The Stratford Elks will take on the Wellington Skyrockets in a Class 2A Division II state quarterfinal matchup at 7 p.m., Friday at Dick Bivins Stadium. [Photos by Trevor Fleeman & Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]
Two of the Texas Panhandle’s most prominent program’s over the past two decades take center stage Friday night in a highly anticipated Class 2A Division II state quarterfinal matchup.
Wellington will battle Stratford at 7 p.m., Friday at Dick Bivins Stadium in a contest that has been circled on many’s calendar since the beginning of August.
“It’s obvious that the two best teams in the region have risen to the top,” Stratford head coach Matt Lovorn said. “It will be a great atmosphere, and a fun competitive game. We have a ton of respect for Wellington, and their program. This is going to be a lot of fun.”
When looking at the tradition of both the Skyrockets (9-3) and Elks the numbers do not lie. Stratford (12-1) has won three UIL state championships (2000, 2005, 2008), while Wellington won its only state title in 2013.
Over the past 10 years both teams have dominated in their own way. Since 2011, the Skyrockets boast an overall record of 128-21 with eight state quarterfinal appearances. Stratford has built a record over the past decade of 110-32 with four state quarterfinal appearances of its own.
In seven seasons as the Elks head coach, Lovorn has amassed an impressive 75-21 mark, while Proffitt is equally eye-opening with a 34-6 record in three years.
“These are two programs built on winning cultures,” Proffitt said. “We’re very similar in the style of football that we play. We’re both blue collar teams that grind it out, and are just tough. It’s very old school football. We have nothing but respect for Stratford, and we’re ready to go play.”
Both teams mirror one another’s style of play. Stratford and Wellington love to run the football, and beat its opponent physically. Both pride themselves with stellar line play, and hard-nose defense.
Wellington is grinding out 316 rush yards a game, while allowing only 175 total yards, and 92 rushing yards per contest.
Stratford is chewing up 292 yards a game on the ground, allowing its opponents only 185 yards a game on defense. Like Wellington, Stratford is stingy when it comes to teams running the ball allowing only 110 yards a game.
“There’s no doubt both teams rely on the guys up front,” Proffitt said. “Offensive or defensive line, you go watch film to find a weakness there isn’t one there. Stratford is one of those teams that also tackles well with the guys in the secondary. They are solid all around. We feel the same about are guys too.”
The Skyrockets and Elks are also surrounded by impact players on both sides. Stratford quarterback Cody Rinne is in the midst of an MVP season. The senior has thrown for 1,929 yards, rushed for a team-best 1,463 yards combining for 46 touchdowns. Defensively, Rinne is electric in the secondary racking up 145 tackles. Zane Burr and Dru Jones have been huge compliments as well. Burr has tallied 1,169 yards rushing with 18 touchdowns, followed by Jones’ 584 rushing yards.
“We’re not much different,” Rinne said. “We need to do what we’ve done all season, and rely on our defense, and have our offense make plays. This is one of the best defenses I’ve been on here at Stratford. We just have to go out and play like we know how.”
Wellington answers with four-year two-way All-State standout Marc Ramirez. The prolific running back has put up 1,740 rushing yards with 24 TDs, and has made 125 tackles at linebacker.
Three-year starting quarterback Creighton Killian has been a security blanket since Proffitt has come to town. Killian is a proven winner with a 34-4 record as the starting QB, and this year isn’t any different. The senior has thrown for 716 yards, rushed for 400 with a combined 14 touchdowns.
“Getting to December is what most program’s strive for,” Killian said. “We were banged up early in the season, but we’ve all come together now.
“When I see Stratford, I basically see Wellington. We play the same type of football. We’re both physical, and we both love games like this. We both are very good up front. It’s going to be exciting on Friday.”
The Stratford-Wellington winner will play the Region II champion of Windthorst-Albany in a Class 2A Division II state semifinal next Thursday at a time and place to be determined.
Kale Steed’s prediction
Expect an electric atmosphere at Dick Bivins between two stellar program’s that will bring old school football back to the Texas Panhandle. This game will be decided in the trenches, and which team makes the big play late. Cody Rinne vs. Marc Ramirez is worth the price of admission alone. … Stratford 21, Wellington 15