Nov. 8—STRATFORD — For the first time in four tries, the Stratford Bulldogs defeated the tradition-rich Ringling Blue Devils 28-20 in A-4 district play.
"This was a great win for our guys. I am very proud of them," head coach Michael Blackburn said. "They played with a ton of heart tonight and beat a very good Ringling team.
"This group of guys have come a long way since the beginning of the season and it is because they have great attitudes, they love each other and they are starting to play as a team, just very proud of them."
The Bulldogs had a two-touchdown lead at the break after a pair of Lincoln Hall touchdowns and a Hall touchdown pass. Ringling cut the lead to 21-20 at the end of the third quarter before Hall tossed his third touchdown pass of the night, a 49-yarder to Walker Chandler, for a 28-20 lead and win.
Chandler finished with 175 yards on eight catches with two touchdowns and a 23-yard touchdown pass. Hall finished with 287 total yards, 215 through the air, and two TDs, 49 rushing and a TD and 23 receiving with a TD.
"Walker had a huge game receiving and Lincoln had a great game throwing the ball," Blackburn said. "The offensive line held their own and gave Lincoln some time and he delivered. Walker was tough to handle one-on-one so we wanted to try and take advantage of that tonight."
The potent Ringling ground attack finished with 240 yards on 42 carries.
Taylor Arriaga and Justin Arriaga paced the Stratford defense with 13 and 12 tackles respectively. Josiah Lest added 9, Canaan Weddle and Hall 7 each, Joshua Gifford 6, Chandler, Skylar Joslin, and Lane Hallaman five each.
"Our defense has played well for the last several weeks and they continued to fight and did enough tonight to slow down a very good rushing attack," Blackburn said.
Hall opened up the game with a 10-yard touchdown run and the Bulldogs never trailed. Hall then hauled in a 23-yard pass from Chandler for a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
Will Davis would get the Blue Devils on the board in the middle of the second quarter with an 18-yard run.
Stratford would respond right back with Chandler hauling in a 16-yard pass from Hall for a 21-6 halftime lead.
A pair of third-quarter touchdowns — a Rance Wilson 28-yard pass from Caleb Taylor and a Taylor 1-yard run — cut the lead to 21-20. A failed two-point run after the second TD kept Ringling from taking the lead.
Chandler would come up with a huge 49-yard touchdown reception from Hall at the 8-minute mark of the fourth quarter for a 28-20 lead.
The Bulldog defense would make the necessary plays down the stretch for the win and a second-place finish in the district.
Stratford improved to 6-4 overall and finished 6-1 in A-4 play. Dibble won the district crown at 8-2 and 7-0. Ringling was third at 7-3 and 5-2 and Elmore City-Pernell snagged the fourth and final playoff spot at 5-5 and 4-3.
"With the win, we finished second in our district, which means we get to play at home in the first round of the playoffs," Blackburn said. "I couldn't be more excited for a group of young men. We will play Hinton at Stratford Friday at 7 p.m."
Hinton finished third in the six-team A-3 district with a 6-4 record and a 2-3 district record. They finished in a three-way tie with Cashion and Christian Heritage in the district but edged out the other two on the points system.