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Stratford running back Matt Handrick finds a hole during the Tigers’ win over Amherst in last week’s Division 5 semifinal. Stratford will play Lake Country Lutheran for the WIAA Division 5 state football championship at 4 p.m. Thursday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. (Photo by Paul Lecker/For Zaleski Sports)

By Paul Lecker For Zaleski Sports

STRATFORD – The Stratford football team wanted another chance at glory.

After losing to Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs in last year’s Division 5 state championship game, the underclassmen for the Tigers immediately turned their attention to 2019.

One year after that devastating defeat, Stratford is back in the state finals and this time the Tigers don’t want to settle for second-best.

Stratford (13-0) will take on Lake Country Lutheran (12-1) in the Division 5 final at the WIAA State Football Championships at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison at 4 p.m. Thursday. The Tigers will be looking for their eighth state title, and first since running off six-straight D-6 championships from 2003-2008.

“We felt to defeated,” senior lineman and University of Wisconsin recruit Ben Barten said of last year’s championship game loss. “There’s nothing like losing there. Oh my God, you come off the field at halftime up 14-7, then they score with three minutes left after we felt we got on the ball (on a fumble). But, all that’s done with and now it was time for this season.”

The motivation from last year’s championship game defeat was not lost on the Tigers.

Stratford has been dominating all season, putting up 12-straight shutouts prior to beating Amherst 19-7 in the semifinals last week. Overall, the Tigers have outscored their opponents 649-7.

“It means everything to us,” Stratford quarterback/safety Max Schwabe said of the second chance. “Losing last year helped us to push harder than we ever have. We worked hard all offseason, we’ve been focused, and we’re a family, so we’re always bumping each other up.”

The Tigers have used a diversified offense behind Schwabe and a number of options carrying the ball to the tune of 275 yards per game rushing.

Teddy Redman has been electric, leading the team in rushing with 744 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 10.6 yards per carry. Matt Handrick (604 yards, eight touchdowns) and Beau Gross (602 yards, eight touchdowns) do much of the dirty work inside behind a huge offensive line led by Barten, North Dakota State recruit Easton Kilty, Dawson Moen, Trevor Dennee, and Jaykob Mikelson.

Schwabe has been effective passing as well, completing 69 percent of his passes for 1,186 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also ran for six TDs this year, including two in last week’s win over Amherst.

Lake Country Lutheran has been stingy on defense as well, allowing just 24 points in its last 10 games with seven shutouts.

Quarterback Luke Haertle has thrown for 1,162 yards and 18 touchdowns, and Jack Levernz has rushed for 971 yards and 13 scores to lead the Lightning.

Stratford’s game will be televised live on Fox Sports Wisconsin Plus. The game will also be broadcast on WOSQ-FM 92.3 and, and at Zaleski Sports will have a full recap, highlights and interviews following the game Thursday night.

2019 WIAA State Football Championships Nov. 21-22, at Camp Randall Stadium, Madison Thursday, Nov. 21 Division 7: Edgar (12-1) vs. Black Hawk/Warren (13-0), 10 a.m. Division 6: Eau Claire Regis (13-0) vs. Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs (11-2), 1 p.m. Division 5: Stratford (13-0) vs. Lake Country Lutheran (12-1), 4 p.m. Division 4: Kiel (13-0) vs. Waukesha Catholic Memorial (11-2), 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22 Division 3: Menasha (12-1) vs. DeForest (13-0), 10 a.m. Division 2: Brookfield East (11-2) vs. Waunakee (12-1), 1 p.m. Division 1: Muskego (13-0) vs. Bay Port (13-0), 4 p.m.