WAKEFIELD —The Hartford Jaguars got back into the win column Friday night with a 36-32 victory at Wakefield behind a 322-yard, four-rushing touchdown performance from Shayden Sull.
“(In the) first quarter, we turned the ball over three times and got down, but our kids really responded,” said Hartford Head Coach Colten Barrett. “After halftime, we knew that we were starting to wear them down with our run game and our offensive line playing great. We just pounded the ball in the second half — I think we only threw one more pass — and we just kept the ball in Shayden’s hands and let him carry us offensively.”
A majority of the game’s action took place in the first quarter, with Hartford clinging to a 24-20 advantage after a back-and-forth 12 minutes. The score remained unchanged until the halftime whistle before both teams traded single touchdowns in both the third and fourth quarters.
“In the first quarter, we struggled with some tricky formations on their end,” Barrett said. “They were able to slip their tight end down the seam on us twice, which has been something we’ve struggled with all year. We made some adjustments which sured up our run defense, so the only thing they could really do for the rest of the game was pass on us. After we got that figured out Andrew McDiffett got a pick right at the endzone and Sull got a pick at midfield. Those turnovers were really big for us. A.J. Navarro had a huge play in chasing down a kickoff return at the 1-yard line. They had a false start on their next play and then a fumble which we recovered, so that turned out to be a huge boost for us in the third quarter.”
The Jaguars chose to stick with what was already working over the final 24 minutes, sustaining long, time-consuming drives on the ground and doing just enough on the defensive side of the ball to set their offense up for more success. Quarterback Ali Smith finished 5-for-10 passing on the night for 59 yards and two scores, both coming from McDiffett who finished with four receptions.
“The last two weeks, we really couldn’t get our running game going, so it was nice to see the offensive line fire off the line, hit some kids and be physical,” Barrett said. “It’s all we’ve worked on the past couple weeks: being more physical up front and being able to manage the game. I thought we showed some crazy improvement today.
“When we’re able to get our ground game going, that really opens up the pass. Luckily tonight, we didn’t even have to use the pass after we got ourselves going because Sull was so effective. In moving on, we know we can be physical with the teams on our remaining schedule and we know we can match up with them. It’s just a matter of wanting to come out and hit somebody or coming out and wanting to be timid.”
Hartford (2-3) will look to begin a winning streak next Friday on the road against Marais des Cygnes Valley. The game is set for a 7 p.m. kick.