Tigers get another shot to win state
Team halts its playoff drought against Falcons
By Casey Krautkramer
The Stratford football team’s state record-breaking consecutive shutout streak ended against Amherst, at least on paper, during the Tigers’ 19-7 win against the Falcons in a WIAA Division 5 Level 4 playoff game on Friday at D.C. Everest’s Stiehm Stadium in Schofi eld. The only thing on the Stratford football players’ minds, however, was getting another chance at winning a state championship this season.
Stratford took care of business to snap its playoff- losing streak against Amherst, which ends this season with an 11-1 record. Stratford remains undefeated at 13-0 this season heading into its second straight appearance in the Division 5 state championship game. Stratford plays against Lake Country Lutheran, 12-1, at 4 p.m. this Thursday, Nov. 21, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
Tiger’s senior quarterback Max Schwabe said after Friday’s win his team was more concerned about winning a state championship this season, rather than extending its state-record beyond it shutting out 12 opponents.
“We really don’t give a darn about that record,” he said. “For us, it’s gold ball season and that’s all we’ve wanted to earn all year long. Everything else we achieve is just a bonus to us.”
Stratford received the ball to begin the state semifinal game against Amherst, and the Tigers methodically drove down the field against the Falcons. Stratford’s offense chewed up nearly nine minutes of time on its game-opening drive, culminating with Schwabe’s two-yard quarterback keeper for a touchdown. Schwabe’s twopoint conversion pass fell incomplete.
Tigers head football coach Jason Tubbs said “that’s Stratford Tigers football” when referring to the team’s long game-opening drive, in which the team continuously ran the ball while not attempting a single pass until the two-point conversion try after scoring the touchdown.
Both team defenses hunkered down and didn’t allow any points until halftime. Stratford held onto a slim 6-0 lead into the break.
Amherst received the ball to begin the second half, and Stratford’s defense stopped the Falcons short on a fourth down and one-yard play thanks to senior defensive lineman Jaycob Mikelson’s aggressive tackling.
The Falcons, however, executed a perfect fake punt to run for the first down to Stratford’s 36-yard line. On Amherst’s very first offensive play, senior quarterback Lincoln Cullen heaved up a 36-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Carmelo Aleman.
Game football shows Stratford senior defensive back Chandler Schmidt intercepted the ball in the end zone. Schmidt leapt up and caught the ball with two hands but when he hit the field turf, Aleman reached his arm around the ball in Schmidt’s hands. The referees signaled Amherst scored a touchdown. Senior Mason Czech kicked the extra point to give the Falcons a 7-6 lead in the third quarter. It was the first time all season that Stratford trailed in a football game, which motivated senior Ben Barten and his Tigers teammates to play harder to come back and beat Amherst.
“Amherst being the first team to score on us this season was powerful, because them scoring was great for us,” Barten said with his eye black smeared on his face after the game. “Them scoring on us made us move on from the shutout streak and it lit a fire under our offense to get the lead back.”
Stratford’s offense went to work right away, before being faced with a fourth down and 11 play in which senior Chase Flink caught Schwabe’s pass and scampered for a first down. Flink then ran the ball to Amherst’s six-yard line. Junior Beau Gross gained a five-yard run to the one-yard line, before his oneyard touchdown plunge. Schwabe’s two-point conversion pass to junior Colten Schillinger was incomplete, yet the Tigers regained a 12-7 lead.
Ben Barten’s mother, Denise, and some other Stratford football parents partook the Jump Around between the third and fourth quarters. Denis was practicing the Jump Around for when she’s watching Ben’s UW-Badgers football games in the future.
Stratford senior Teddy Redman intercepted an Amherst pass at the Tigers’ own 19-yard line with just over nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Tigers then looked to give itself some breathing room against the Falcons, by driving down the field ending in Schwabe’s eight-yard touchdown run. Stratford foreign exchange student Leonardo Franzese kicked the extra point to give the Tigers a 19-7 advantage with just over two minutes left in the game. Schwabe then recovered an Amherst fumble on the kickoff to seal the victory.
“Me, Justin Schoenherr and Colten Schillinger smoked the Amherst runner and I seen the ball roll around and go through my legs, so I reached around and picked it up,” Schwabe said. “I was pumped because I knew the game was over then.”
Gross led Stratford in rushing with 18 carries for 81 yards and one touchdown, while Redman added 10 carries for 73 yards. Schwabe completed nine of his 12 passes and Flink gathered five receptions for 70 yards.
Senior linebacker Trevor Dennee led the Tigers’ defense with 10 tackles, while Justin Schoenherr and Schwabe contributed six tackles apiece. Senior linebacker Devin Dennee, Ben Barten and Mikelson each had five tackles in the win against Amherst.
Stratford’s 20-17 state championship game defeat to Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs last season has haunted the Tigers ever since, especially considering Stratford was winning at halftime. Stratford’s coaches and players don’t want to experience another letdown in the state title game again this season.
“Our team wants to finish what we started this season,” Tubbs said. “Our team is ready to go and I think our playoff games against Amherst and Northwestern make us ready for our state title opponent.”