Robinson kick good) 7-6, 5:36
H - Jannisse 2 run (LaClair run) 14-7, 8:21
H - Pogue 1 run (Goodwin kick) 21-7, 1:17
H - Goodwin 28 pass from Jannisse (Goodwin kick) 28-7, 7:46
SJA - Robinson 66 pass from Lavely (Lavely run) 28-15, 6:25
Nott 4 run (Gour kick) 43-0, 2:23
H - Pogue 3 run (kick failed) 34-15, 4:37
H - Conrad 34 run (kick blocked) 40-15, :24