One step ahead: FPD takes over the series advantage with a win over Stratford

Winning any rivalry game gives a team bragging rights.

FPD just earned those for the foreseeable future.

The Vikings scored 27 second-half points, including 14 in roughly a minute-long span in the fourth quarter, to pull away from rival Stratford for a 27-6 region win on Friday at George S. Johnson Memorial Stadium. The win broke an 18-18-1 series tie and — barring a playoff rematch — the two schools won’t play for a while with FPD headed to the GHSA next year.

“Stratford is a great school with a great people,” FPD head coach Greg Moore said. “Their coach is an absolute class act. We won another game in a great rivalry. Only time will tell if it means something more than just another win in the series.”

FPD (7-1, 1-0 GISA Region 2-AAA) unleashed its potent rushing attack at the start of the second half, turning a scoreless game into a showcase for its option offense.

The Vikings averaged 8.3 yards per carry in the second half while racking up 208 yards on the ground. It was a stark contrast to a 4.5-yard per carry average in the first half.

But the game remained in doubt until fullback Nick Mullis scored on touchdown runs of 36 and 26 yards in a span of 1:12 late in the fourth quarter.

“The line just blocked great, and I ran as hard as I could,” said Mullis, who finished with 94 yards on seven carries. “It’s Stratford, so this is a huge win.”

The runs, which were separated by an interception by Vikings defensive back Kyle McCallum, broke open a game that FPD led 13-6 with less than six minutes to play in the game.

“Stratford played great on defense,” Moore said. “They deserve credit. They played with a lot of emotion. We told our guys at the half that we thought we could do some good things on offense.”

The FPD offense got its chance quickly in the second half after Stratford fumbled on the first offensive play in the third quarter.

The Vikings, who had moved inside the Stratford 20-yard line just once in the first half, quickly ended the scoreless game with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Smith to Tyler Harden with 9:12 to play in the third quarter. It was a short, six-play, 41-yard drive, but the Vikings did convert a fourth-and-3 situation on the drive on a quarterback keeper by Smith.

“You can’t come out of the half in a scoreless game and give the other team momentum,” Stratford head coach Rodney Collins said. “That turnover hurt us, and then we didn’t convert when we had our chances.”

FPD scored again on its next drive — one which had runs of 33, 16 and 12 yards, respectively — on a 3-yard run by Smith.

Stratford answered with its only points on the ensuing drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass from John White to Christopher Geeslin.

It was, however, the Eagles’ only other strong scoring opportunity after they squandered a chance at points in the second quarter.

Stratford drove the ball on the legs of all-state running back Marquez Lemon — he finished with 173 yards on 33 carries — down to the FPD 5-yard line at the start of the second quarter. The Eagles were set to go for it on fourth-and-4, but had a false start move them back to the FPD 10. Stratford kicker Ryan Ridley just missed a 27-yard field goal on the next play to keep the game scoreless.

Lemon’s hard running kept the Eagles close for much of the game. He carried the ball on 33 of the Eagles’ 50 offensive plays.