Recent history repeated itself Friday evening at Dick Bivins Stadium, which is exactly the way the Stratford Elks wanted it.
In a rematch of a regular-season district game, Stratford faced Panhandle in a Region I-1A Division I regional playoff. And the formula was extremely familiar, as the Elks duplicated their regular-season success against Panhandle, rolling to a 38-20 victory to advance in the postseason.
When the two teams met in a District 1-1A Division I regular season game, Stratford (11-1) routed Panhandle, 44-14, en route to an undefeated district championship season. The Elks didn’t look like a team that took the first lopsided victory for granted the second time around.
“We came out ready to play and played well,” Stratford coach Eddie Metcalf said. “(Panhandle) is better now than when we played six or seven weeks ago, and I’m pleased with how we responded to that.”
Stratford controlled the first quarter by scoring on the first two possessions, and the Elks did the rest with their defense in taking a 17-0 halftime lead.
Panhandle (8-5) took the opening kickoff and seemed intent on making a statement, driving to the Stratford 32-yard line. But Tyler Hall, who completed his first four passes, was intercepted by Logan Uttley at the Stratford 31 to end the drive.
It was the first of two interceptions by Uttley, both of which set up Stratford touchdowns.
“The coaches got us in a good position all the time,” Uttley said. “We knew that they would throw the ball a lot and that we’d have to contain the quarterback.”
Three plays after Uttley’s first interception, the run-oriented Elks shocked the Panthers with a play-action pass, as Tanner Wright hit a wide-open Colten Rendon for a 50-yard touchdown pass to give Stratford a 7-0 lead.
That play was the exception that proved the rule for the Elks. They threw only four more passes the rest of the game, all incomplete.
“We can throw the ball if we have to, but that’s not how we’re going to make our living,” Metcalf said. “We’ll run it until the cows come home.”
As if to prove that point, the Elks forced a punt on the ensuing possession and embarked on another scoring drive, going 66 yards on 10 running plays, concluding with Alex Chavoya scoring from 4 yards out for a 14-0 lead.
Stratford added a 31-yard field goal by Gonzalo Eizmendi to make it 17-0 late in the second quarter before the Panthers embarked on their best drive of the game, moving to the Stratford 14. But Sterling Audrain intercepted Hall at the Stratford 3 to end the drive.
However, two plays later, Stratford’s Christian Martinez fumbled and Panhandle recovered at the 6. But three plays netted no yards, and with one second left in the half, Panhandle rejected a field-goal attempt and went for a touchdown, but Hall’s pass to Seth Wood fell incomplete to end the half.
Panhandle’s offense often appeared to be one-dimensional, as the Panthers finished with 2 yards rushing.
“Stratford kind of put us in a hole early, and we didn’t run the ball the way we wanted to,” Panhandle coach Ricky Peacock said. “(The Elks) were real aggressive up front, and I kind of felt that’s the way they were going to be. That’s playoff football.”
Hall came alive in the second half, throwing for two touchdowns and running for a third, as he threw for 221 yards. Travis Hammer had eight catches for 113 yards and a touchdown for the Panthers.
Chavoya led Stratford’s running game with 157 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. He was especially big in the second half, running for 110 yards and two scores.
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Stratford 38, Panhandle 20
Panhandle 0 0 12 8 — 20
Stratford 14 3 7 14 — 38
S—Colten Rendon 50 pass from Tanner Wright (Gonzalo Eizmendi kick)
S—Alex Chavoya 4 run (Eizmendi kick)
S—Eismendi FG 31
P—Travis Hall 4 run (kick blocked)
S—Chavoya 20 run (Eismendi kick)
P—Travis Hammer 7 pass from Hall (pass failed)
S—Chavoya 5 run (Eizmendi kick)
P—Zach Berry 10 pass from Hall (Hall run)
S—Kelby Hartman 2 run (Eizmendi kick)
First Downs 14 17
Rushing 2 277
Passing 221 50
Total yards 223 327
C-A-I 24-42-3 1-5-0
Punts 3-32.0 4-40.5
Fumbles-lost `0-0 3-3
Penalties-yards 4-33 3-48
Rushing—Panhandle: Logan Lamberson 5-4, Tyler Hall 11-(-14), Dalten Luman 2-0, Patrick Shadid 4-8, Hammer 1-4. Stratford: Hartman 11-74, Chavoya 23-157, Christian Martinez 6-22, Rendon 5-11, Wright 5-13.
Passing—Panhandle: Hall 24-42-3-221. Stratford: Wright 1-5-0-50.
Receiving—Panhandle: Hammer 8-113, Berry 6-48, Seth Wood 4-14, Cory Free 4-37, Lamberson 2-9. Stratford: Rendon 1-50.