By Brendan Samuels

HESPERIA – Not since 1952 has Hart football posted seven wins in one season. The 2023 Pirates matched that mark on Friday, shutting out Hesperia 54-0 in a West Michigan Conference (WMC) Rivers game.

Hart is now 7-1.

History has been a common theme for the Pirates ever since Joe Tanis became the head coach. In 2022, the Pirates reached new heights for the program. Now, Hart has matched the 1951 and 1952 teams that recorded seven wins and are within reach of the 1968 team’s record of eight wins in a season.

The Pirates also are the first to record multiple shutouts in a season since 1994 and have eclipsed 300 points for the first time in school history. Tanis is a fan of history, something he proved against the Panthers when he took the opportunity to incorporate some new plays in his offensive arsenal.

“We’re obviously in playoff mode and have been working on a number of things recently,” Tanis said. “I’ve been looking at some very, very old football film and just having fun with it.”

Those creative plays came almost exclusively near the goal line on 2-point conversion attempts. The Pirates utilized no-look tosses, misdirection and plenty of double reverses any time they found the end zone – an often occurrence on Friday.

Hart’s offense took control from the start and took the opening drive and turned into an 8-0 lead on a 2-yard touchdown run from Connor Edwards. The Pirates stalled Hesperia’s offense in the opening frame as well, turning failed Panthers drives into touchdowns on a 21-yard completion from Edwards to Ty Schlukebir and an 18-yard run from Joseluis Andaverde.

Hesperia’s biggest spark came on special teams when Blake Sayer fielded a kickoff from Hart’s Ivan Lara. Sayer cut through the middle of the field and rumbled free before being stopped just short of the goal line at Hart’s 2-yard line. The Pirates defense sent the Panthers backward from there, forcing a turnover on downs at the 18-yard line.

Already on top 24-0, Hart made the second quarter an opportunity to add on. The Pirates scored three more times, twice from Austin Martinez and another by Andaverde.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who are really talented players,” Tanis said. “Whoever we hand the ball off to, we feel like they’re going to get the job done. Again though, it all comes back to the offensive line. Those guys really make our program go.”

Hesperia’s offense has struggled for the majority of the season, but Friday’s weather proved a particularly difficult challenge. The Panthers had a majority of their drives killed by Mother Nature with the rain-soaked ball.

With a running clock in the second half, Hart cleared their bench and gave a host of JV players some snaps at the next level. Martinez scored his third touchdown of the night in the third quarter to put the game away at 54-0.

The Pirates were led on offense by Andaverde who turned 17 carries into 207 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Martinez had four carries for 82 yards and three touchdowns while Edwards went for 22 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Peydan Stone led Hart defensively with seven tackles. Edwards had six tackles while Alex Hicks served as the big playmaker, recording five tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Hart (7-1 overall, 4-1 WMC Rivers) will be back on their home field next Friday for a regular-season finale with Ravenna. The Pirates and Bulldogs met in the same game in 2022 with Ravenna killing Hart’s playoff hopes in a 48-0 shutout that’s still fresh on Tanis’ mind.

“We’re focused on Ravenna and we haven’t beaten them since 1962,” Tanis said. “We remember exactly how that game ended last year and it’s fresh in our minds. Depending on how the districts shake out, we may need that one to secure a home playoff game.”

Hesperia fell to 1-7 on the season and will hope to take advantage of a favorable matchup with Holton next Friday.

Photos by Brendan Samuels