When asked about the importance of playing football at Stratford Academy, which meets Mount Paran in the round of eight in the GHSA A-Private school state playoffs, defensive end/offensive lineman Sammy Martin gave an answer that really could not have been much better.
“It has been a great time in my life and I am just happy I got the chance to be a part of Stratford football,” Martin said. “It has been our motto that we are playing for the name on the front of our jersey and not the back, and we feel like we are playing for everyone who ever played football in the last 50 years at Stratford. We play for the entire school and we don’t want to let each other down, and we sure don’t want to let our coaches down.”
Stratford is coming off of a 36-22 win over Fellowship Christian, but Martin knows that the Eagles will have to be better than they were in that game if they want to take down Mount Paran, which comes into the game at 11-1. “I would say that we played OK against Fellowship, but we all know we have to play our best game to beat Mount Paran,” Martin said. “I don’t think we have played that well in the last three games, but I do believe we are ready to play our best game. There is no doubt in my mind we are ready to do that.”
Stratford had battled through some injuries lately, but almost everyone was back for the Fellowship Christian game, including linebacker/tight end Larson McDaniel, who had a huge 37 yard reception on the drive that put away Fellowship Christian. “I think I have six career receptions and the 37-yard one was easily the biggest catch of my career, said McDaniel, who missed the Tattnall and Aquinas games with a high ankle sprain. “I was very anxious to get back on the field last week and it was a great win for us, but we don’t feel like we are done. Mount Paran is physical, fast, intelligent and well-coached, but I know that we will leave it all on the field on Friday night.”
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McDaniel knows that his football career is almost over, and admits he has thought about that just a little. “I mean I know I will be disappointed when it’s over, but I have had a great time and I have absolutely no regrets,” McDaniel said. “I am just happy I have been able to be a started for a great school for the last four years.”
Mount Paran has won eight straight games and advanced to the round of eight with a 53-12 win over Mount Vernon. “They are similar to us because they are a run-oriented team,” Stratford head coach Mark Farriba said. “We will tweak a few things and maybe add a few things, but we will pretty much stick to what got us here. We gave up some big plays the last time we played and hopefully we can clean that up a little bit, and hopefully we are ready for this challenge. I feel good about the way this team has progressed and it is always a great thing to be playing football this late in the year.”