DECATUR — Behind the offensive efforts of Kyle Manning and Aaron Sinclair and a strong defense, Hartford’s football team was able to turn a one-score lead at halftime into a lopsided affair against rival Decatur on Friday evening.
Manning and Sinclair combined for 360 total yards of offense, and the Hartford defense shut down the Raiders en route to a 42-6 win in a Southwest 10 Conference matchup.
Hartford keeps its playoff chances alive, while effectively eliminating the Raiders from postseason contention.
“Playoff hopes aside, Decatur is a wonderful football team,” Hartford coach Brad Manning said. “We look forward to this game every year, and this is our big one. Playoffs aside, we came over here to play Decatur. We weren’t even thinking about playoffs.
“Now that it’s closer, that makes next week all the more exciting. Hopefully (the team will) be up to it.”
Hartford (4-3 Southwest 10, 5-3) will look for win No. 6 next week against White Pigeon.
In Friday’s matchup, the Indians opened up a two-score lead early in the second quarter after Manning (66 yards) and Sinclair (2 yards) each scored rushing touchdowns.
Sinclair also had receptions of 25 and 33 yards during his touchdown drive.
He finished the night with 132 yards receiving and 104 yards rushing, while Manning went 6-of-8 through the air for 227 yards and added another 104 on the ground.
Decatur (2-5, 3-5) answered quickly after Hartford’s second score, as running back Colin Warkentien broke off a 77-yarder to get the Raiders back into it.
A blocked point-after-touchdown attempt kept the score at 14-6.
Hartford ran away with it from there.
Following the half, Manning found Sinclair on the first play from scrimmage with a 73-yard bomb to extend the lead to 21-6.
The Indians lived off big plays all night. Hartford had 10 plays of 10 yards or more, with seven of those going for more than 20 yards.
“That was mainly what they did,” Raiders coach Joe Groh said. “It wasn’t too often they drove down the field. Why drive down the field when you get them in 40-yard chunks? They definitely had the fastest people on the field.”
Groh said the Raiders have been struggling offensively since losing starting quarterback Payton Hoekstra to a season-ending knee injury three weeks ago against Cassopolis.
Hartford’s defense didn’t make it any easier on the Raiders.
Decatur had just 161 yards of offense, 77 of which came on Warkentien’s long TD run.
The Indians forced Decatur into five punts in its opening six drives, then finished the game off by forcing two fumbles and an interception in the Raiders’ final three drives.
Hartford turned the final two of those mistakes into touchdowns, as Sinclair and Manning each added additional touchdown runs.
Sinclair also had a one-yard score earlier in the quarter, helping Hartford match its scoring total in the first three quarters combined (21) in the fourth quarter alone.
“We just came apart,” Groh said. “We have no idea. It just wasn’t our night. We lost a couple people early. That really hurt us in the first half. When we’re shorthanded one or two people, it can really make a big difference.”
Hartford 42, Decatur 6
Hartford 7 7 7 21 — 42
Decatur 0 6 0 0 — 6
H — Kyle Manning 66 run (Nick Pultz kick), 5:44.
H — Aaron Sinclair 2 run (Pultz kick), 9:21.
D — Colin Warkentien 77 run (kick blocked), 9:04.
H — Sinclair 73 pass from Manning (Pultz kick), 11:42.
H — Sinclair 1 run (Pultz kick), 10:49.
H — Sinclair 6 run (Pultz kick), 9:23.
H — Manning 9 run (Pultz kick), 8:13.
First downs 16 6
Total net yards 436 161
Rushes-yards 38-236 28-140
Passing yards 227 21
Comp-att-int 6-8-0 3-7-1
Fumbles-lost 3-3 3-2
Penalties-yards 5-50 6-55
Punts-avg. 0-0 5-40
Rushing — Hartford: Aaron Sinclair 23-104, 3 TD; Kyle Manning 12-124, 2 TD. Decatur: Colin Warkentien 13-113, TD.
Passing — Hartford: Manning 6-8-227, TD. Decatur: Ethan Makowski 3-7-21, INT.
Receiving — Hartford: Sinclair 4-132, TD; Joe Beebe 2-46; Elijah Ledesma 1-49. Decatur: Warkentien 3-21.
Tackles — Hartford: Beebe 4, Yair Delgado 4, Alex Cook 4. Decatur: Jared Checkley 8, Jonathan Camarillo 7, Jack Obrien 18.
Records — Hartford 4-3 Southwest 10, 5-3; Decatur 2-5, 3-5.
Contact: bspencer@TheHP.com, 429-1294, @HPBenSpencer