Stratford advances to state football final
By Hub City Times staff
MEDFORD – The Stratford Tigers will do something they have not done in a decade – play for a state football championship. The Tigers won their Division 5 state semifinal with Spencer/Columbus on Nov. 9 in Medford 22-6. Stratford will now face St. Mary’s Springs of Fond du Lac Nov. 15 in the Division 5 state football championship at 4 p.m. at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
The Tigers had to overcome a very good Spencer/Columbus team, and very cold, windy, and snowy weather conditions, but Stratford Head Coach Jason Tubbs said his guys handled the situation very well.
“We knew the weather coming in,” he said. “Our kids were excited about it. I never saw them one time worry about the weather. We left some points on the field but found a way to get enough points on the scoreboard to keep a tough Spencer/Columbus from the win.
“Spencer/Columbus is a good passing team, and (the weather) took our passing game away, too. You get the wind two quarters, but even with the wind, the ball floats left, right, deep. I mean, it was really hard to complete passes, and I think that helped us because we had a guy named Kade Ehrike who just took over the game.”
That was an understatement. Ehrike rushed the ball 43 times for 300 yards and three touchdowns. He was the difference maker, in a game where the weather neutralized both passing attacks. Stratford simply won the battle up front on the offensive and defensive lines, controlling the line of scrimmage all night long.
Ehrike, however, fumbled on Stratford’s opening possession, giving the Rockets the ball at their own one-yard line; but, two plays later, Austin Bacon was caught in his own end zone, and the Tigers took the lead on a safety. Stratford then got the ball on a free kick, but failed to maintain a drive. S/C then mounted its only scoring drive of the game – a 10-play, 63-yard march, capped off by a 22-yard pass from Jarred Mandel to Hayden Bauman. S/C led 6-2 after Evan Dieringer’s extra point attempt was blocked.
Stratford got the ball back and went 61 yards in 13 plays, scoring on a 14-yard run by Ehrike to make the score 9-6 in favor of the Tigers – a lead they would keep the rest of the game.
After a scoreless third quarter, Stratford found the end zone 4:00 into the fourth, when Ehrike scored from 23 yards out. That capped a 14-play, 65-yard drive and gave the Tigers a 15-6 lead. After another stalled drive by the Rockets, Stratford scored on its next possession, covering 65 yards on 11 plays and scoring on another 23-yard run by Ehrike.
Stratford outgained Spencer/Columbus 331-232 and ran 16 more plays. The Rockets were led by Carson Hildebrandt with 90 yards on 11 carries. Mandel had 39 yards on eight carries. And, a fun surprise for the S/C fans came late in the game, when the Rockets used senior offensive lineman Logan Zschernitz on three rushing plays that covered 40 yards. Bauman had two catches for 30 yards.
The Tigers ended a two-game losing streak to the Rockets, and earned their first trip to the state final in 10 years. Stratford last played in Madison in 2008, when the Tigers won the last of their six-straight state titles between 2003 and 2008 under then Head Coach Cal Tackes, who now serves as a Tiger assistant. During that run, the Tigers twice defeated St. Mary’s Springs for championships in 2003 and 2005 – something they will try to repeat on Nov. 15.