Updated: Aug 16, 2021
By Paul Lecker
STRATFORD – The Stratford football program is one with a winning past, having reached the WIAA playoffs 28-straight years, last season withstanding.
The Tigers will look to continue that streak as the 2021 season opens up Friday with a nonconference game at Mosinee.
Stratford, which finished 5-3 overall and 3-1 in its first season in the Central Wisconsin Conference Large Division during the disjointed 2020 season, returns six starters.
Zack Seitz (offensive line), Elijah Lucio (defensive back), and Devin Ulrich (defensive line) are all back after earning first-team all-CWC Large honors last year. Running back/defensive back Raife Smart, running back/defensive end Kaden Griesmer, and linebacker/guard Noah Barrett also are back for their senior seasons after seeing starting time in 2020.
Ninth-year head coach Jason Tubbs said while the team did lose a lot from last year, as is usually the case in high school sports, he is seeing a lot from this year’s crew of seniors.
“We’ve got some great senior leaders,” Tubbs said. “We have 12 seniors out and all of them are really contributing, ready to go and leading the younger guys. They’re excited to be out here.
“The guys that we lost from last year, a limited season, (CWC Large Defensive Player of the Year) Colten Schillinger stands out, he’s a hard guy to replace. (Quarterback/defensive back) Max Vanderhoof is another. One thing we’ve done in the last few years is rotated guys in to get full playing time at the varsity level. You could tell that it is beneficial this year. A guy like Darin Heeg, a rotating guy last year and now he’s starting and doesn’t miss a beat. Coach (Marshall) Lehman and myself have always thought it’s a great idea to rotate guys in for a series so they get used to playing at full speed.”
Seitz, who also plays defensive line, said he sees a lot of talent on the field.
“The team’s looking good,” Seitz said. “It’s going to be a fun year. We’re going to miss our seniors a little bit, but we have a lot of guys returning. We’ve got to keep the mentality that we have to work harder to beat teams. Teams like Amherst, they beat us last year, this year we want to come out and beat them.”
Raife Smart will move into a starting role at running back, with senior Dillon Kirsch and junior Braeden Schueller competing for the starting quarterback spot heading into Friday’s opener at Mosinee.
Up front, Tubbs said he is confident in the starters that he has but is concerned about depth.
“My five starters are legit and very talented. We have some returning starters with Noah Barrett and Zack Seitz,” Tubbs said. “John Seitz and Jackson Ormond are juniors that played a little bit last year. Kash Dahl, who was a sophomore last year, benched 150 (pounds) last year and right now he’s benching 300, so he has transitioned himself into a football player and it’s paying off. Another senior, Cole Marten who was a backup last year, will be on the defensive line. After that I get nervous because it’s a bunch of sophomores.”
Following this week’s opener, Stratford hosts rival Edgar on Aug. 27 before the Tigers begin their CWC Large schedule with home games against Manawa on Sept. 3 and Shiocton on Sept. 10.
Zaleski Sports is your exclusive home for Stratford Tigers athletics with all football games shown live and all home varsity events shown live at zaleskisports.com.
Stratford Football Schedule
Fri., Aug. 20 at Mosinee, 7 p.m.
Fri., Aug. 27 EDGAR, 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 3 MANAWA, 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 10 SHIOCTON, 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 17 at Nekoosa, 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 24 WITTENBERG-BIRNAMWOOD, 7 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 1 at Weyauwega-Fremont, 7 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 8 SPENCER/COLUMBUS, 7 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 15 at Amherst, 7 p.m.
(Home games in CAPS, at Tiger Stadium)