Stratford pulls away in second half to beat Wellington, makes state semis


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Stratford quarterback Cody Rinne breaks free for big yards against Wellington during a Class 2A Division II state quarterfinal Friday night at Dick Bivins Stadium. [David Erickson/ Press Pass Sports]

It was as Texas Panhandle as a postseason football playoff game could be Friday night in front of an estimated 6,000 fans at Dick Bivins Stadium, as Class 2A Division II state quarterfinal combatants Stratford and Wellington showed the physical brand of play which has become their trademark and lifted both schools to at least one state championship.

But Stratford’s tradition goes back a little deeper, and the Elks showed that in the second half.

For three quarters, the Elks and Skyrockets scrapped it out in the trenches in a one-score game where every possession took on vital importance. Fortunately for Stratford, the Elks had Cody Rinne and the offensive line on their side which was a huge factor in putting Wellington away in a 26-6 victory.

Stratford (13-1) will take on Albany (13-0) next Thursday at 6 p.m. at Lubbock’s Lowrey Field in the state semifinal game, with the winner heading to Arlington’s AT&T Stadium in less than two weeks for the 2A D-II state championship game.

By now, it’s no secret how the Elks get things done in the postseason, relying heavily on a physical running game and defense. For the second straight game, Stratford quarterback Rinne carried the load on the ground, with his second consecutive four touchdown game, piling up 267 yards on 28 carries and scoring all four of Stratford’s touchdowns.

“We had to grind it out quite a few times,” Stratford coach Matt Lovorn said. “In the second quarter we found something with our passing game as well. We tried to keep it as balanced as we could. I feel like we played as well as we could up front and that’s what won it for us.”

Stratford had the first half edge in yardage and was establishing itself up front on both sides if the football, but it could only translate to a 7-6 halftime lead. The difference was that Stratford’s Andre Duran converted a successful extra point kick after a touchdown.

The Skyrockets (9-4) took advantage of a turnover on Stratford’s first offensive play of the game. Stratford quarterback Cody Rinne fumbled and Wellington’s Rey Ramirez recovered at Stratford’s 32-yard line.

Wellington quarterback Creighton Killian scored on a 1-yard run to give the Skyrockets a 6-0 lead after their two-point conversion run was thwarted. That was all for Wellington’s offense.

“Our kids left it all on the field tonight,” Wellington coach Greg Proffitt said. “That’s all I’m ever going to ask of those guys to play as hard as you could possibly play. When you go to bed at night, know that you did everything you can for yourself, your community, your family and Wellington. That’s a great football team that we lost to.”

The Elks moved the ball fairly well after that but were twice held on downs deep in Wellington territory. Stratford got on the board when Rinne broke loose on a 44-yard run and Wellington was flagged for a late hit, moving the ball to the Wellington 13.

Two plays later, Rinne scored on a 12-yard run for a 7-6 lead after Andre Duran kicked the extra point with 4:05 left in the first half.

That was just the beginning for another huge night for Rinne. In last week’s 56-21 rout of Wink, Rinne accounted for 384 total offensive yards and six touchdowns.

“I think our offensive front and our defensive front is what really made the change,” Rinne said. “There were times when it went back and forth. (The Skyrockets) never gave ground and they kept grounding it. Us backs are just lucky to be along with them.”

Stratford took the second half kickoff and marched inside the Wellington 10, but was stopped on downs, The Skyrockets mustered little offense without starting running back and linebacker Marc Ramirez, who suffered a high ankle sprain against Gruver the week before and wasn’t available.

Rinne then broke the first of two long scoring runs in the second half, as the Elks took advantage of a short field and Rinne scampered 55 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-13.

“Cody’s such a great teammate and the first thing he’s going to do is give credit to his other teammates,” Lovorn said. “I’m really proud of the way he played but it was a great team effort by everybody.”

Early in the fourth quarter, the Skyrockets launched their biggest play of the game, as Killian hit Kayden Valles for a 5-yard gain down to the Stratford 10. But the lost 14 yards on a cut block penalty, and facing a fourth-and-23, an option pass was well off the mark and their last chance to score went by the wayside.

Rinne capped the ensuing drive by scoring on a 12-yard run to make it 20-6 and give the Elks some breathing room. On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Killian launched a bomb which Stratford’s Mauricio Duran intercepted at the Stratford 39.

Rinne then put the frosting on the cake the next play by rambling 61 yards for a score.

“It’s not really been talked about but everybody just knows,” said Rinne of Stratford’s playoff tradition. “It’s not something which is said because it’s just expected of you as a Stratford Elk.”

Stratford had twice as many first downs as the Skyrockets (20-10) and outgained them 405-194.

Stratford 26, Wellington 6

Wellington 6 0 0 0 — 6

Stratford 0 7 6 13 — 26

First Quarter

W – Creighton Killian 1 run (run failed), 5:35

Second Quarter

S – Cody Rinne 12 run (Andre Duran kick), 4:05

Third Quarter

S – Rinne 55 run (kick failed), 4:01

Fourth Quarter

S – Rinne 15 run (Duran kick), 5:29

S – Rinne 61 run (kick blocked), 4:57

Wellington Stratford

First Downs 10 20

Rushing 108 322

Passing 86 83

Total yards 194 405

C-A-I 7-15-2 7-15-1

Punts.-Avg. 4-39.8 0-00.0

Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1

Penalties-yards 6-73 6-36

Individual Statistics

Rushing— Wellington: Barret Phillips 6-18, Killian 17-66, Jordan Nation 3-6, Gumaro Rincon 3-18. Stratford: Rinne 28-267, Dru Jones 3-5, Zane Burr 9-41, Mauricio Duran 1-9.

Passing— Wellington: Killian 7-14-2-86, Carson Tarver 0-1-0-0. Stratford: Rinne 7-15-1-83.

Receiving— Wellington: Nation 3-5, Kayden Valles 3-74, Tarver 1-7. Stratford: Mauricio Duran 1-13, Anastacio Ibarra 1-11, Luke Braden 2-30, Burr 1-3, Jones 2-26.

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