STRATFORD- Sunray and Stratford was as good as advertised leaving fans on their feet all the way to the final minutes at historic E.L. Sam Bass Stadium on Friday night.
In the end, it was Elks who were able to sneak away with a victory over their longtime rival getting a late fourth quarter touchdown to edge out a very worthy Sunray squad 23-20.
This was a true tale of two halves with both teams capitalizing on momentum. In the first half, it was Stratford with all the momentum thanks to timely offense and very stout defense.
The Elks (2-0) wasted no time getting on the board on the opening play of the game when quarterback Bryce Braden broke free for a 60-yard touchdown putting the Elks up 7-0. Stratford was able to extend the advantage right before the half when Josue Licon punched a score in from 5-yards out giving the Elks a 15-0 advantage at the break.
However, the second half was a different story. Behind standout quarterback Armando Lujan, the Bobcats (1-1) offense woke up and came out firing. Lujan found Dawson Bennett for back-to-back third quarter scores cutting the deficit, 15-12. To start the fourth quarter the Bobcats took their only lead when Lujan used his feet to scamper in for a score from 5-yards out. After a 2-point conversion the Bobcats were up 20-15 with 11:53 to play.
But the momentum turned back to Stratford at the seven-minute mark. On a fourth down and five at midfield, Sunray elected to go for the first down. Lujan was unable to connect with Damian Barragan as the Elks took over.
“It gave us life when we needed it,” Stratford football coach Jonathan Murphy said. “You take the luck when you can get it and we took it one play at a time and we played our tails off.”
Stratford immediately found like as Braden broke down the sideline for a 25-yard gain. Then five plays later, the Elks regained the lead on a Trey Smith 1-yard touchdown run that gave the Elks the lead for good 23-20 with three minutes to play.
“It was an incredible game,” Murphy said. You go into halftime feeling good about the situation and then you realize you have to keep fighting. We got behind in the fourth but were able to find a way and it was a really good game. It was good for our team to play in a game like this. Hats off to Sunray. They are a good football team.”
Braden carried the ball 15 times for 119 yards with a touchdown. The junior also threw for 58 yards on 6-of-16 completions. Licon added 86 yards on the ground for the Elks with a score of his own. Lujan finished 20-of-32 for 177 yards with two TDs and ran for 75 yards with another score. Arnold Mendoza led Sunray on the ground with 91 yards on 15 carries.