Stratford falls in state title game to Northwestern, 62-35

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) - The Stratford Knights were able to go toe-to-toe with the Northwestern Trojans' offense, but a lack of defensive stops made for an insurmountable deficit in Saturday afternoon's state title game.

The Northwestern Trojans took the lead early and only built on it, winning 62-35.

Turnovers were the name of the game for Stratford. Eight, including four interceptions and two fumbles for Stratford's quarterback, kept the Knights from capitalizing on offense the way they needed to keep pace with the top seed in the division.

After going up 35-14 in the first half, the Trojans started the second half with another touchdown pass from Oklahoma State-bound Mason Rudolph to Quadarius Fair, his second touchdown catch of the afternoon. {}

In another drive, Rudolph connected with Dupree Hart, who already had three touchdown receptions in the first half, pushing the Trojan lead up 49-14. That was Hart's 18th catch of the afternoon.

Stratford responded with a 66-yard pass play from Park to Thad Thompson. A Northwestern fumble put the Knights on the Trojans' 26 yard line, but Park was picked off.

At the end of three quarters, the Trojans had pulled away to a 55-21 lead, fueled by Rudolph's 421 yards on 34-of-50 pass completions.

In the fourth quarter, a trick play got the Knights on the board. A double reverse that led to a touchdown for Chris Allen put the score at 55-27. But that was followed by another interception for Park.

That set up another Rudolph-to-Fair reception, making it 62-28 for the Trojans.

Park and company were able to respond one last time before the final whistle. He connected again with Thompson.

The top-seeded Northwestern team struck early and often Saturday, taking a commanding 21-0 lead on a pair of Hart catches and a run by the Trojans' quarterback, Rudolph.

Hart's first catch was a 21-yard, one-handed reception. On the Knights' first drive, a fumble led to a Northwestern recovery in Stratford territory, which they capitalized on with Rudolph's 19-yard run a touchdown.

In Stratford's ensuing drive, the Knights turned the ball over on downs, which set up Hart's second touchdown of the afternoon.

After struggling to connect to his receivers, Park used his foot speed to take one into the end zone himself, making the score 21-7.

However, Northwestern was able to answer Park's run with another open receiver in the end zone. Rudolph connected with Fair to send the Trojans up 28-7. The Knights were quick to turn that around with their offense firing better than in the first quarter, and Park connected with JJ Givens to keep Stratford within two scores, 28-14.

On the ensuing drive, Rudolph connected again - for the third time of the half - Hart on a diving catch, putting the Trojans up 35-14 as the two teams headed into the locker room.

Rudolph finished the game completing 37 of 59 for 482 yards.