Tigers clinch WIAA playoff berth for 26th-straight season
By Paul Lecker
AUBURNDALE — The game could not have started any better for the Stratford football team Friday night against Auburndale.
Stratford needed just five offensive plays to score a touchdown, and the Tigers forced a fumble on Auburndale’s first play and scored four plays later to build a quick two-touchdown lead that set the tone in a 40-7 victory at Auburndale High School.
With the victory Stratford ensured itself of a WIAA playoff berth for the 26th-straight season. The Tigers also stay in contention for their second-straight Marawood Conference title, improving to 6-1 overall and 4-0 in conference play. Auburndale drops to 3-4 and 2-3 in the Marawood.
“I give our guys credit. They did a good job,” Stratford coach Jason Tubbs said. “Our offensive line kept their feet moving and opened some holes for Kade (Ehrike) and our other running backs to do their jobs.”
Quarterback Mark Handrick had a 27-yard touchdown run on the Tigers’ fifth play to get the scoring started.
Stratford forced a fumble that was recovered by Connor Multerer on Auburndale’s first play of the game, and four plays later Ehrike ran in from the 4 to give the Tigers a quick 14-0 lead. Ehrike finished with 192 yards on 19 carries.
Auburndale was never able to recover, earning just four first downs and only 14 yards rushing on 20 carries against a stout Stratford defense that was in the Apaches’ offensive backfield for much of the game.
“We got behind the eight-ball right off the bat and against a good team,” Auburndale coach Jay Anderson said. “I really think our guys wanted to come out and compete, and sometimes that really takes the wind out of your sails. They are a tough team to defend.”
Auburndale’s defense held on Stratford’s next three possessions before the Tigers finished the first half with a pair of scores.
A 29-yard run by Jordan Becker set up a 3-yard touchdown run from A.J. Schoenfuss to give Stratford a 20-0 lead with 4:11 to go in the first half.
Trayton Weister returned the ensuing kickoff 53 yards to put Auburndale in scoring position, but the Apaches were stopped at the 9 after three consecutive incomplete passes.
Ehrike raced 70 yards on Stratford’s first play of the next possession and scored his second TD from the 6 with 28 seconds to go before halftime. A two-point pass from Handrick to Becker made it 28-0 at intermission.
“He has a burst that I haven’t seen in a running back in quite a while,” Tubbs said of Ehrike. “He reminds me a lot of Matt Olson and Chris Olson back in the day. He’s fun to watch. He’s a great athlete and a three-sport athlete that you don’t see a lot of anymore and good at all three. I’m really happy he’s on our side.”
Becker and Schoenfuss added rushing touchdowns in the second half, and Auburndale scored its only touchdown on a 65-yard pass from Ryan Issacson to Cale Jacoby with 8:14 remaining in the game.
The Apaches remain in playoff contention. If they win at winless Chequamegon next Friday, Auburndale would finish 3-3 in the Marawood, making them playoff eligible. Teams that finish .500 in their conference are not guaranteed spots in the postseason, but it is rare that they are kept out.
Anderson said he wants his team to stay focused on the task at hand and not overlook the 0-7 Screaming Eagles.
“(What) we focused on coming into the season was being able to compete and get these guys in the mindset to be focused on team unity, staying together, the enthusiasm, and competition, and we really have,” Anderson said. “As far as our execution, we still have a ways to go.
“I had to remind our guys that we can’t take anyone for granted. Our wins haven’t been easy. There isn’t anyone out there that we can take for granted or should. We can’t lose sight of the fact that we have a 2½ hour trip ahead of us, and we need to improve.”
Stratford heads into its final two games at home next Friday against Marathon and Oct. 13 at Edgar with the conference championship in its sights.
(Hub City Times Sports Reporter Paul Lecker is also the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com.)
Tigers 40, Apaches 7
Stratford 14 14 6 6 – 40
Auburndale 0 0 0 7 – 7
S – Mark Handrick 27 run (Reed Curtis kick), 10:17.
S – Kade Ehrike 4 run (Curtis kick), 7:57.
S – A.J. Schoenfuss 3 run (kick blocked), 4:11.
S – Ehrike 6 run (Jordan Becker pass from Handrick), 0:28.
S – Becker 12 run (kick missed), 4:49.
S – Schoenfuss 5 run (kick missed), 9:17.
A – Cale Jacoby 65 pass from Ryan Isaacson (Cameron Ertl kick), 8:14.
First downs: Stratford 17; Auburndale 4.
Rushing (att-yards): S 48-369; A 20-14.
Passing (comp-att-yards-int): S 5-12-46-0; A 5-13-122-1.
Total yards: S 415; A 136.
Fumbles (total-lost): S 2-0; A 2-1.
Penalties (no.-yards): S 6-49; A 6-40.
Punting (no.-avg.): S 3-30.7; A 6-30.0.
Rushing: S, Kade Ehrike 19-192, Jordan Becker 8-70, Mark Handrick 5-37, Teddy Redman 4-33, Matthew Chapel 2-16, A.J. Schoenfuss 3-15, Dilan Dehlinger 3-11, Chase Flink 1-7, Max Schwabe 2-0, Devyn Dahlke 1-minus 12. A, Jacob Peplinski 8-22, Trayton Weister 9-1, Isaiah Hasenohrl 1-1, Dylan Paun 1-minus 2, Ryan Isaacson 1-minus 2.
Passing: S, Handrick 3-9-23-0, Schwabe 1-1-12-0, Chandler Schmidt 1-2-11-0. A, Isaacson 5-11-122-0, Cooper Weinfurter 0-2-0-1.
Receiving: S, Becker 2-27, Oscar Telschow 1-11, Ehrike 1-11, Vaughn Breit 1-6. A, Cale Jacoby 4-100, Cameron Ertl 1-22.
Fumble recoveries (defense): S, Connor Multerer.
Interceptions (defense): S, Alec Nagel.
Punting: S, Multerer 3-30.7. A, Keller Wolfe 6-30.0.
Records: Stratford 6-1, 4-0 Marawood Conference; Auburndale 3-4, 2-3 Marawood Conference.