By Paul Lecker
STRATFORD – With only nine seniors, the Stratford football team knows this season is a work in progress.
If Friday’s game was any indication, the progress is coming together quickly.
Stratford scored three first-half touchdowns and held off a rally with two fumble recoveries in the fourth quarter to seal a 21-13 victory at Tiger Stadium in its Marawood Conference opener.
After a loss to Mosinee in the opener, Stratford has now won two in a row and avenged a loss to Marathon from last season.
“(Defensive) Coach (Marshall) Lehman has a great game plan every week and we just have to execute,” Stratford senior tight end/linebacker Hunter Kauffman said. “Our philosophy is don’t be a hero, just do your job. We work all week on pursuit to the ball, stay in your lanes. The big plays hurt us, we just have to get rid of them and get better every week.”
Stratford drove right down the first after taking the opening kickoff, going 61 yards in eight plays. A 31-yard pass from Michael Bargender to Jeremiah Hubing – two more of the Tigers’ seniors – kick-started the drive that ended in with a 13-yard touchdown run by sophomore Kam Bornbach on a fourth-and-3.
A holding penalty thwarted a promising drive on the Tigers’ next possession, but when the Stratford defense held on an interception by Hubing, Stratford went the remaining 27 yards in four plays. Jake Reif put the Tigers up 14-0 with an 8-yard touchdown run.
After a fumble recovery by Taylor Krall on Marathon’s next possession, the Tigers went 62 yards on nine plays. All by 11 yard came on the ground and was finished off with a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Bargender putting Stratford up 21-0.
“You go up 21-0 at half, you’re feeling good, but not in this conference,” Stratford coach Jason Tubbs said. “Every game is going to be a bear.”
Marathon quickly turned the tables in the second half.
Ethan Seubert busted a 67-yard run on the second play to put Marathon on the scoreboard.
Marathon took over on the Stratford 37 after a high snap on a punt attempt and Seubert finished off the eight-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. Stratford blocked the extra point and led 21-13 with 5:33 to go in the third quarter.
With the game on the line, the Stratford defense rose to the challenge.
Marathon would not get another first down and the Tigers recovered fumbles on back-to-back drives to finish off the win.
“We forced some turnovers against a good team and I’m proud of those guys. They are learning every game,” Tubbs said. “They (the younger players) are learning on the field. They beat us on a couple of those plays and the next thing you know, they are making a play. That’s what we want from those guys.”
Stratford hosts Tomahawk next Friday in another Marawood matchup.
Tigers 21, Raiders 13
Marathon 0 0 13 0 – 13
Stratford 7 14 0 0 – 21
S – Kam Bornbach 13 run (Jake Zuelke kick), 8:08.
S – Jake Reif 8 run (Zuelke kick), 9:26.
S – Michael Bargender 1 run (Zuelke kick), 3:16.
M – Ethan Seubert 67 run (Karter Underwood kick), 11:28.
M – Seubert 4 run (Underwood kick), 5:33.
First downs: Marathon 7; Stratford 13.
Rushing (att-yards): Marathon 27-147; Stratford 52-142.
Passing (comp-att-yards-int): Marathon 10-19-78-1; Stratford 8-14-94-0.
Penalties (no.-yards): Marathon 2-9; Stratford 2-16.
Punting (no.-avg.): Marathon 2-24.5; Stratford 3-33.7.
Fumbles (total-lost): Marathon 3-3; Stratford 2-1.
Rushing: M, Ethan Seubert 16-94, Andre Carriveau 7-47, Brandon Karlen 1-11, Landen Williamson 1-minus 1, Kellen Vetter 2-minus 4. S, Kam Bornbach 19-76, Jake Zuelke 11-64, Jake Reif 10-17, Kyle Martin 3-8, Taylor Krall 3-4, Michael Bargender 6-minus 27.
Passing: M, Vetter 10-19-78-1. S, Bargender 8-13-94-0, Reif 0-1-0-0.
Receiving: M, Carriveau 4-40, Karlen 3-23, Seubert 3-15. S, Hunter Kauffman 3-28, Jeremiah Hubing 2-35, Zuelke 1-24, Bornbach 1-4, Reif 1-3.
Punting: M, Karter Underwood 2-24.5. S, Reif 3-33.7.
Fumble recoveries (defense): M, Justin Natzke. S, Jesse Dickmann, Krall 2.
Interceptions: S, Hubing.
Records: Marathon 1-1 overall and Marawood Conference; Stratford 2-1, 1-0 Marawood Conference.
(Hub City Times Sports Reporter Paul Lecker is also the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com).