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Stratford's John Seitz led the Tigers football team in tackles with 81 and 20 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Along with the tackles, Seitz also recorded 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, and returned one interception for a touchdown. Coach Jason Tubbs characterized Seitz as a team leader in "heart and determination".

November 17, 2022

MADISON – Early in the third quarter of the WIAA Division 6 state championship game on Thursday afternoon, the Stratford football team faced something it had not seen so far in five postseason games – the Tigers were trailing.

So Stratford did what Stratford does and turned to its running game. Junior running back Koehler Kilty ran the ball five-straight plays for 35 yards, Braeden Schueller connected with Gavin Leonhardt for a 23-yard pass, and Kilty plowed in from the 2 to give the Tigers the lead for good.

Stratford tacked on two fourth-quarter touchdowns and held Mondovi to just one first down on its final five possessions to finish off a 32-14 victory at Camp Randall Stadium to claim its eighth WIAA state title.

This year’s squad joins championship Stratford teams from 1986 and 2003-08. Only Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs (nine) has more state titles than the Tigers.

“This team never gave up,” Stratford coach Jason Tubbs said. “All season long, it’s had its back against the wall, on the road every game, and they’ve had a never-quit attitude and played amazing in the second half. I love this team.”

The championship is Tubbs’ first as head coach of the Tigers after his teams lost in the finals in 2018 and 2019. Cal Tackes had been head coach for the first seven title teams.

“In 2018 and 2019, we had some really good teams and they came up short,” Tubbs said. “This team here, they just fulfilled the destiny of every high school kid to get down here and win it. We got hot at the right time and just kept getting better.”

Stratford started strong, going 60 yards in 10 plays on its opening drive. The 6-minute drive ended with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Schueller to Leonhardt. The extra point was missed and Stratford led 6-0.

The Tigers found pay dirt again late in the second quarter as Kilty ran six times for 40 of the 50 yards on the drive. The final run for Kilty covered 3 yards and the extra point gave Stratford a 13-0 advantage.

Mondovi put together its first good drive of the game in response, going 64 yards in eight plays. A 41-yard pass from Jarod Falkner to Cade Fremstad on fourth-and-8 brought the ball to the 1 before Falkner pushed it in with just 16 seconds to go in the half and the Tigers went into the break leading 13-7.

Mondovi took that momentum into the second half as it took the kickoff and went 66 yards for the go-ahead score. Falkner connected with Fremstad again, this time for a 36-yard touchdown, and the Buffaloes led 14-13.

Stratford seemed unfazed, plowing down the field behind strong play from the offensive line and the legs of Kilty, who ended up with 192 yards on the ground to give him 1,877 yards for the season.

Kilty’s 2-yard TD run gave the Tigers a 19-14 lead with 4:06 to go in the third quarter and that proved to be enough.

“They just said ‘It’s our ball now, let’s go and score,’” Tubbs said. “They knew they could score. Koehler and the line did just a great job.”

A seven-play drive that bridged the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarters ended with another Schueller touchdown pass to Leonhardt, this time for 11 yards on a leaping catch in the back of the end zone, to push Stratford’s lead to 25-14.

The teams exchanged turnovers later in the quarter before Stratford held Mondovi on downs and Kilty finished off the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown plunge with 34 seconds left.

Stratford held Mondovi to just 83 yards rushing on 30 attempts and outgained the Buffaloes 289-227, with 77 of Mondovi’s yards coming on those two big pass plays.

“It feels great to get a little redemption (for the ’18 and ’19 teams) and bring home that gold ball,” Kilty said. “Our O-line was carving out some big holes for me to run through, definitely give the credit to the line.”