Stratford sees conference title slip away
By Hub City Times staff
STRATFORD – The Stratford Tigers were trying to win their first Marawood Conference football title in two years, and just their third in the past decade, after seven in a row between 2001 and 2007. All they had to do was beat Edgar, a feat they had accomplished just twice in the last nine years.
The Wildcats went into Tiger Stadium Oct. 12, with an unbeaten mark of 8-0, looking to wrap up their second consecutive Marawood Conference championship. They had won seven of the last eight over the Tigers, and they got off to a great start. Edgar took the opening drive of the game 79 yards in five plays, and scored on a 43-yard pass from Karson Butt to Kaleb Hafferman. The two-point conversion attempt failed, and the Wildcats led 6-0. Stratford’s opening drive of the game stalled out after eight plays, and Edgar got the ball back at their own 23-yard line. The Wildcats then used seven plays to cover 77 yards, scoring on a three-yard TD run by Ty Guden. The two-point conversion failed again, but Edgar took a 12-0 lead after the first quarter.
Stratford’s offense got on track going into the second quarter. The Tigers embarked on a nine-play 67-yard scoring drive, and Eli Drexler took the ball over the goal line from four yards out to make it a five-point game. But, the Wildcats wasted no time extending the lead. After the ensuing kickoff put the ball at their 32-yard line, Butt connected with Drew Guden on a 68-yard pass, catch and run that went the distance, and Edgar scored in one play and took a 20-7 lead after a successful two-point conversion. But, the Tigers pounced again, and went on an impressive 11-play drive covering 74 yards before halftime. Kade Ehrike capped off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run that pulled Stratford to within seven at the halftime break.
The Tigers started the third quarter with a fumble on their first play of the second half. Stratford’s defense stiffened, though, and stopped Edgar after the turnover; however, Stratford’s offense fizzled out after eight plays on the ensuing possession. Edgar’s did the same after seven plays on their next drive. Now in the fourth quarter, the Tigers got the ball back at their own one-yard line. All they had to do was go 99 yards and score, and they did. Stratford went on a 17-play scoring drive, and Ehrike ran the ball in from three yards out to tie the game. Now the Tigers just needed the extra point to take the lead. The kick, however, sailed wide right of the goal posts, and the game remained tied at 20.
The Wildcats got the ball back at their own 24-yard line with under 4:00 left in the game. Facing a third-and-three, Edgar picked up a first down on a five-yard run by Hafferman. Butt hit tight end Brock Handrick for 13 yards. Running back Kyle Brewster picked up eight more yards. Then, Mason Stoudt carried the ball for five more yards. Ty Guden got another yard. After an incomplete pass, Butt hit Handrick again for an 11-yard gain, then a 13-yard pass after that. By this time, there was less than :20 left in the game. Edgar lined up for a game-winning 32-yard field goal attempt. Stratford took a timeout – supposedly to ice the kicker. After the timeout, Edgar’s offense came back out onto the field. The Wildcats figured they had time for one more play from scrimmage. That was all they would need. Butt rolled to his right and found a wide open Mason Stoudt in the right corner of the end zone for a 14-yard, game-winning touchdown pass with :05 left on the clock, to wrap up an undefeated conference championship season.
The Tigers suffered just their second loss of the season, to finish 7-2. They head into the Division 5 playoffs as a No. 2 seed, and will host #7 Northland Pines Oct. 19 at Tiger Stadium at 7 p.m.