Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Stratford Heads to Reliant

Hundreds of fans crowd the stadium stands in a shade of green that can only represent the Stratford High School Spartans. Huddled together in 39-degree weather, students, parents, alumni, staff and other local supporters cheer the varsity football team on as Stratford beat Dawson Pearland, 38-7, in the fourth round of 4A Division I playoffs.

At the forefront of the action Dec. 7 was Stratford senior David Bartell chanting towards the crowd and directing cheers from the football field — Bartell is the embodiment of Spartan school spirit.

This Friday, he’ll be firing up the crowd inside Reliant Stadium as the Spartans face off against San Antonio Brennan the state semifinals game, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Three years ago, Bartell ordered Spartan head gear from a college-related online site and then wore it to a Stratford soccer game. People smiled, and a few commented nicely. His sidelines-stationed, football-suited No. 60 persona topped off with the Spartans beanie really caught on fire as the team moved forward during the fall playoffs, however.

Bartell has played football for the past three years at Stratford, but due to an early injury this year, he had no option but to stop playing. But instead of leaving the sport behind entirely, he decided to find his own way to contribute to team success — he chose to get the crowd loud.

 “I want to support Stratford High School any way that I can. I’m known at school as that guy with the big smile. I’m the happiest guy you will meet in the hallway,” he says.

Bartell’s cheers have been adopted by students, which he notes as the key to his success and sideline fame. “I stand on the bench and like to lead students. Once our student section gets into the game, that spirit definitely helps support the team,” he says.

Bartell isn’t the only Spartan rallying up for the football team. At the Dawson Pearland game on Dec. 7, the Stratford drum-line performed on the field in front of the student section during the third quarter bringing many students to their feet and increasing the volume to an all-time high.

“David and the drum line were responsible for a lot of the cheering at the last playoff game. He [David] has been a huge supporter of Stratford sports since we were freshmen so it is cool to see him cheer on his own teammates with such enthusiasm. I think the whole student section looks forward to his presence at the games now,” Stratford senior Meredith Burch says.

Multiple students waved large Spartan flags in the stands, two senior boys ran similar flags up and down the field, and several other teens held up giant posters they made for their favorite players.

For Bartell, Saturday’s game is still a fond memory. “It was huge,” he says. “When that clock hit zero, joy filled our hearts. We’ve had a really great ride.”

He is headed next year to Oklahoma University, where Bartell plans to major in business. Both an older brother and two sisters are Stratford High graduates, too.

Heading into the State 4A semifinals, a milestone that hasn’t been reached since 1987, the entire school seems to be filled with seasonal cheer and football excitement and joy.

“Our whole school is thrilled to be going to the semifinals for football. We weren’t alive the last time that Stratford made it this far into the playoffs, so it is a really big deal for us,” Stratford junior Emily Brown said.

San Antonio Brennan and Stratford are 1-2 in the state for defensive scoring and both teams have been noted this season for their strong offenses—it should be a good game, all agree. To claim good seats, fans might want to arrive early.

Game tickets will be pre-sold daily through Friday at 4:30 p.m. at the SBISD Athletics Complex located at 1050 Dairy Ashford.  Presale adult tickets are $10; Students $5. At Reliant Stadium, tickets will cost $14. Paid parking is $10 at Reliant Stadium.

If Stratford defeats San Antonio Brennan on Friday, the team will advance to the 4A Division I State Championships on Dec. 20 at the AT&T stadium in Arlington. Let’s plan for a happy new year. David Bartell and Spartan Spirit will lead us on!

Stratford will face Brennan in the 4A D1 State Semifinals at Reliant Stadium on Fri. , 12/13, at 7:30pm.

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Communications intern Kali Venable compiled and wrote this story


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