Nov. 14—The Stratford Bulldogs took advantage of two early Hinton turnovers and the defense limited the high-powered Comet offense during their first playoff win since the 2015 State Championship, winning 26-7 at Blackburn Field.
"It was a great playoff win for our guys tonight, I'm very proud of them," head coach Michael Blackburn said.
The Bulldogs caught their first break of the game on the Comets first possession. Hinton dropped back in punt formation. A snap over the punters head was recovered by Walker Chandler at the Comet 18-yard line.
Stratford would take advantage of the good field position with Josiah Lester powering his way in from a yard-out for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead after a Justin Arriaga kick.
The Bulldogs would catch another break late in the quarter as Hinton would muff a punt and Stratford's Lester would recover at the Bulldog 28-yard line. Stratford worked quickly down the field and Lincoln Hall hit J. Arriaga with a 33-yard touchdown pass for a 13-0 lead.
In the latter stages of the first half, the Bulldogs got the ball back at their 19-yard line after a Hinton punt. On the first snap of the possession, Chandler found a crease on the right side of the offense and then outran the Comet defense 81 yards for a touchdown and a 19-0 lead.
The defense made a stand on the Comets' next possession giving the Bulldogs the ball back with just under three minutes remaining in the half. The Bulldogs capitalized on their second play of the drive with J. Arriaga racing in from 19 yards out for a 26-0 lead after a Grady Cater extra point kick.
Hinton fought their way down the field in the closing minutes of the half. They reached the one-yard line, but the Bulldog defense came up big with a stop at the goal line as time ran out to end the half with a 26-0 lead.
Hinton avoided the shutout with a third-quarter touchdown. Stratford had a bad snap recovered by Hinton at the 38-yard line. Aided by two 15-yard penalties, Hinton scored on a one-yard run by Grayden Deviney.
Hinton had a chance in the fourth quarter to cut the lead in half, but a Hall interception at the four ended the fourth-quarter drive.
Stratford ran out the final seven minutes of the game after the interception to advance to round two of the playoffs.
The Bulldogs finished with 427 yards, 306 on the ground, and 121 through the air. J. Arriaga led the way with 134 total yards and two touchdowns. He had 101 yards rushing on 11 carries with one TD and added another 33 yards receiving and a touchdown.
Chandler had 153 total yards on the night. He had 81 yards rushing on his only carry of the night for a TD and had four catches for 72 yards. Lester added 48 yards rushing and a TD, Braxton Bear 42 yards rushing, and Hall 34 yards rushing. Hall was 6-of-10 passing for 121 yards. Braylinn King had 16 yards receiving.
"It was a very physical game, and we had one of our best nights in the run game with over 300 yards rushing," Blackburn said. "We missed several opportunities to put more points on the board and we had too many penalties. We will have to correct that if we want to continue to move on."
Taylor Arriaga led the defense with 13 tackles. J. Arriaga added eight, Joshua Gifford, Tyler Biggs, and King each had six tackles, Lester had five tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery., Canaan Weddle and Lane Hallaman had five tackles each, Chandler had four tackles and a fumble recovery and Hall had an interception.
"I thought our defense played well and continued to give our offense good opportunities," Blackburn said.
Stratford will travel to Apache to face the Warriors on Friday night. Apache is 9-1 on the season, with their only blemish coming in week two to undefeated and third-ranked Minco 33-22.