Tigers win eighth football championship
By GREG SEUBERT
FOR HUB CITY TIMES
MADISON – It’s time to rearrange the trophy case again at Stratford High School. A big second half lifted the Tigers to a 32-14 win over Mondovi Nov. 17 in the WIAA Division 6 state championship game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
Mondovi had opened the second half with a touchdown drive to take a 14-13 lead, but Stratford responded with three unanswered scoring drives to give the Tigers their eighth state championship, and their first since 2008. This one is special. It’s the first under head coach Jason Tubbs, who led the Tigers to championship games in 2018 and 2019, and who assisted on six consecutive championship teams between 2003-08, under Cal Tackes.
The latest championship comes after Stratford opened the season by tying Mosinee and losing to Edgar. The Tigers also played all 14 of their games this season on the road while their home field is renovated.
“We love our home field and it’s going to look great next year,” Tubbs said. “These guys embraced it and said, ‘We can do it anywhere, it doesn’t matter, let’s just play.’ The guys never gave up. The whole season, the team has been on the road every game. They came out and just played amazing in the second half.”
The Tigers took a 6-0 lead by taking the opening kickoff and driving 60 yards in 10 plays. Braeden Schueller connected with Gavin Leonhardt for a 23-yard touchdown pass with 5:58 remaining in the first quarter. The Tigers found the end zone again with 3:03 left in the first half on Koehler Kilty’s 3-yard run. Evan Danielson’s extra point gave Stratford a 13-0 lead.
However, Mondovi responded with an eight-play, 64-yard drive. Jarod Falkner scored on a 1-yard quarterback keeper with 16 seconds to go before halftime and the Buffaloes headed to the locker room at the break trailing 13-7. Mondovi took the second-half kickoff and drove 66 yards in nine plays. Falkner’s 36-yard pass to Cade Fremstad tied the game at 13-13 and Cody Wagner’s extra point gave the Buffaloes a 14-13 lead with 8:10 to go in the third quarter.
Mondovi never scored again, while the Tigers quickly regained the lead. Kilty ran the ball seven times for 42 yards on Stratford’s next drive and gave the Tigers the lead for good with a 2-yard run with 4:06 remaining in the third quarter, ending an eight-play, 65-yard scoring march.
“They said, ‘OK, it’s our turn, let’s go get the ball and go down and score,’” Tubbs said. “Koehler and the line did a phenomenal job up front.”
The Tigers added two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Schueller and Leonhardt hooked up for an 11-yard pass in the opening minute of the fourth quarter that capped a seven-play, 66-yard drive and Kilty added a 1-yard run in the final minute at the end of a seven-play, 37-yard drive.
Kilty finished with a game-high 192 rushing yards on 35 carries. “I credit the offensive linemen,” he said. “They were carving some big lines for me to run through. It’s great to know that my team can rely on me. I know I have their back and they have my back.”
After starting the season 0-1-1, the Tigers won six straight Central Wisconsin Conference-Large games before falling to Amherst in the regular-season finale. Stratford then topped Cumberland, Cadott, Grantsburg and St. Mary’s Springs in the playoffs.
“We got hot at the right time,” Tubbs said. “We’re one of those teams that like to get better every week. They came out firing on all cylinders for five weeks.
“We had some really good teams in 2018 and 2019 and just came up short,” he said. “This team, though, fulfilled the destiny of every high school kid to get down here and win it. It’s the best feeling in the whole world to finish it.”
The Tigers had a 211-83 advantage in rushing yards, but Mondovi had 144 passing yards to Stratford’s 78.
Kilty, a junior, is already thinking about the possibility of returning to Camp Randall next year for another opportunity to win a championship. “To win a gold ball is an awesome feeling,” he said. “I definitely want to run it back next year.”
Greg Seubert is the sports editor of three Multi Media Channels publications: The Waupaca County Post, New London Press Star and Clintonville Tribune-Gazette.