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Stratford lineman Ben Barten

Zaleski Sports

MAPLE – The Stratford football team, and high school football fans across Wisconsin, were miffed by the No. 2 seed given to the Tigers prior to the start of the WIAA playoffs.

There wasn’t much Stratford could do about it, other than prove why it deserved the No. 1 seed after being unbeaten, unscored upon and ranked No. 1 in the state in Division 5 for much of the season.

On Friday night, Stratford did just that. The Tigers set the tone with a 7½ minute drive on their opening possession, turned away top-seed Northwestern with an interception near the goal line, and went on the pummel Northwestern 35-0 in a WIAA Division 5 Level 3 playoff game at Northwestern High School.

Stratford (12-0) remains unscored upon this season and moves on to the state semifinals for the second year in a row. Last year, the Tigers beat Spencer/Columbus to reach the state finals before losing to Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs. This year, Stratford will play another familiar foe, Amherst (11-0), in a D-5 semifinal. Amherst, who knocked Stratford out of the playoffs four times between 2012-17, beat Chilton 24-19 on Friday.

A date, time and site for the Level 4 game will be announced no later than Saturday. Lake Country Lutheran (11-1) and Prairie du Chien (11-1) will play in the other semifinal, with the winners meeting up in the Division 5 state championship game Thursday, Nov. 21, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

Stratford took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards in 15 plays, all on the ground, chewing up 7:33 on the clock. Beau Gross ran five times for 22 yards, the final 3 for a touchdown to put Stratford up 6-0.

Northwestern took the ball down to the 14 as quarterback Jake Brill completed passes of 12 and 16 yards on the drive. On the first play of the second quarter Brill was picked off by Teddy Redman at the 3 and that was the last time Northwestern threatened the stout Stratford defense.

Stratford went on another long drive, going 72 yards in 15 plays before fumbling inside the 10.

After a three-and-out by Northwestern, and a short punt, Stratford took over at the 34 and needed three plays to score again. Gross ran in for a touchdown from the 19 and Stratford led 13-0 with 1:26 left before halftime.

Stratford had two more three-play drives that resulted in touchdowns in the third quarter. Gross scored from the 8 on the Tigers’ first possession, then hauled in a screen pass from quarterback Max Schwabe and raced 21 yards for another score to make it 28-0. Gross finished with 77 yards rushing, the 21 yards receiving, and four touchdowns.

Stratford put the game into running-clock mode with a sharp eight-play, 53-yard drive that bridged the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters. Devin Dennee put the finishing touches on the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge, and Stratford led 35-0 with 10:44 remaining.

Each team had one more possession before the game ended in just under two hours.

Stratford outgained Northwestern 338-116, which was the most yards Stratford has allowed all season – two more than it gave up last week against Spencer/Columbus.

Matt Handrick added 64 yards on the ground and Schwabe had 78 yards passing, 42 yards going to Vaughn Breit on two catches.

Stratford 35, Northwestern 0

Stratford 6 7 15 7 – 35

Northwestern 0 0 0 0 – 0

First Quarter S – Beau Gross 3 run (run failed), 4:27.

Second Quarter S – Gross 19 run (Leo Franzese kick), 1:26.

Third Quarter S – Gross 8 run (Franzese kick), 8:55. S – Gross 21 pass from Max Schwabe (Vaughn Breit pass from Schwabe), 2:06.

Fourth Quarter S – Devin Dennee 1 run (Franzese kick), 10:44.

Team Statistics

First downs: Stratford 16; Northwestern 6.

Rushing (att-yards): S 49-260; N 22-45.

Passing (comp-att-yards-int): S 5-6-78-0; N 4-14-71-1.

Total yards: