Stratford Has Key Skill Position Players Returning, But Will It Be Enough To Burst Out Of Tough Houston Playoff Picture In 2017?

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Photo via Craig Moseley, Houston Chronicle

 

Stratford got off to a pretty solid start in 2016. A 2-1 predistrict record is nothing to sneeze at, even though they were shut out by Ridge Point. The Spartans fared well in district play as well, their only losses came to a Klein Collins team that made the semifinals (nearly upsetting title winner DeSoto) and Klein by a score of 10-7.

Then, the Spartans fell victim to the big city curse – facing off against a dominant team in the first round. They drew Spring Westfield, who had shrugged off an 0-3 start to put themselves at 7-3 coming into the contest. The Mustangs nearly blanked the Spartans by a score of 35-3.

Stratford has reason for hope though. Outside of their losses to excellent teams, they were solid, often winning games by multiple touchdowns. If they weren’t in the murderous Houston 6A playoff bracket, there’s an argument that they could’ve advanced a couple rounds further.

Key Losses

DE Sam Miller, MLB Randall Royall, DB Durham Craig, DB Kendrick Dooley WR Jaetavian Toles

Despite having some very good returners on the defensive side of the ball, Stratford will have to rebuild their defense a tad. Sam Miller and Randall Royall were both unanimous first team all-district performers, and Craig and Dooley were part of a secondary that was fantastic in district play. On the offense, the Spartans will lose some off their offensive line, but arguably the biggest hit came with the graduation of Jaetavian Toles.

Key Returners

QB Mark Murdock, RB Chaise Ellis, WR George McGuire MLB Ben Miller, DT Colin Christman-Gourley

Having your quarterback return is always solid, and Stratford returns a good one in reigning first team all-district quarterback Mark Murdock. In the backfield with him will be Chaise Ellie, and George McGuire has significant experience at wide receiver.

Christman-Gourley is back to provide some strength in the middle of that defense, as is district defensive Newcomer of the Year Ben Miller, who has a bright future in front of him at his middle linebacker position.

The Verdict

It’s tough to even attempt to predict Stratford’s 2017 season. They have some key pieces in place to be very good, like their returning quarterback and middle linebacker. They also have some reasons to be worried about a reloading season, such as replacing Miller and Royall in that defensive front seven. I see Stratford having a very similar year to the last one – a solid year with a win rate above .500, but a season cut short due to the murderer’s row that is the playoffs in Houston.

 

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