By Brendan Samuels
To understand just how dominant Hart was in the 73rd meeting in one of West Michigan’s oldest rivalries, one just needed to watch the big men in the trenches. The Pirates were a force to be reckoned with up front, moving bodies on both sides of the ball with great success.
The dominance of that group offensively was not lost on the stat sheet or on the mind of Coach Joe Tanis. Hart rushed for 395 yards as a team on just 44 attempts.
“That’s Adrian Lara, Eian Sawdy, Joaquin Flores and Hollis Rockwell tonight. It’s our offensive line and that’s where we’ve got to win,” Tanis said. “That’s our strength right now. We have a lot of talented skill guys, but at the end of the day, it’s about that offensive line and winning the battle up front.”
Winning that battle was something the Pirates did consistently and was a big reason they owned a 32-0 advantage at halftime.
For Shelby, a pair of promising first-quarter drives that saw them push into Hart territory were wiped out on failed fourth down conversion attempts. Both of those attempts featured catchable passes from senior quarterback Lalo Garcia, but neither were hauled in.
“We took the ball first, we made some first downs, we were executing well, but we made a couple of mistakes and were unable to finish that drive,” Shelby coach Phil Fortier said. “We came back, played them tough on defense, but gave up a long run and they scored. When we came back and it was our turn to come back, we did the exact same thing. Big let down.”
That set up Hart with the opportunity to turn their opponents’ failures into their own success. Hart senior Joseluis Andaverde (169 yards rushing) and junior Eman Hertzler (98 yards rushing) did just that, combining for five touchdowns on the night.
Andaverde was especially impressive as a two-way player. After scoring back-to-back touchdowns on the ground – including a pair of successful 2-point conversions – Andaverde pressured Garcia in the pocket. That led to a sack in the endzone to add an additional two points to the board via safety.
The second half went by much quicker, as a running clock was installed due to the large deficit on the scoreboard. That didn’t stop Hart from scoring two more times, one to complete the hat trick for Andaverde and the other on the legs of Kyle Greiner. Greiner’s touchdown came with the second-team offense installed, a chance for Tanis to see what his young guys could do.
“Those guys work so hard and they’re great kids,” Tanis said. “They had some nice runs, but again that has to go back to the offensive line. It does show that we have some good stuff coming in the future though.”
The future can wait because the Pirates are focused on the present. That includes a 3-0 start for the program, the first time they’ve accomplished that since 1978 and only the second time that’s happened since the 1950s.
Hart will look to turn that to 4-0 when they head to Cutler Field at The University of Olivet to take on Stockbridge (1-2) on Friday.
Shelby will look to rebound at home Friday against Ravenna.