Hartley rolling, Elyria Catholic awaits; “This has the make up of a classic…”


Columbus Hartley Football

Columbus Hartley is for real. This wasn’t much of a secret around
Central Ohio, but now the rest of the state is starting to get bitten by the buzz. The Hawks are off to a blistering 3-0 start. This week a HUGE test awaits in Elyria Catholic.

Columbus Hartley is for real. This wasn’t much of a secret around Central Ohio, but now the rest of the state is starting to get bitten by the buzz.

The Hawks are off to a blistering 3-0 start. Hartley is averaging 48 points per contest including last Friday’s 54-7 throttling of rival D-III Bexley.

“I love our team,” Hartley head coach Brad Burchfield said. “We have great kids who have done everything as coaches we have asked for. We have a multitude of three-year starters, and it has been exciting to see our kids grow up. Our kids are playing well and playing really hard, but we all see there is a ton of work to do and we can get a lot better. That is our mission.”

Hartley has a little added incentive after missing out on the playoffs in 2009. The Hawks finished 10th in Division IV, Region 15, which has fueled their fire.

“I think last year’s near miss from the playoffs drove us a ton from January-August,” Burchfield noted. “Once the season starts we become so engulfed with our opponent that we don’t think of anything but them. We had an awesome offseason and I know it was attributed to the fact we were so close to accomplishing our goals.”

Though, the Hawks are undefeated and currently ranked seated No. 1 in the D-IV, Region 15 computer points they know the job is just getting started. Last season they opened the season 5-0 before finishing 2-3.

“I am always telling people this, but they never believe me,” Burchfield emphasized. “If you came in our locker room and talked to our coaches and kids, you would not know if we were 3-0 or 0-3. Our kids are very businesslike and not real emotional. They are a very focused football team, and they always have been.”

What about last season?

 “I think last year we started out well, and then losing three-of-five had a lot more to do with injuries we sustained as well as the terrific quality of opponents we played in the second half of the year. Our schedule is about to get very arduous in the next five weeks, so we know we have to continue to improve and stay healthy.”

Hartley is not a one-man team, but senior running back Noah Key (6’0/180) has a hard time going unnoticed. Key ran for 1,241 yards (7.3 ypc) and 20 touchdowns as a junior and 800 yards as a sophomore. He is currently on pace to break the 2,000-yard barrier this season despite limited playing time.

“Noah is a great kid to coach,” Burchfield said. “He is an incredible talent for sure, but also an unselfish player and I love that most about him. He has never once asked for the ball or complained when he does not get the ball. I think it says everything that he has committed to improving himself in blocking and he is doing a great job. I am so proud he is getting the attention from the right people for what he is doing on the field. He deserves it.”

Key ran for 195 yards on just 16 carries including four TDs in last Friday’s game against Bexley. Did we mention those numbers were all from the first half? Key scored on runs of 1, 21, 55, and 22 yards and helped the Hawks jump out to a 21-0 first quarter advantage.

Hartley outgained the Lions in total yards 419-77.

Key’s biggest night thus far came in a Week 2 win (42-34) over a very good Columbus Academy team. The senior toted the rock 24 times for 324 yards and four TDs.

The Hawks opened the season with a 48-10 win over Amanda-Clearcreek. Key carried the ball just 12 times for 92 yards including a 35-yard TD and a 75-yard kickoff return for a TD.

For the season, the 180-pound human highlight reel has rushed for 611 yards on just 52 carries which is good for 11.8 yards per carry. He has nine rushing TDs along with the special teams trip to pay dirt.

The numbers are staggering, but Key’s most notable play of the season came on a questionable illegal play. The Hartley back was in the open field and instead of running over or around the Bexley defender his instincts led to him to hurdle the defender never breaking stride.

“I am still angry about the officials calling a hurdle penalty,” Burchfield said. “The rule reads if a defender is on his feet you can not hurdle him, but clearly the defender was on his knee. I understand with the speed of the game and the quality of athletes on the field it’s challenging to officiate a game in this day and age. Though, I was incredibly disappointed a great, athletic play was denied because of a misinterpretation. I know the officials have a tough job, just like coaches and players do, and we all make mistakes for sure. I make more than anyone, but man it was a great play which should have counted.”

Interesting to note, Key’s father, David Key, is the school’s all-time leading rusher with 4,109 yards. He also led the Hawks to a 1985 D-IV state runner-up finish and helped lead Hartley to back-to-back D-II state track titles in 1985 and ’86.  David Key went on to play three seasons at Michigan and two in the NFL.

Key shares the carries with a plethora of backs including junior Jarrod Zang (5’9/175) and Omar Lane. Zang has 167 yards and a TD on just 20 carries, while Lane is averaging 12.4 yards per carry (12/149) and has three TDs. As a team, the Hawks have over 1,000 yards on the ground already.

The offensive line, which is opening up the holes, is led by seniors Joey Moore and Evan Jackson. Both were First Team All-Central District as juniors.

Senior quarterback Austin Underwood (6’3/180) has thrown 22 passes and has completed nine for 132 yards, two TDs and an interception. 

Everything Hartley has accomplished to date is admirable, but Burchfield knows what lies ahead this week with a road game against No. 5 Elyria Catholic (3-0).

“This is a superpower match up in Division IV,” Burchfield explained. “We are so similar in so many ways. We average 48 points per game and EC (Elyria Catholic) averages 47. We have given up 17 points per game and they have given up 19. They are so well coached and have playmakers everywhere on the field. I would bet Coach (Ben) Malbassa would have the same assessment about us.”

Burchfield continued.

“It is a classic match up and when we signed the contract to play a year ago, I think we all thought this could shape up to be a great game. It will be pretty cool to see the two schools that have combine for five state championships on the field getting it on for the first time in school history. This is what Ohio high school football is all about.”

Hartley will have to make the trek to play Elryia Catholic, which is only half the problem. The Hawks will be asked to contain the Panthers vaunted spread offense.

Defensively, Hartley is led by Key, Zang, Napoleon Bell, JaWaun Woodley (5’10/210), Drake Jones, Albert Davis, Joey Moore (5’10/225), Evan Jackson (6’0/225), Matt Simpson and Jacob Matuska (6’5).

Keep an eye on junior kicker Brent Wahle as the returning Second Team All-Central District performer could have an impact on the outcome of this colossal match up.

“EC poses a lot of problems,” Burchfield stated. “They run a spread offense unlike any we have had to prepare for. We need to be great in our fundamentals as I know they will be in theirs. I think our biggest challenge will be choreographing a scout team to properly simulate what they do at the speed in which they do it, but I know they will have the same challenge. This has the make up of a classic game and I know both schools are giddy in anticipation.”

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