Mount de Sales found itself playing catch-up with Stratford on Friday. And as successful as the Eagles were on the ground, that proved to be a losing venture.
The Eagles controlled the clock and momentum Friday, going on to win 28-14 in claiming their first region championship since 2001.
Although he didnt score for the Eagles, Thomas Williams was the workhorse for the Stratford rushing attack, gaining 118 yards on 19 carries. Eagles quarterback John Mitchell passed for one touchdown and scored on a pair of quarterback sneaks as the Eagles clinched the GISA Region 2-AAA title.
We felt like we could run the ball, Stratford head coach Mark Farriba said. I felt like we were in control most of the time. That was big.
The Eagles improve to 7-2 overall and 4-0 in region play. Mount de Sales is 3-6 overall and 3-1 in the region and can clinch the No. 2 seed in the region and home field in the first round of the GISA playoffs with a win next Friday over Tattnall Square.
The Eagles outrushed the Cavaliers 274-78, snatching control of the game with a lengthy 71-yard, 12-play drive to begin the game and held the advantage the rest of the way. Stratford ended the first quarter ahead 7-0, holding the Cavaliers without a first down or offensive yard. The Eagles led on an 11-yard pass from Mitchell to Jonathan Hefner.
We threw everything we could at them defensively, Mount de Sales head coach Robert Slocum said. They just controlled the line of scrimmage and controlled the clock and moved the ball up and down the field on us.
That lead worked to Stratfords favor with the Cavaliers playing from behind for most of the rest of the night. But the Cavaliers battled back in spite of the early deficit, putting together a long drive of their own. Mixing up the running of fullback Alex Sands and playmaking ability of quarterback Reed Ely, the Cavaliers moved downfield, facing a fourth down at the Stratford 23-yard line. Mount de Sales gambled, and the play call paid off as Elys pass connected with Carson Leatherwood, who escaped the reach of the Eagles defense to score and tie the game.
The Eagles bounced back. Four plays after the kickoff, a handoff to Austin Devenney allowed him to find an outside crease all the way down the sideline for a 47-yard touchdown and 14-7 Stratford advantage.
Devenney struck big for another run in the second half, another 47-yard scamper which advanced the ball to the Cavaliers 1. That set up a 1-yard keeper by Mitchell, and Stratford led 21-7 with 8:30 to go in the third quarter.
He really stepped up, Farriba said of Devenney. He was big, very big.
Mount de Sales answered again. Sparked by a Leatherwood kickoff return past midfield, the running of Sands and Ely fueled a steady drive kept alive by a third-down pass from Ely to Sands. Then, facing another third down, this time at the Stratford 3, Ely found Voris Bryant for the score, reducing the Eagles lead to a touchdown again, 21-14.
But Stratford kept the hammer down, grinding out a long drive of 76 yards that began late in the third and was kept alive by a 15-yard run by Williams. It set the stage for another 1-yard keeper by Mitchell, and Stratford led 28-14.
The Eagles defense sealed the win. It ended one drive with a sack of Ely while also ending two last-ditch offensive drives by the Cavaliers with interceptions by Sean Grossnickle and Morgan Sowell.
Offensively, they took us out of our game plan and forced us into playing catch up, Slocum said.