Friends and rivals.
That’s who will line up against each other Friday night when Tattnall Square and Stratford face off for the GISA Class AAA title. And that’s just the way Andrew Layson likes it.
“We’re playing against people we grew up with, people we’ve known our whole lives,” said Layson, Tattnall’s starting fullback and defensive end. “That makes it even more exciting than just playing for a state championship. Everyone is really looking forward to this game.”
Tattnall, which will host the game, has 10 state titles but none since 2007. Stratford has eight but none since 2004. Tattnall leads the all-time series 24-19, but Stratford has won two of the three times the teams have faced off for a state title.
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“You tend to have a lot more knowledge about them since it’s two local teams,” Tattnall head coach Barney Hester said. “The guys will be playing against someone they know really well. A lot of these guys are friends, and that adds a different flavor to the game.
“Both teams know what the other one will try to do.”
Looking at the statistics, it’s pretty simple to figure out what these teams like to do. Both teams focus their offense on their running games, and that won’t change with a championship on the line.
Stratford (11-1) has rushed for 3,878 yards this season and has scored 425 points (an average of 35.4 per game). Tattnall (10-2) has rushed for 3,478 yards and scored 415 points (34.6 per game).
Austin Simmons leads the Stratford rushing attack with 1,719 yards, while Ken Spears has 1,145. For Tattnall, Clay Humphries has 996 yards, and Layson has 994.
“It’s football; neither team is going to change for this game,” Stratford head coach Rodney Collins said. “We’re going to do what we do, and they’re going to do what they do. Who does that best is going to win this game, and that’s the way it should be.”
Tattnall hasn’t lost to Stratford since 2004 and won the regular-season meeting 27-7 just a few weeks ago. The Trojans have won 10 straight games since opening the season with back-to-back losses.
Stratford won its first eight games before losing to Tattnall and has responded to that loss with three straight wins, including a victory last week at Deerfield-Windsor, last year’s state champion.
Stratford is playing in the title game for the first time since 2004, while Tattnall played in the championship game last year.
“We’re looking forward to playing them for a state title, but we’re just excited to have this chance, to be honest,” Collins said. “We both know each other so well. It should be an exciting game.”