By Andrew Johnson

HART – The Hart football team did something last Thursday that it hadn’t done since 2014 – win a season opener.

The victory came in exciting fashion, a 48-40 double overtime win over Holton.

And there were some surprises involved in the win, like the fact that junior running back Thomas Tanner had the game of his life, scoring five touchdowns in the first game of his varsity career.

His TDs came on runs of 5, 19 and 50 yards in regulation, and 7 and 5 yards in overtime.

It was quite a thrill for Tanner – something he will be proud to tell his grandchildren about someday.

Tanner in action against Holton. Photo/Oceana Herald-Journal

“I was expecting to be involved (in the offense) but I didn’t expect to be able to move the ball like that,” said Tanner, who started the game at slot receiver, rotated into the backfield, and finished with 106 total yards.

Tanner was thankful that his dream game occurred with a lot of family members in attendance.

“It just happened that my sister, brother in-law, and grandparents got to come watch,” he said. “So it was awesome and it was special for my parents, who have been bringing me to practices and camps since first grade. They’ve pushed me so it was really great to have it pay off.”

Tanner’s effort definitely caught the eye of Hart Coach Rick Witteveen.

“I’m very impressed because he used the holes and he had really good vision,” the coach said. “He made some really good cuts, and hopefully he continues to grow from that and keeps getting better.”

Tanner admits that five touchdowns in one game will be hard to match in the future, and said he won’t be focused on just scoring.

“My goals aren’t set by touchdowns,” said Tanner, who also plays outside linebacker on defense. “My goals are more set by the game and season. I want to do what I have to do to help the team.”

Hart junior running back Thomas Tanner

The junior was quick to credit his teammates for his performance in the game.

“Everyone has been raising a fuss about the five touchdowns, but my linemen and wide receivers should be getting recognized,” he said. “It should be about the other 10 guys who made the five touchdowns happen.”

One guy who also played a huge role in Hart’s offensive surge was quarterback Braeden Carskadon, who finished with 178 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, and also threw for 77 yards.

“I would say he had a really good game,” Witteveen said. “He only attempted nine passes but he had some good throws while also running the ball well.”

Tanner, Carskadon and their teammates will have their work cut out for them on Friday when they open West Michigan Conference play against a strong Whitehall squad, but they got the season rolling in a memorable way.

“I really can’t put it into words,” said Tanner. “It was an awesome feeling to start off the season. I’m just keeping it in mind that it would have never been possible without the other 10 guys on the field with me.”