Sam Stratton can still recall the moment vividly.
Midway through his freshman year, Stratton was thrust into the starting quarterback position at Chatfield Senior High School. It certainly was a move he wasn’t expecting.
“I didn’t think I’d be starting until my junior year,” Stratton says now. “Luckily I got in and coach (Bret) McGatlin put me in to get experience.”
In just his second varsity start back in 2006, Stratton scored the game-winning touchdown in the Chargers’ homecoming game against Doherty. From that moment forward, Stratton’s done his part to earn the respect of his teammates.
“At first the older guys were like ‘I don’t have to listen to this kid’,” Stratton said. “After that homecoming game, most of the guys accepted me.”
Good thing for them as Stratton showed real signs of growth last year, guiding the Chargers to a 7-4 record and advancing to the second round of the Class 5A state tournament.
Now entering his second full year as a starter, the 6-foot, 180-pound Stratton knows that he needs to assert himself as a leader on the team.
“The last two years have been spent working towards this moment,” Stratton said. “I’ve had time to get the experience I need; now I need to step up and be a team leader.”
To that point, Stratton spent the offseason honing his skills at a couple of different camps, including one at Oklahoma State University where he had the chance to hang out with current Oklahoma State starting quarterback and Chatfield graduate, Zac Robinson. Stratton’s game is eerily reminiscent of Robinson’s as both are dangerous both with their arms as well as their feet.
Chatfield has revamped its offense this year, moving to more of a shotgun set that should allow Stratton the ability to make better throws, but also give him the time to escape oncoming pass rushers. Robinson thrived in the shotgun his senior year at Chatfield.
“I got to sit in a meeting with Zac and Mike Gundy (head coach),” said Stratton, who also attended an invite-only top-100 camp in California. “It was an awesome experience.”
Stratton and the Chargers opened 2008 on a positive note, defeating Dakota Ridge 24-10 on Aug. 28. Stratton ran for two scores, but did throw three interceptions.
Unlike his freshman year, Stratton now has plenty of weapons surrounding him on the offensive side of the ball. His favorite target is senior wideout, Scott Kellogg.
“He’s one of my best friends,” said Kellogg, who had three receptions for 67 yards and an interception. “We’ve spent a lot of time working together in the offseason.”
The Chargers’ defense looks to be a strong point as they racked up five sacks and held Dakota Ridge’s high-powered offense to just a field goal before the Eagles scored a touchdown late in the game.
Linebackers Zach Moisey and Luke Gregory are ball-hawks, while Tim Torres anchors the defensive line. Shay Borrego returns at kicker and he nailed a 44-yard field goal in the season opener.
“Last year, we had talent but no one gave us a chance,” Stratton said. “Even this year, teams and the media haven’t given us much recognition. We’re ready to prove ourselves.”