Football: Stratford has high hopes
The Stratford football team enters its second year in the highly-competitive District 17-4A with high expectations and a goal of getting past the first round of the playoffs.
With a young but experienced group returning, Stratford head coach Eliot Allen is excited about the season.
"Hopefully, we can finish first or second this year," Allen said. "We are going to be young, but we do like we do every year, which is graduate a lot of seniors and bring up a lot of seniors for the next year. We are going to young at the linebacker and offensive line position, but we have a lot of experience back at the other positions."
With Second Baptist transfer Jeremiah Briscoe leading the offense, and running back Brian Skulski and wide receiver Max Bredthauer back, the Spartans offense looks good. Skulski was brought up from junior varsity early in the season last year and played well, totaling nearly 700 yards.
Briscoe threw for 2,358 yards and 23 touchdowns last year for Second Baptist and was with the Spartans in the spring, so Allen said he understands the system and went through everything the rest of the team went through in the spring.
Briscoe also played on the Spartans' 7-on-7 team in the summer with Bredthauer and others. Stratford advanced to the state second round.
"Jeremiah has known a bunch of the guys for a long time," Allen said. "He is a good kid, and he has played well, so everything should work out. We have a couple of running backs returning from last year, with Brian being one of them, so we should be good at running back.
"Max is back at wide receiver and leads a good group there. If our offensive line will come through, then we should be OK on the offensive side of the ball."
On defense, the linebacker position is the one with the most concern. A.J. Justice and Kelvin Rainey lead the secondary, while the defensive line continues to improve.
"The defense will be OK," Allen said. "The defensive line was a concern early on, but now, our linebackers will be the biggest decision. We have the talent in the secondary, so that should be the strength of our team."
After a 1-2 non-district and an 0-1 start to district, the Spartans won their next five district games and came within a game of winning the district title but fell to Brenham, 20-17, in the final district game. The Spartans then lost to Humble in the first round of the playoffs, 23-13.
The Spartans have a tough non-district slate this season against rival Memorial, who was a 5A Division II state semi-finalist last year, along with Langham Creek and Friendswood, who was a Class 4A Division I state semi-finalist a year ago.
"It is a tough, competitive schedule to help prepare us for district and show us where we are for district," Allen said.
In order for the Spartans to advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since Stratford quarterback Andrew Luck was under center for them, Stratford must play well in district play.
"We have to take care of our district," Allen said. "Last year we finished second in the large school division, but this year we need to finish first in the large school division. We have to play our best at the end of the year. I feel a lot better going into this season because last year we had no idea what we in store for. It is going to be a fun league."
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