It takes more than just one player to overcome a 17-point deficit in 47 seconds. However, the man who delivered three touchdown passes in that span is at the front of the line for credit.
This was the case for The Classical Academy when they traveled to Pueblo East last week. The Titans – with their unbeaten record on the line – looked to be cooked with less than two minutes left and trailing 33-16.
But three Jantzen Ryals touchdown passes — aided by a fumbled kickoff return, an onside kick, and some great plays by receivers — left both teams dumbfounded.
“I suppose it was like a game that happened years ago when the Buffalo Bills came back from a huge deficit; it was remarkable,” TCA coach David Bervig said. “I felt bad for Pueblo East, because that’s a good team, but they hit a buzz saw in the last two minutes.”
Ryals threw for 395 yards and four touchdowns.
The junior quarterback still hasn’t completely figured out just how it went down.
“I still sit back right now and wonder how in the world that happened,” he said. “The odds were against us but after we recovered the second onside kick, and could take the lead, I thought we could win the game.”
Ryals hit Joey Trese for touchdowns of 60 and 19 yards, sandwiched around a 30-yard score to Connor Cattolica. The 37-33 final score was just another chapter written in what has become an extraordinary season for the Titans.
After going 2-8 last season, nobody outside the program could’ve envisioned a 7-0 start and a top-five 3A ranking in the state.
“This has been a special year for us; after the season we had last year our main focus was not letting it happen again,” Jantzen said. “This team is like a brotherhood and we’ve really been able to bring the school and community together.”
Bervig has known Jantzen since he was in middle school, and he says the fact that Jantzen has been familiar with the high school playbook since eighth grade is one of the main reasons for his success.
“Even as an eighth grader he knew the varsity offense as well as anyone on the actual varsity,” Bervig said. “He’s worked hard and has a quarterback coach he’s worked with for a few years to help with him mechanics. It has become muscle memory; when he has little time to think he’s at his best and it was so crazy in the last two minutes that he was simply responding.”
Jantzen attributes much of his success to his thorough film preparation and his ability to hang in the pocket and make throws.
“I think I have a very good pocket presence,” Jantzen said. “I take hits if I need to for me to get the ball where it needs to go and that separates me from some other guys.”