An expectant tense atmosphere transformed into a non-event Nov. 3 when the Stratford Spartans pounded the playoff-bound Tomball Cougars, 51-23 at Spring Branch ISD's Tully Stadium.
As key college showdowns (Texas/Texas Tech, Notre Dame/Pitt, Oregon/USC) played out across the country, Coach Danny Ramsey's Redcats were stalked and stymied by a big, physical, veteran-coached squad on a postseason path of their own. The dominating effort clinched second place for the Spartans (7-2, 5-2) in District 22-4A play. Tomball (4-5, 4-2) will be the third seed from the district.
"They did a great job with schemes that shouldn't have given us trouble," Ramsey said. "Our kids just blinked, that's all it was."
Stratford stormed to an insurmountable 42-0 lead by the end of the first half, and was essentially assured of victory when they went up 21-0 at the beginning of the second quarter. Freshman tailback Rakeem Boyd ignited the Spartans' rout with more than 100 yards rushing and one touchdown in the first quarter.
The Spartans found the end zone after drives of 74, 57, 80, and 52 yards to start the game. And when senior quarterback Travis Hanes connected with junior tight end Jack Brice for a 61-yard catch-and-run with 5:02 left in the first half, the fat lady was already in full song. After a four-and-out by the Cougars, Boyd took four carries to put the contest out of reach with 1:58 left in the half.
The Cougars, meanwhile, managed only one first down by halftime and had only 48 yards of offense to nearly 350 for the home team, when the school bands began to play what should have been postgame entertainment.
"We didn't bring any game in the first half," Ramsey said. "We weren't here to play."
Tomball outscored the Spartans 23-9 in the second half as Stratford played many of their reserves and the Cougar defense stopped the Spartans on downs for the first and only time of the evening during their last possession of the game.
The Cougars scored on drives of 74, 75, and 59 yards in the second half to preserve a degree of offensive integrity, but the outcome had long since been decided.
"I could make a lot of excuses," Ramsey said. "The bottom line is, we just didn't play well."
Tomball and Tomball Memorial, which surprised Ft. Bend Willowridge 30-27 on Nov. 2, began their new rivalry series on Friday, Nov. 9. The Cougars defeated Tomball Memorial 49-6 and will take on Houston Reagan at Tomball ISD Stadium Thursday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. Look for game recaps of both contests in the next issue of the Tribune.