Foreign exchange student boots Stratford to record-tying ninth state championship
BY MIKE WARREN
MADISON – “Just like practice.”
That’s what senior Laurenz Plattner had written on his right arm Nov. 16, for the Stratford High School football team’s Div. 6 state championship game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. The saying made perfect sense. After all, practice is all the German foreign exchange student had done all season. He had not attempted a field goal all year. Then came the final 23 seconds of Stratford’s championship showdown with Darlington. The stuff of legend.
After Stratford had chewed up most of the fourth quarter on a 21-play drive that began at their own 3-yard line, the Tigers had the ball at the Darlington 7-yard line facing a 4th-and-2 situation. With just 23 seconds left in regulation and the game tied at 7, the Tigers tried something they had not attempted all season – a field goal.
Enter Laurenz Plattner. Although, you might not have known who he was if you’re not a regular at Stratford games. The senior kicker from Germany didn’t even have his last name on the back of his jersey. Now, the no-name kicker from across the pond had a chance to win the game for the Tigers. Enter Breylin Goebel. The Darlington senior got just enough of a fingertip on Plattner’s 24-yard field goal attempt to knock it down, giving the Redbirds the ball at their own 20-yard line.
After gaining eight yards on first down, a false start penalty moved the Redbirds back to their own 23-yard line. Following an incomplete pass, Darlington handed off to their trusty senior halfback Reagan Jackson on 3rd-and-7. After running for nine yards, Stratford’s Cole Tichy forced the ball out and Alec Chapel scooped up the loose ball and returned it seven yards to Darlington’s 25.
With just six seconds left in regulation, the Tigers took a shot. Quarterback Jack Tubbs hit Chapel for 22 yards down to the Darlington 3-yard line. However, a defensive holding penalty on the Redbirds put the ball at the 15-yard line instead, and with no time remaining on the clock. The Tigers were awarded one untimed down. Bring on the field goal unit.
The Tigers’ German kicker trotted onto the field for just the second time all season, just moments after having his only other attempt blocked. That was from 24 yards out 23 seconds ago. This would be a 32-yard attempt.
Just like practice. The stuff of legend.
Plattner’s field goal sailed between the uprights as it faded a little to the left, but with plenty of distance. A roughing the kicker penalty on the play was ignored and the Tigers began to celebrate. With no time on the clock, they had just defeated Darlington 10-7, to win their second consecutive Div. 6 state championship.
The celebration was a familiar one for Stratford. After all, they had done this eight times before. And now with a ninth championship in the books, the Tigers had tied St. Mary’s Springs Academy of Fond du Lac for the most championships in WIAA history.
On a day when yards and points were hard to come by, the two teams combined for 297 yards and 17 points.
After the two squads ate up the first quarter and part of the second on three unsuccessful drives, Darlington went on an 11-play drive from the Stratford 47-yard line to grab a 7-0 lead with 5:01 left in the first half.
In the third quarter, the Tigers capitalized on a Darlington fumble three plays into the second half. Stratford covered 29 yards in five plays, scoring on a 9-yard run by Koehler Kilty. Plattner’s PAT was good to tie the game with 8:05 left in the third quarter.
Three straight three-and-outs by both teams led to Stratford’s dramatic finish.
Kilty led the Tigers with 85 yards and one score on 25 carries. Jack Tubbs ran the ball 12 times for 45 yards. Gavin Leonhardt added 22 yards on five carries.
Chapel led the Tiger defense with seven tackles. Leonhardt had six. Matt Folz and Landon Zawislan each had four.
The Tigers end their season 13-1. Their only loss was to Div. 7 champion Edgar, a 40-6 defeat Aug. 25.
On their way to the state title, Stratford defeated Weyauwega-Fremont in a Level 1 playoff game, then beat last season’s runner-up, Mondovi, in Level 2. After winning at Auburndale over the Eagles in Level 3, the Tigers beat another familiar opponent. In Level 4, Stratford beat a Grantsburg squad they had defeated on their way to last season’s championship.
The Tigers are the only program in state history to win six straight titles, all coming in Div. 6 from 2003-08. They also won the Div. 5 crown in 1986. They recorded runner-up finishes in Division 5 in 2018 and 2019. This season, Stratford won the title in the Large Division of the Central Wisconsin Conference. And now, in their 11th state championship game, the Tigers have won a ninth gold ball.