Stratford Tigers give up points, but pick up win
By Greg Seubert/Hub City Times staff
WESTON – The Stratford football team found itself in unfamiliar territory.
The Tigers had not surrendered a point in their first 12 games of the season, but Lincoln Cullen’s 37-yard touchdown pass to Carmelo Aleman and Mason Czech’s extra point gave Amherst a 7-6 lead over Stratford Nov. 15 in a WIAA Division 5 semifinal matchup at D.C. Everest High School.
The Falcons’ lead didn’t last long, however, as Stratford retook the lead on its next drive and held on for a 19-7 win.
The Tigers improved to 13-0 and will face Lake Country Lutheran Nov. 21 at 4 p.m., in the Division 5 state championship game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison – playing for an eighth state football championship.
“I’m just ecstatic for our guys,” Head Coach Jason Tubbs said after the big win. “I’m just so proud of them that they worked through some adversity after a season where there were some games that weren’t that difficult for us. These guys were pushed tonight by a great Amherst team, but our guys don’t break. This year’s team has been a team, and they’re battle-tested, and I give them credit for leaning on each other, and they play for each other.”
The Tigers opened the game with a 16-play, 78-yard drive that ended with Max Schwabe’s 2-yard quarterback keeper.
Schwabe’s touchdown turned out to be the only points of the first half. Amherst took the second-half kickoff and drove 76 yards in 11 plays. Aleman and Stratford defensive back Chandler Schmidt wrestled for the ball in the end zone on the touchdown, but Aleman came up with the ball.
The Tigers answered on their next drive with Schwabe’s 52-yard pass to Chase Flink and a 13-yarder to Flink on fourth-and-11. Beau Gross capped the drive with a 1-yard run and Stratford had the lead for good.
A fumble at midfield gave Amherst the ball early in the fourth quarter, but Schmidt came up with an interception and the Tigers drove 81 yards in 12 plays. Schwabe’s eight-yard run and Leo Franzese’s extra point gave Stratford a 19-7 lead with 2:26 remaining in the game.
“Misdirection was key to both of those”, Schwabe said afterwards. “Our line blocked their butts off, and our running backs are so good that the defense has to key on them. They can’t key on me. They blocked where they needed to, and I just did my job to find the end zone.”
Schwabe also threw for 99 yards. “He is a smart, bright kid. Everyone looks at him and says ‘Oh, he’s too short to play football’,” Tubbs said. “That kid is amazing. He is an amazing leader. He runs our offense. He runs our defense. And he knows what the other team does before we do sometimes. He’s such a smart kid. Can’t say enough about how proud I am of him.”
The Falcons fumbled the kickoff and the Tigers ran out the clock with five straight rushes.
Stratford outgained the Falcons 322-153, including 221-77 on the ground and 101-76 through the air.
Gross and Teddy Redman led the Tigers with 81 and 73 rushing yards, respectively, while Schwabe completed eight of 11 passes, including four to Flink for 70 yards.
Chris Andersen had 42 rushing yards to lead Amherst, which finished the season 11-1.
“I just thought we came out with a good game plan that all of our coaches put together, and we executed it well”, Schwabe said after the game. “Defense held up strong. We made the plays we needed to against a tough, complicated offense. Our offense grinded it out. Big-play opportunities with a little trickery that helped us out, too. Coach doing a good job noticing that. Coach Tubbs having faith in us in all our fourth-down plays. It was just awesome.”
Stratford will appear in the Div. 5 state championship game for the second straight year. The Tigers lost to Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs in last year’s title contest 20-17.
“Our goal last year was to get there”, Tubbs added. “We knew we were going to play a very good Springs team, and we came close. This year our goal is to win it.”
Greg Seubert covers sports for the Waupaca County Post, a Multi Media Channels publication.