By Matt Lechuga
For The Signal
Ventura – A fast-paced first quarter gave the Indians all the cushion they needed as Hart handily defeated the hosting Ventura Cougars 38-7 at Larrabee Stadium on Friday.
Coming off a close 39-36 loss to St. Bonaventure last week, the Indians (3-2) made a point of moving forward and focusing on the game ahead of them.
“Last week was last week. We’ve moved on from there, and we just tried to prepare for Ventura,” said Hart coach Mike Herrington. “I think we played a lot better defense than we have been so hopefully we’re making a step forward there. Offensively we’re doing a pretty good job, with a little bit of balance, and we got to see a lot of blitzes and stuff that we handled pretty well.”
The Hart defense opened the game forcing the Cougars backward 10 yards and into a three-and-out.
Starting their opening drive on the Ventura 45-yard line, the Indians offense hit the ground running. Junior quarterback Zach Johnson completed five straight passes, leading Hart down to the Ventura 1-yard line, and his one-yard keeper gave the Indians a quick 7-0 lead.
After Ventura missed a field goal, Hart started its next drive on its own 20.
This second possession wasn’t nearly as efficient but yielded the same results. A 10-yard loss on a sack and a false start penalty backed Hart up to its own five-yard line. However, all of that was immediately erased when Johnson found a wide-open Ashton Thomas streaking up the left seam for a 95-yard touchdown.
Thomas came right back on Ventura’s first play of its next possession and picked off quarterback Carson Willis’ pass, returning it 25 yards for the score and pushing the Hart lead to 21-0.
“Matching me up with the linebacker — my speed against the linebacker — and I’ll win every time,” Thomas said of his touchdown reception. “And, defensively, we’ve been practicing that all week. The coaches did a good job of setting us up, putting us in the right coverage for that play, and I just read the quarterback and made a good play.”
Both teams struggled to find any offense in the second quarter with the only score coming off Aaron Rodriguez’s 25-yard field goal that extended the Indians’ lead to 24-0 heading into the half.
The third quarter was more of the same until Johnson found Ryan Tomaszewski on the far sideline for a 66-yard score that required Tomaszewski to break a tackle and tiptoe the sideline to stay in play.
Johnson finished the game with 346 yards and two touchdown passes to go along with the rushing touchdown.
Hart’s final score came in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard keeper by backup quarterback Kyle Wiggins and Ventura got on the board with a 71-yard pass from Willis to Zack Rodriguez, making the final score 38-7.
The Indians kickoff their league schedule next week with a matchup against 4-1 Saugus.
“Everyone is no wins and no losses.” Herrington said. “We’re starting a whole new season now.”