Macon – Stratford appeared ready to do what it expected to do after an eight-play 55-yard scoring drive that took up nearly four minutes in the first quarter.
And that would be to get a stop, and start grinding things out against First Presbyterian Day in their GHSA Region 7B-A matchup.
But FPD struck back with a 70-yard touchdown pass from Dalton Cox to Titus Moore on the second play of the second quarter.
Then Stratford started doing what it planned on, turning in time- and energy-sapping drives and playing physical defense en route to a 28-7 win over the rival whose campus is less than two miles away.
“The touchdown pass they had early in the game, that was a big play for them,” Straford head coach Mark Farriba said. “Us being able to come down and answer right after that was a key turning point in the game. They score and tie it up and you got three and out or turn it over, and all of a sudden …”
Stratford, ranked seventh in the AJC Class A private poll and sixth in the GHSA’s Class A private power poll, improved to 7-0 (3-0 in region) with its seventh straight win by at least 11 points and fourth win by three touchdowns or more. FPD fell to 5-2 (2-1 in region) as its four¬-game winning streak came to an end with its fourth consecutive loss to the Eagles.
The Eagles came in with a grinding wing-T offense while the Vikings countered with a pass-oriented scheme, led by Dalton Cox, who entered the game in the top 30 in the state with 1,456 passing yards.
Cox had a rhythm in the first half, passing for 166 yards and helping the Vikings stay within 14-7 at the break with only one three-and-out. Titus Moore had eight catches, four in the first half, for 157 yards.
“We felt pretty good at halftime, to be honest with you,” FPD head coach Greg Moore said. “We had a chance.”
But Stratford, upended in the second round of last year’s playoffs by Tattnall Square, got rolling a few minutes into the third quarter and took control.
“We got a stop right off the bat,” Moore said. “But we didn’t do anything with it on offense.”
And paid for it soon enough. Tyler Jordan’s 45-yard run down the left side set up Deondre Duehart’s 16-yard touchdown two plays later for a 21-7 lead at the 6:15 mark of the third quarter.
The defense forced its second three-and-out, then gave up two first downs before Jamie O’Quinn picked off Cox’s off-balance throw. Four plays later, Jonathan Siegel had a remarkably easy 5-yard touchdown run around the right side against the tiring Vikings defense.
A humid night helped Stratford wear down FPD a little more. Duhart had 129 yards on 21 carries, Jordan 120 on 12, and Siegel 90 on 10. Cox finished 16 of 31 for 215 yards and an interception.
“They’ve got a very good football team,” Moore said. “They’re very tough up front on both sides of the ball, and it caused us a lot of problems.”
Stratford didn’t have a negative play in the first half while FPD was held to zero yards rushing. The Vikings managed only three first downs in the second half as Stratford’s defense, including Stanford commit Tobe Umerah, kept control.
“This was sort of the script we wanted, other than the one big play,” Farriba said. “We wanted to make them earn stuff and not give up the big play.
“It’s just crucial that we have to control the line, we have to control the clock, we have to control the ball and play from ahead. In that respect, it was what we hoped we’d do.”