BRIDGEPORT >> The Jack Cochran era at Harding began with an offsides penalty on the first defensive play. The first offensive play was a botched snap.
However, those early missteps were little more than just intriguing side notes as arguably the most infamous football coach in Connecticut high school
history returned to the sidelines to lead perennial doormat Harding to a 32-14 win over Law on Wednesday night at Kennedy Stadium.
Midway through the fourth quarter Cochran bellowed “Do you want to win? do you want to win?” unless his players collectively answered “yes, coach!” Without hesitation Cochran’s booming voice could be heard uttering “BLOCK!”
Harding did enough of that to allow the Presidents to snap a 14-14 halftime deficit with three second-half touchdowns.
“I told them it as 14-14 at half and I told them the team that wanted it more and the team that was in better shape was going to win,” Cochran said. “It has been a struggle trying to find a place to meet, trying to find a place to watch film was just … I know now why the record was what it was (8-81 over the last eight years and no winning seasons since 1996), I think a younger person needs this job because I am too old for this.”
Cochran looked like anything but an old man on the sidelines, when he was on the sidelines as he coached most of the game standing several yards on the field.
Cochran, long considered to be one of the best tacticians as a coach, also is a master motivator. It helped him win state titles as his previous three head-coaching stops and served him well in his debut with the Presidents.
While going through preparations for Law leading up to the season opener Cochran popped in a tape from one of the most memorable plays during his time at Bloomfield. The highlight featured a Bloomfield hustling from behind to make a tackle leading to a successful goal-line stand. Apparently Cochran got the message across as senior captain raced from the other side of the field to chase down Joe Ziebell after a 73-yard gain.
“I showed them a film of the Bloomfield team in 1996 when a kid made a similar play and we held them on a goal line I said you can never quit on a play and that is a great example,” Cochran said. “Reggie didn’t stop, we ended up holding them to a field goal try and they missed a field goal. I think that is the difference in the game and a lot of credit to Reggie, he is the heart and soul of this team.”
David led Harding with eight tackles and also had a 1-yard scoring run. He credited Cochran’s impassioned halftime speech for spurring Harding to victory.
“Coach gave us a good speech and got us all pumped up,” David said. “We were tired but we knew we worked harder than then so we knew we had it.
“I am a senior we didn’t win at all last year and this year we are starting off with a win and it feels really good. Commitment and dedication, even though we are low on numbers our players work hard.”
Junior quarterback Christian Hopkins had scoring runs of 5 and 3 yards and a 20-yard touchdown pass to Antoine Sistrunk. D.J. Smith ran for 125 yards including a 51-yard scoring run.
Ziebell led Law with 152 yards rushing and six tackles.
“We made too many mistakes,” Law coach Mark Robinson said. “We didn’t execute well enough but you have to give Jack Cochran credit, he did an impressive job getting that team put together and they are good, they got athletes and they just needed the right coach.”
Harding 32, Law 14
Law 0 14 0 0 0 — 14
Harding 0 14 12 6 0 — 32
H—Christian Hopkins 1 run (run failed)
L—Joe Ziebell 9 run (Mick Murray kick)
H—D.J. Smith 51 run (Hopkins run)
L—Joe Ziebell 32 run (Murray kick)Third quarter
H—Antoine Sistrunk 20 pass from Christian Hopkins (run failed)
H—Christian Hopkins 3 run (pass failed)Fourth quarter
H—Reggie David 1 run (run failed)
Team records: Harding 1-0; Law 0-1.