Memorial had three complete drives in the third quarter. All three of them ended in touchdowns. Stratford had three complete drives in the third quarter. All three of them were three-and-outs.
That third quarter busted open what had been an evenly matched game and led to the Memorial Mustangs beating the District 17-6A rival Stratford Spartans 31-3 on Oct. 10 at Spring Branch ISD’s Tully Stadium.
Memorial led 7-3 at halftime and received the kickoff to start the second half. The Mustangs preceded to drive 68 yards on five plays. On the fifth play of the drive, Carson Zahn took a handoff, found a hole, and outran the Stratford defenders for a 40-yard touchdown run.
On the second play of Memorial’s next drive, Matthew Sanders similarly found a hole, and, once he had gotten past the first line of defenders, outran the other defenders for a 68-yard touchdown run.
On the second play of Memorial’s next drive, Connor Narsete broke off a 38-yard run. A couple plays later, Sanders capped the 62-yard scoring drive with a two-yard touchdown scramble.
The only points of the fourth quarter came on a 20-yard field goal by Elliot Glatman.
“We were just able to get our hats on them and block them better in the second half,” Memorial coach Gary Koch said. “Give credit to them in the first half. They were making plays, and we weren’t, and we were able to do a little bit better job of staying engaged on our blocks.”
The two teams traded punts for most of the first half. Sean Sheets intercepted Stratford quarterback A.J. Abbott midway through the second quarter. With four minutes remaining in the first half, the Mustang defense forced a fumble, which Patrick Smith recovered at the Stratford 29-yard line.
A 21-yard pass from Sanders to Zahn was most of the yardage on the short scoring drive which Sanders finished with a three-yard touchdown run.
Stratford got the ball back at its own 31-yard line with 58 seconds left in the half. Abbott connected with Darese Steptoe, but the Memorial defense forced a 24-yard field goal attempt, which Keaton Klasing hit with time expiring at the end of the first half.
Stratford’s first first down of the second half came with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Spartans got down to the Memorial two-yard line but were unable to score, turning the ball over on downs.
The two Spring Branch ISD schools are separated by about a six-mile drive.
“It’s a huge rivalry,” Koch said. “Before I became the head coach at Memorial, I was at Stratford for 16 years. This is my 44th one of these games. It’s extremely intense on both sides. They go to junior high together; they’ve known each other since youth. It’s a bragging rights game. There’s no two ways about it.”
Stratford falls to 4-3 and 3-2 in district play. The Spartans next host the Cy-Fair Bobcats on Oct. 19 at Tully Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.
When the two teams met last season, Cy-Fair won 49-18.
Memorial advances to 3-3 and 2-2 in district play. The Mustangs next play at Spring Woods on Oct. 18. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
When the two teams met last season, Memorial won 35-0.
The win was Memorial’s second consecutive after starting the season 1-3. Memorial beat Jersey Village 28-14 on Oct. 3.
“Obviously, right this very moment, we’ve got plenty (of confidence and momentum),” Koch said. “But we have to go to work. This is certainly going to help us as we move into practice. I’ve always been told, wise old coaches told me, it’s a heck of a lot easier to make improvements when you win than when you lose.”
Memorial has four regular season games remaining against Spring Woods, Cypress Ridge, Cypress Creek and Northbrook.
The Mustangs are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2015 season.
Stratford has three regular season games remaining, against Cy-Fair, Cypress Falls and Jersey village.
The Spartans are looking to make the playoffs for the 14th time in 15 seasons.