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The Stratford football team reached the WIAA state finals for the second-straight season in 2019. (Photo by Paul Lecker/For Zaleski Sports)

By Paul Lecker For Zaleski Sports

STRATFORD – The Stratford football team’s run to two-straight WIAA state championship games was predicated on an uber-talented group of players from the 2020 graduating class.

Eleven of those seniors from last year’s team, which went 13-1 and was the runner-up in the WIAA Division 5 state finals, earned first-team all-Marawood Conference honors.

This season, as the Tigers move into a new football conference, they will have to find a way to replace that talented group.

“The biggest concern for us is varsity inexperience and depth at some positions,” Stratford head coach Jason Tubbs said. “I am pleased to see kids playing a game they love in a very strange time in our history.”

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the season has been pushed back a month, but the Tigers, along with the rest of the teams playing football this fall, will finally be able to hit the field for game competition Friday when Stratford travels to Wittenberg-Birnamwood for its first game in the Central Wisconsin Conference Large Division.

Two of the Tigers’ all-conference players from last year are back, including Beau Gross, who was the team’s second-leading rusher in 2019 with 671 yards and nine touchdowns, earning second-team all-Marawood honors.

Colton Schillinger, an honorable mention all-conference outside linebacker, is also back to lead the Tigers’ defense. He will also see time at running back.

Senior Max Vanderhoof takes over at quarterback for Stratford.

“Hopefully we can compete in the new conference and get through a season safely,” Tubbs said.

Stratford’s home opener is Oct. 2 against Weyauwega-Fremont before traveling to Spencer/Columbus on Oct. 9 for a rematch of a playoff game last season that the Tigers won 51-0 in Level 2.

STRATFORD FOOTBALL SCHEDULE Fri., Sept. 25 at Wittenberg-Birnamwood, 7 p.m. Fri., Oct. 2 WEYAUWEGA-FREMONT, 7 p.m. Fri., Oct. 9 at Spencer/Columbus (at Spencer), 7 p.m. Fri., Oct. 16 AMHERST, 7 p.m. Fri., Oct. 23 at Manawa, 7 p.m. Fri., Oct. 30 at Shiocton, 7 p.m. Fri., Nov. 6 NEKOOSA, 7 p.m. Home games in CAPS, at Tiger Stadium, Stratford