A 2-3 record in district play was enough for the Hartford Jaguars to qualify for the playoffs in 2018. They would lose to St. Paul in the first round of the 8-Man DII playoffs to finish their season 3-6. It was a one-win improvement from the year before, but the Jaguars were either hot or cold throughout the season. In their three wins, Hartford’s average margin of victory was nearly 40 points, but during their six defeats, the margin was 38 points per contest. The Jaguars closest game was a defeat to Wakefield 50-40.

Seven starters return on offense that brings a sense of optimism to the program. However, they will have to replace quarterback Dalen Kistner. Kistner led the passing attack en route to 1,696 yards through the air, while also leading the Jaguars on the ground for 422 yards. It will be the third consecutive year Hartford will have to replace their signal-caller, but they may have found a replacement for years to come with freshman Ali Smith.

Third-year Head Coach Colten Barret t(5-13) will have junior Kristian Trujillo(6′, 300lbs) and sophomore Aiden Goodman(6’1″, 300lbs) as returning starters tasked to protecting his freshman quarterback. If Smith has time to throw in the Jaguars spread offense, he will have top returning receiving targets in senior Cody Thomas and junior Andrew McDiffett. Thomas narrowly edged out McDiffett as Hartford’s top receiver in 2018. Thomas hauled in 36 receptions for 597 yards and six touchdowns.

Barrett returns five starters from the unit that gave up 45 points a game. The Jaguars will be replacing their top two tacklers from a year ago in Kistner and Corbin Dill. Trujillo is the top tackler returning with 62 tackles from his nose guard position. Sophomore Shayden Sull will look to improve upon the freshman campaign that saw him involved in 54 tackles.

The Jaguars have a potent offense, but it will take their defense to step up for them to improve upon their record from a year ago. A week three date with Lyon County League power will be a good indicator for how the rest of the season could go for the Jaguars. Last year Madison defeated Hartford 76-0 during the Jaguar’s four-game losing streak. If all goes right for the Jaguars, look from them to improve upon their fourth-place District 4 finish from a year ago, as they return the most experience out of nearly all the teams outside of fellow LCL foe MDCV.

We had an opportunity to set down with Coach Barrett before fall practice began.

SEK-sports.com: What is your key take away from your first two years as Head Coach?

Colten Barrett: Taking over after one of the most successful teams we have had in school history in 2016, we knew going in that we needed to build a foundation that our program and kids could continue to build off of the success that they had. Unfortunately, we dealt with a lot of key injuries during that first year, but that helped us get playing time for some younger players. I believe that we have a group of kids that have learned what it takes to become one of those better teams. We have seen players grow over the past two seasons and hopefully, they can carry that over into this season. We have a very deep sophomore class that has really turned the corner in the weight room. They have also taken on the leadership role for our program, and I’m really excited to see where they will lead us this season.

SEKS: What will it take to return to the playoffs?

CB: It all comes down to how aggressive we are. Last year we struggled against more aggressive teams. We have to be able to be the aggressor this season. Our physicality will need to improve on both sides of the ball. We still have a young team, but our underclassmen have had a lot of varsity experience that last two years so that should be a strength for us moving forward. If we are able to play with the type of aggression were capable of, we will be able to see the results that we have been working for.

SEKS: Team goals for 2019?

CB: We want to continue to build off of the past two seasons by improving our record from a year ago. We want to compete for a district title and make the playoffs. Mostly, we just want to continue building our program in a positive projection.

SEKS: Largest obstacle to overcome in 2019?

CB: Our youth will be our biggest obstacle this season. For a third straight season, we will have to replace our quarterback. That is always tough to do so on the high school level. Leadership will be a huge part of this year’s team, and hopefully, that will help us grow as a tea as the season progresses that will put us in a good spot come district play.

SEKS: Biggest strength heading into this season?

CB: Our biggest strength is our depth at offensive line. We return all of our starters there and will help us be successful in 2019.

SEKS: Individuals that stood out during summer camps/workout programs.

CB: Sophomores Shayden Sull, Aiden Goodman, and AJ Navarro all had perfect attendance this summer. We are expecting big things from those three this season.

SEKS: What game on the schedule you are most looking forward to?

CB: Crest is our opener. It’s the biggest on our schedule because it’s the first game. Our mindset going into the season is getting a good start by opening the year 1-0.

SEKS: What will define 2019 as a successful season?

CB: As long as we continue to get better each and every game, and build on the things that we have been working on for the last two years will help us have a successful season. We would like to improve on last year’s 3-6 record and compete for a district title. All of these things are pivotal for the future of our program.

Be sure to visit Hartford’s team page throughout the season for updated results and articles. We thank Coach Barrett for taking time to visit with us. Good Luck to the Jaguars in 2019!