With the season less than half over, the District A-5 playoff race is already a logjam.

When most clubs in the nine-team league began district play in Week 2, Stroud and Dewar were considered virtual locks to advance to the postseason, leaving the other seven squads to battle for the district’s final two playoff berths. Friday night, Stratford’s Blackburn Stadium could be a crossroads for two of those teams — the host Bulldogs and old rival Wewoka — on their road to the first postseason appearance for either team in several seasons.

“We feel like we got some stuff to build on for the second half over the last two weeks,” said Stratford coach Michael Blackburn, whose club evened its district record at 1-1 with a 51-14 blowout of A-5 cellar dweller Dibble in Week 3 before dropping a 20-19 non-district heartbreaker at Crescent last Friday night. “It’s an important stretch we’ve got coming up. We’ve just got to get ready. We know this is where we’ve got to get going.”

The Stratford-Wewoka showdown is part of another interesting week for area teams, several of which are facing important district contests. Sulphur, up to No. 6 in Class 2A after manhandling Atoka last week, will continue its District 2A-4 schedule at Marietta Friday before starting a four-week stretch against 2007 playoff teams Tishomingo, Coalgate, Davis and Plainview; Konawa, above .500 in district play for the first time in three years after beating Wayne and Mounds the past two weeks, will host ninth-ranked Dewar; Coalgate, a 55-0 loser at fifth-ranked Plainview last week to fall to 2-2 on the season and 0-1 in 2A-4, hosts another league heavyweight, No. 9 Davis; and Allen — 1-3 after a tough home loss to Bowlegs last week — will travel to Alex for a District B-2 contest.

A Stratford victory Friday — against a 2-2 Wewoka club that is 2-1 in league play after beating Konawa (also 2-1 in the league race) and Dibble the past two weeks — would put the Bulldogs above .500 in district play after three games for the first time since 2006 and could go a long way toward securing the school’s first playoff berth since the 2005 squad finished second in District A-8. Dewar and Stroud are the only unbeatens remaining in A-5, and Stratford could be alone in third place if the Bulldogs can beat Wewoka.

“They’ve got some really good speed,” Blackburn said of the Tigers. “They have two backs who can fly, one good receiver, and their quarterback can throw it a little bit. We’re going to have to play well.”

After Friday’s game, Stratford will meet league doormats Wayne (on the road) and Mounds (at home) and could travel to Dewar on Oct. 24 with a 4-1 league record. A loss, however, would probably drop the Bulldogs into a tie with Konawa and Wynnewood for the fourth playoff spot and give Wewoka the inside track to a third-place finish in the district.

Blackburn said the improving health of sophomore quarterback Chase Chamberlain and senior tailback Austin Black — both slowed by injuries when the season began — has been a major reason for the improvement of his offense the past two weeks after the Bulldogs managed just six points in losses to Coalgate (18-6) and Stroud (28-0) to open the season.

“Austin is probably as close to 100 percent as he’s going to be ... he’s limited a little bit (because of a knee injury), but he’s getting pretty healthy,” Blackburn said of Black, who didn’t start until Week 3 and has rushed for over 100 yards the past two weeks. “Chase (coming off a shoulder injury) is healthy enough that he’s playing defense now. Our passing game still isn’t as good as we would like it to be, but it will get better.

“I feel like we’re getting better offensively,” Blackburn said. “Up front, we’re doing a better job (although center Steven Curry is injured and won’t play this week). We’re still not doing a great job, but we’re doing a better job. we just have to make mistakes and still keep up the effort.”

Stratford’s defense has been the team’s strength for most of the season, although Blackburn said the Bulldogs have still surrendered too many easy scores.

“We’ve given up too many big plays,” he noted. “That’s a place Chase should help, and the other guys are getting better. We had a couple of interceptions last week and a couple the week before.”

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