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Hart runs away from Kent City in first-ever playoff game, continues making history

Connor Edwards and Joseluis Andaverde power Pirates to 44-22 win as team advances to district finals.

Hart’s football team got a bit of a wake-up call early in its first-ever playoff game as Kent City took the lead three times in the first half.

The Pirates answered in a big way.

Connor Edwards’ 13-yard touchdown pass to Joseluis Andaverde with 13 seconds left in the first half gave Hart the lead for good as the Pirates ran away with a 44-22 victory over visiting Kent City in Division 6 action.

This Hart team (9-1) continues to make history. The Pirates set a school record for wins in a season with Friday’s victory, which was obviously their first playoff triumph as well.

“Our kids just stayed in character. This is kind of who they’ve proven to be,” Hart coach Joe Tanis said. “I was nervous at times, but our kids continue to just respond and it was just a lot of fun seeing each of them respond. We talk about how responses are contagious and I think we saw that.”

In this file photo, Hart coach Joe Tanis gives a play to senior quarterback Connor Edwards during a West Michigan Conference Rivers Division football game against Ravenna Friday, Oct. 20, 2023, in Hart, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

Hart will hit the road next week for a district finals game at Reed City (7-3), which defeated Montague 41-13 on Friday.

Playing at home in their first-ever playoff game made a significant difference for the Pirates, according to Tanis.

“The crowd and atmosphere was electric. It was definitely the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at a Hart game,” he said. “The people were lined up and it really helped us in the second half as they were able to help cause some false starts and communication issues for them because our crowd was getting so loud.

“Our crowd has grown throughout the year, too, get smarter on when to cheer and they made a huge impact for us last night. The Hart people came out in full force.”

After Kent City’s Joe Vanoffelen scored on a 1-yard run to put his team ahead 22-16 late in the first half, Hart answered in a hurry on Edwards’ scoring pass to Andaverde to seize momentum entering the break.

Hart ran away from Kent City (7-3) and did so in the usual way: On the ground operating out of the single wing.

Hart averaged better than 10 yards per carry on the night, finishing with 352 rushing yards on 33 attempts. Edwards, the senior quarterback, led all players with 204 rushing yards and three TDs on 11 carries. Andaverde, the senior also known as “Beast Mode,” added 117 yards and two TDs on 15 carries.

Edwards scored on runs of 71, 33, and 40 yards, while Andaverde scored on runs of 6 and 50 yards. Senior Alex Hicks scored a trio of two-point conversions for the Pirates.

Defensively, senior Joaquin Flores led Hart with 15 tackles. Ty Thomas notched 13 stops, while Chase Gale and Ivan Lara had 11 and 10 tackles, respectively. Andaverde had two fumble recoveries.

Tanis and the Pirates hope to keep it rolling against a Reed City program for which he has the utmost respect.

“Next week we get to play another great program and one that we’ve wanted to mimic the way they’ve built their program and the style of football they play,” Tanis said. “We know we’re going to go up to Reed City and play a great football team that’s going to force us to play our best football of the year and that’s an exciting opportunity for us.

“Our whole goal is to just be the best version of ourselves and play our best style of football and we know that these guys are going to demand it. We think that we have been playing our best football the last month of the season. … We’re expecting a great football game against a great opponent and we’re really excited about it.”

On Monday, Flores, fellow senior Chris TerHaar, and Hart head coach Joe Tanis were guests on the CatchMark SportsNet Podcast. Watch below:

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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