By Hector Longo
---- — SALEM — For a New Hampshire football team that doesn’t make the playoffs but plays on Thanksgiving, November can equal misery.
Rain, snow, sleet and cold greet you in practice daily, with no gameday breaks in sight.
Jack Hartman savored every dreary minute.
“I stayed healthy and didn’t miss a practice,” said the Salem High senior. “I wasn’t going to miss a second.”
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Hartman was making up for lost time. This year is his first and last season of football.
Savoring every moment, he helps lead the Blue Devils in search of victory No. 1, tomorrow night at 6 p.m., against host Lawrence High at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
If anything kept Hartman and 0-9 Salem going through the dark late afternoons, it was the prospect of winning.
“Winning would mean so much. I mean it was something I have never experienced,” said Hartman. “Personally, I’m looking at it as a chance to break through. I think we feel pretty good right now. And we are definitely going in to win.”
Hartman first had to sell football on some folks, just to get the opportunity to be here.
His parents had been dead-set against it, and even boys hoop coach Rob McLaughlin, who promotes the three-sport athletes, had questions.
“I was mixed on it because of the time on court he’d be missing,” said McLaughlin. “But he was so enthusiastic about it. Maybe the experience will add a little more fire, a little more competitiveness, a little more strength over the hoop season.”
Convincing his mom was not quite as easy.
“Both my parents were on the edge about it because they were worried about me getting hurt for basketball,” said Hartman, who is a high honor student ranked 75 in the class of about 400. “My mom changed her mind this year. She was a little nervous going to double sessions, but she’s fine now.”
With Adam Gagne replacing Jack Gati as the Salem head coach, Hartman knew the slate would be clean. All he looked for was a fair shot to compete at the receiver and safety positions from Gagne. And he got it.
“He’s the kind of kid you appreciate right away,” said Gagne. “I wish he was just a sophomore, because he could become a phenomenal receiver. He won his position, and he also did a great job helping to push the younger kids to improve.”
Hartman comes into Thanksgiving with seven catches for 79 yards, including a cherished Senior Night touchdown.
“Plenty of people out there doubted me, that I wouldn’t be able to take it,” said Hartman. “That motivated me every day.”
His impact in both sports, though, can’t be quantified in numbers.
“He’s just the kind of kid who does a little bit above the expectations all the time, a kid you love to have in class, on the court or on the field,” said McLaughlin. “He doesn’t have a negative bone in his body.”
SALEM (0-9) at LAWRENCE (2-8) When: Tomorrow, 6 p.m. Where: Fitzgerald Field, Veterans Memorial Stadium, Lawrence Series history: Tied 1-1. Salem leaders: Jason Martinez 120 carries, 480 yards, 7 TDs; Jake Poore, 22 catches, 441 yards, 5 TDs; Jacob Lakos, 38 of 84 passing, 597 yards, 4 TDs, 5 INTs Lawrence leaders: Nelson Valerio 115 of 212, 1,860 yards, 19 TDs, 10 INTs; George Urena 44 catches, 869 yards, 10 TDs; Franger Baez 39 catches, 613 yards, 5 TDs What's at stake: Salem, still winless, can salvage its season with what has to be considered an upset. Lawrence is on a bit of a roll. After an 0-7 start to the year, the Lancers are looking to close the season with three wins in the last four.