Published: September 25, 2013
Their sprawling campuses sit not quite three miles apart in far northern Colorado Springs. In Academy School District 20, no two schools reside closer than The Classical Academy and Discovery Canyon.
Sure, fundamental differences certainly exist between TCA, a charter school, and its public school neighbor.
But when it comes to building a high school varsity football program, the business models of these K-12 schools almost mirror each other: start early, build continuity and develop a structure that fosters stability and growth to hopefully cultivate success.
"There is something to be said about continuity and cohesiveness," said Discovery Canyon coach Shawn Mitchell, who has been there since the first steps in 2008. "The guys we're coaching as seniors, they've been in that system for a long time. There is a benefit in that. And they're (TCA) just like us in that we're both in a good spot. We both have our eyes on a league championship."
When TCA (3-1) and Discovery Canyon (4-1) meet for the fifth time at 7 p.m. Friday at District 20 Stadium, more than neighborhood pride will be on the line. For the seniors, it'll highlight as many as six years running their respective high school programs, going back to middle school.
"It's been the same kids all along," Titans senior lineman Ethan Clark said. "Being on the same campus, it has made the transition to high school easy. Plus, it's an awesome bond. For six years, we've pretty much had 20 guys moving up together. We trust each other and work together really well by now."
TCA has won three of the previous four matchups, most recently an 18-15 home victory in the season's fifth week in 2012. After that, both teams went on to win their respective league titles and earned home games in the first round of the 3A playoffs.
Prior to last season, however, both schools found tough times - the Titans went 2-8 and the Thunder struggled to a 3-7 campaign - but kept their eyes on the big picture. On both campuses, the junior high programs seamlessly transition into the high school, without changing schools and getting to know new kids and coaches.
"It's a pretty unique situation that I can be standing on a high school practice field, and I can look down and see our middle school games and practices," Mitchell said. "That's not something you see at a lot of places, and is not something that existed earlier."
Two years ago, Discovery Canyon scored its only victory in the series, a 28-14 win. The tables turned last season. Players on both side, especially the seniors, know the feeling of both results.
On Friday, there's one last chance for several to end out on top. Even if it's not a league game.
"I would imagine they want to take revenge," TCA senior quarterback Janzten Ryals said. "It's super fun to play a team that's just a crosstown rival. We both get excited to play each other, but we have to treat this like we would treat any other team. But because they're a rival, that gives us more motivation."
For one week, Titans coach David Bervig knows he can rest his voice. Until game time, that is.
"These kids know each other a lot," said the second-year coach, who previously served as a coach in the sixth-grade program. "There's a lot of pride in this game. Both schools want to show up and really hit each other in the mouth, in a football standpoint. As a staff, we don't have to get them up for this one."