STRATFORD — Stratford football coach Jack Petion spent all week thinking of ways to stop Joel Barlow’s prolific triple-option offense.
But at halftime Friday he came up with a new strategy: Stop thinking.
It worked perfectly.
Stratford overcame a 16-point halftime deficit — led by quarterback Jack Ryan and wide receiver Toure Hall — rallying to stun Barlow 38-35 after scoring the winning touchdown with 31 seconds reamining.
“I overthought the whole thing,” Petion said. Barlow rushed for 233 yards in the first half and averaged 10 yards per carry. “To be honest, we were scheming up all week how to stop the triple option, but at halftime we just decided to go back to our base defense, and it worked.”
Barlow had just 100 yards rushing in the second half and nearly half (46) came on two carries. The other 20 attempts netted 54 yards (2.6 per carry).
“That,” Barlow head coach Bob Tynan said, referring to Stratford’s new defensive look in the second half, “definitely gave us a misread and helped them.”
Barlow quarterback Trevor Furrer ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the first half on nine attempts. He had 20 yards on nine attempts after halftime.
“At halftime I took the blame,” Petion said. “I told the team I was trying to do too much. So I said let’s just go back to our base and whatever happens, happens.”
The defensive change certainly worked. But the victory would not have been possible without Ryan (21 for 30, 221 yards, three scores) and Hall (8 receptions, 101 yards, three TDs).
After Stratford cut the deficit to 28-18 on 25-yard fumble return by Ray McIlhoney on the second half’s opening kickoff. The Red Devils cut it to 28-25 on a Ryan-to-Hall 6-yard pass.
Then, after Alex Stillman raced 20 yards for a touchdown giving Barlow a 35-25 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Ryan-Hall connection kept on coming. First came a 29-yard score with seven minutes remaining on a fourth-and-8 when the 5-foot-6 Hall outjumped three Barlow defenders for the ball at the goal line.
“(Hall) is a phenomenal player,” Tynan said. “He’s 5-foot-nothing and outjumps three guys. Amazing.”
Barlow then needed to control the clock, but was stopped on fourth down at the Stratford 36 with 3:50 remaining. The Red Devils then converted three third downs and a fourth down to take the lead.
The winner came on a 15-yard Ryan-to-Jasen Docteur pass on third down with 31 seconds left.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
A toss-up between Stratford teammates Jack Ryan (21 for 30 for 221 yards, three TDs) and receiver Toure Hall (eight receptions for 108 yards, three scores).
“We see so many defenses we never know what we’re going to see; everyone has a theory on to defend it,” — Barlow coach Rob Tynan on his team’s triple-option offense.
BACK TO BASICS
Stratford decided to go back to its base defense in the second half and it worked after its intricately-planned strategy failed in the first half.
STRATFORD 38, BARLOW 35
JOEL BARLOW 14 14 0 7 — 35
STRATFORD 6 6 13 13 — 38
B — Will Cusick, 3 run (Mike Puglia kick)
S — Toure Hall, 8 pass from Jack Ryan (pass failed)
B — Hank Shaban, 61 run (Puglia kick)
B — Trevor Furrer, 43 run (Puglia kick)
S — Ryan, 2 run (run failed)
B — Furrer, 20 run (Puglia kick)
S — Ray McIlhoney, 25 fumble return (run failed)
S — Hall, 6 pass from Ryan (Ryan Wechter kick)
B — Alex Stillman, 20 run (Puglia kick)
S — Hall, 29 pass from Ryan (Wechter kick)
S — Jason Docteur, 15 pass from Ryan (kick failed)
Records: S 3-3 (2-2 SWC); JB 3-3 (2-2)