AMARILLO, TX – After the wait from Thanksgiving evening until Monday evening for confirmation of the next opponent Canadian will face in the Quarter-Final round (Regional Final), the Wildcats now know the Stratford Elks will get a second shot at Canadian by winning the Regional round against Wellington, 42-8.
Texas UIL rules require a five day span between games; making a Saturday game the earliest the next playoff game for the Elks can be scheduled. That schedule, will be Saturday, November 5th, 2:00 P.M at Dick Bivens Stadium in Amarillo for Stratford and Canadian to square off again this season.
The Elks were expected to be in this position from the start of the season. Taking on the Wildcats in their own house was a standing room only affair on October 23th, but the rivalry showdown didn’t quite materialize with Canadian not allowing a score by Stratford until the second half. Even though the Elks held the Wildcats to a field goal in the second half, the 28 points Canadian lit up on their side of the scoreboard in the first half became the spoiler alert for the game-of-the-week that never was.
The major factor that hasn’t gone anywhere in this matchup is the motivation that continues to build for the Elks, especially as they advance into the playoff season improving with each week and each win. Stratford does not envision going to the same movie they saw last season as the Wildcats took them down 51-35 in conference play then humbled the Elks once again in the Regional round with a 34-0 shutout. It appears the Wildcats have collected their payback and more for the 2012 loss to the Elks (13-12) and the next year (2013) having the Elks take another game by only 1point, 22-21 at Canadian.
Stratford was favored in the Regional round game against Wellington, and certainly took care of business with a turnover plagued Skyrocket squad. Elk LB Tanner Stone got the ball rolling, so-to-speak, when Wellington had driven all the way down to the Stratford 3 yard line and with a 4th down try for the end zone, Stone saw a chance to strip the ball of RB Jose Tellez and took it 97 yards for a TD. The Elks would go on to score 28 points on 5 Rocket turnovers.
QB Jack McBryde even made some people rub their eyes in disbelief that they were watching a Stratford offense by throwing 4 TD passes in the same game. He went 5 for 10 and 139 yards with 1 INT. You can just hear old Elk alums now, “Say it ain’t so! Where’s our ground and pound?” You’ve entered the Twilight Zone whenever the Elks pass for 139 yards and rush for 118, but that’s what they did against Wellington Monday night.
But will all of this be enough when lining up against a defense that allows only 7.4 points per game and an offense averaging 53.3 points per game? As much as the Elks have improved since they met last in October, the Wildcats also keep improving.
Elks QB Jack McBryde and his offensive line can’t ignore the fact that the Wildcats 3-man defensive front account for 24 sacks this season alone, then add to that the linebacker and DB blitzes chalking up 20 more sacks. When all of the havoc created by a vicious pass rush isn’t enough, the DBs will be happy to add to their 15 interceptions this season.
Then there’s the fast-to-line-up-quick-snapping NASCAR offense that has also been improving; and unlike the game in October played on a semi-slick rain soaked natural turf at Stratford, this Saturday, in comparison, they’ll be on a race track at Dick Bivins Stadium on Field Turf. Canadian QB Tanner Schafer has reached 3,332 yards of passing. That kind of yardage doesn’t materialize without some very capable receivers like Cameron Copley, Manny Ramsey, Ryan Royse, and Sawyer Cook. If that’s not enough to keep the Elks busy in the film room, they’ll be working on a plan to stop Chance Cook, the premier running back in Class 2A that just happens to take handoffs from Schafer and finds huge holes opened up by his offensive line to the tune of almost 1,700 yards this season.
As is always the case, with the kickoff of the pigskin next Saturday afternoon both teams will be starting at zero. All of the talking and writing and predicting will mean very little in that moment. The only thing that will matter is what the point totals on the scoreboard say when the final buzzer sounds.
By Jerry Brunson, Class 2A and Canadian Wildcat Correspondent
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