STRATFORD — It was a high school football version of the tortoise and the hare. And this time the hare won.
Stratford High has a high-powered offense led by Toure Hall, Jason Docteur and quarterback Jack Ryan that relies on making the big play. Pomperaug, meanwhile, plods along with a ground-oriented, clock-controlling approach.
Friday night at Penders Field, the faster, quicker and more explosive Red Devils proved too much for the Panthers and crossed the finish line first in a 20-7 victory.
“They love to throw it and we want to control the clock,” Pomperaug coach James Reed said. “We were doing what we wanted to for a while but coming from behind is not what we do well.”
Pomperaug (2-7, 1-5 SWC) had a 7-0 lead and did a great job keeping Ryan and the Red Devil offense off the field for much of the first half.
Cole McGrath’s 13-yard run gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead with five minutes left in the half. At that point Pomperaug had eight first downs and had run 29 plays from scrimmage while Stratford had zero first downs and seven plays.
The game was unfolding exactly how Reed had hoped. But it was a long race.
“At 7-0, I was very concerned,” Stratford coach Jack Petion said. “We had three possessions and the coaches were looking at each other like, ‘Where did the first half go?.’ It was very cold tonight and our offense struggled, but the kids fought through it.”
And just like that the Red Devils (4-5, 3-4) struck. On the third play after McGrath’s touchdown, Ryan hit Docteur on a 50-yard play, and one penalty and two plays later Hall scored from six yards out. Ryan and Hall then connected on the two-pointer for an 8-7 halftime lead.
Pomperaug did manage two first downs on the second half’s opening drive but eventually punted. And, once again, on the third play it was Ryan to Docteur for 47 yards. Ryan finished 4 for 14 for 126 yards.
“Normally we like (to) pass more but the cold was a factor,” Petion said.
Seven plays after the Ryan-to-Docteur play, Glen Diaz busted in from one yard out and Stratford led 14-7.
The Panthers were now in come-from-behind mode, especially after Hall broke loose on a 74-yard touchdown run with 7:30 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Hall had 92 yards on just five touches while Docteur had three receptions for 118 yards and returned an interception 76 yards.
McGrath rushed for 103 yards on 26 attempts for Pomperaug while quarterback Matt Lenczewski was 6 for 17 for 57 yards.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Docteur caught passes of 50 and 47 yards that set up Stratford’s first two touchdowns, and later made an interception at the goal line and returned it 76 yards.
“No. 7 kept me up all night and all day this week; he’s a heck of a player,” — Pomperaug coach James Reed on Stratford’s Toure Hall, who scored two touchdowns.
CONTROLLING THE CLOCK, NOT THE SCOREBOARD
Pomperaug certainly won the time of possession battle with 16 first downs to six for Stratford, while running nearly twice as many plays from scrimmage (69-35). But the Panthers lost on the scoreboard.
Stratford 20, Pomperaug 7
Pomperaug 0 7 0 0 7
Stratford 0 8 6 6 20
P — Cole McGrath, 13 run (10 kick)
S — Toure Hall, 7 run (Isaac Soto pass from Jack Ryan)
S — Glen Diaz, 1 run (kick blocked)
S — Hall, 74 run (kick failed)
Records: P 2-7, 1-5 SWC; S 4-5, 3-4