STRATFORD – Laken Dempsey and Gus Smith each netted over 100 yards Friday night as the Stratford Bulldogs rolled to a 28-24 season-opening football victory over the Konawa Tigers.
Dempsey finished with 126 yards on 16 carries and scored off an 8-yard run, and Smith ended up with 110 yards on 16 attempts while scoring off runs of 2 and 9 yards. Smith also accounted for Stratford’s first two points of the game and the season off a safety.
The contest was a back-and-forth affair for mostly three quarters as the Bulldogs outgained Konawa with 312 yards of offense to 232, including a 286-160 advantage on the ground. The Tigers had 72 passing yards to 26 for Stratford.
“The guys showed a lot of grit and determination tonight. It was a good first game for us,” said Stratford head coach Michael Blackburn. “We have a lot of things to try and correct, but it was a good effort against a good Konawa team that kept fighting at the end.”
The safety for the Bulldogs came with 9:30 left in the opening quarter.
But Konawa eventually struck back on a Marshall Howell run with 3:10 left in the first quarter as the point-after kick failed.
Stratford regained the lead when Russell Caton scored from 17 yards out with 7:08 remaining before halftime, as Ty Martin booted the extra point for a 9-6 Bulldog lead. That carry was the only one of the game for Caton.
The Tigers then claimed a 12-9 halftime edge when Isaiah Gore scored the first of his two touchdowns in the game off a 50-yard sprint. The conversion run failed with 3:28 to go in the second quarter.
Smith then scored off a 2-yard run for the only points of the third quarter with 4:04 left. Martin’s PAT made it 16-12.
Then in the fourth, Stratford got just enough separation when Dempsey scored from 8 yards out with 10:10 remaining in the contest. The PAT failed as the score remained at 22-12.
However, Konawa wasn’t through, as Silas Isaacs raced into the end zone from 25 yards out to close the gap to 22-18 with 6:13 to go.
The Bulldogs pretty much kept the game out of reach when Smith scored off a 9-yard scamper with 1:58 remaining. The extra-point kick failed as the score stayed at 28-18.
“We really struggled early to move the ball but were able to get things going a little better in the second half,” Blackburn said.
The Tigers executed a last-gasp effort when Isaacs hooked up with Gore on a 37-yard scoring pass with 24 seconds left, but it was too little, too late.
For Stratford, Dempsey led the way with 13 tackles, Britt Bradstreet totaled 12 and Caton ended up with 11. Smith and Martin registered seven stops apiece.
The Bulldogs, 1-0 on the season, play on Friday at Allen. Konawa fell to 0-2 on the season and hosts Wilburton this week on Homecoming night.