Hamlin’s Ethan Byerly (55) and Jackson Espeda (25) wrap up Stratford’s Britt McQuitty during a Class 2A Division II state semifinal at Greg Sherwood Memorial Bulldogs Stadium in Plainview on Thursday night. [Tom Carver/ Press Pass Sports]
A hopeful chance at a berth to AT&T Stadium didn’t come to fruition for the Stratford Elks Thursday night at Greg Sherwood Memorial Bulldogs Stadium.
Hamlin gained a measure of revenge from a week 5 loss to the Elks, returning the favor with much higher stakes on the line with a 56-23 rout to in a Class 2A Division II state semifinal.
The Pied Pipers (13-2) punch their ticket to Jerry World, and will play for a state championship for the first time in school history.
“I can’t even describe a win like this,” said Russell Lucas, who 107-41 in 12 seasons as Hamlin’s head coach. “Our community has wanted this for so long, and our players played their hearts out. I’m so proud for this town and our team.”
Hamlin awaits the winner of defending champion Mart and Falls City in the other semifinal, which is set to kickoff at 7:30 p.m. Friday night.
Stratford, which was making its 11th appearance in a state semifinal since 1999, ends a stellar season at 13-2.
The Elks also say goodbye to a 12-game win steak that started in week 3 with a 64-0 shutout of Guymon, Okla.
Despite a crushing loss to the Pied Pipers, Stratford coach Matt Lovorn said it doesn’t take away from what his team accomplished in 2019.
Stratford senior Iuden Romero respects Hamlin’s school song after playing his last high school football game of his career Thursday night. [Kale Steed/ Press Pass Sports]
“We were one game shy of where we wanted our season to end up,” said Lovorn, who is 56-14 in five seasons at Stratford. “But our effort, our team camaraderie, and senior leadership was phenomenal. For our guys to get as far as we did, you can’t count it as a disappointment. It was a great season for us.”
Turnovers and tackling were the Elks biggest issues against Hamlin on Thursday. The Pied Pipers exploded, shell shocking Stratford by scoring on its first five possessions. The Elks didn’t tackle Hamlin’s 6-2, 300 pound fullback
Austin Lozano, who scored on the Pied Pipers third play of the game when he broke two tackles, turning a 10 yard catching into a 47-yard touchdown, giving Hamlin an early 7-0 lead.
Lozano was a complete mismatch for Stratford totaling two touchdowns with 109 yards receiving
We were able to set the tone early with our playmakers,” Lucas said. “That gave us so much momentum, and it seemed like Stratford never recovered.
While Lozano was definitely the thunder and running back Jevon Williams was the lightning. Williams blazed through an overmatched Elks defense all night scoring two touchdowns, while rushing for a game-high 244 yards on 26 carries.
“Hamlin played great,” Lovorn said. “We didn’t tackle at all. They were physical and just handled us.”
Offensively, Stratford was never in sync. Hamlin’s defense took away the run and smothered the Elks receivers, forcing seven interceptions from quarterback Walker McBryde, six of which came in the first half. Pied Pipers defensive back Arnold Silva came up with a game-high four picks of McBryde.
Hamlin limited Stratford to a season-low 256 yards of offense, and just 109 on the ground.
The Pied Pipers offense opened it up for 583 yards in the win.
Hamlin 56, Stratford 23
Stratford 7 0 0 16 — 23
Hamlin 28 7 14 7— 56
H—Austin Lozano 47 pass from Braydin Warner (Warner kick), 10:13
H—Jevon Williams 17 run (Warner kick), 6:54
H—Lozano 25 pass from Warner (Warner kick), 5:46
S—Brit McQuitty 5 run (Publio Reyes kick), 4:11
H—Warner 11 run (Warner kick), 0:21
H—Williams 47 run (Warner kick), 8:17
H—Warner 49 run (Warner kick), 9:52
H—Jackson Sepeda 7 run (Warner kick), 3:04
S—Walker McBryde 1 run (McBryde run), 11:30
H—Sepeda 28 run (Warner kick), 9:16
S—Cody Rinne 4 pass from McBryde (Iuden Romero run), 2:06
First downs 16 26
Rushing 107 413
Passing 149 170
Total yards 256 583
C-A-I 14-28-7 11-14-0
Punts-Avg. 2-27.5 1-43.0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-0
Penalties-yards 3-25 8-65
RUSHING— Stratford: Romero 9-43, McBryde 10-23, McQuitty 8-34, Abraham Villegas 2-5, Alberto Guerrero 1-(-1), Trever Bell 1-3. Hamlin: Williams 26-244, Lozano 2-37, Warner 13-51, A.J. Ramirez 2-14, Sepeda 8-67.
PASSING— Stratford:McBryde 14-28-7-149. Hamlin: Warner 11-14-0-164.
RECEIVING— Stratford: Villegas 3-19, Cody Rinne 6-71, Ty McBryde 2-34, Romero 2-19, McQuitty 1-6. Hamlin: Williams 5-38, Lozano 4-109, Ramirez 1-17, Cutter Martin 1-6.