A decade ago at this time, Chance Harridge was finishing his run as three-year starter as Air Force quarterback, chewing up opposing defenses by executing the patented Fisher DeBerry flexbone, triple-option offense.
Now as a volunteer quarterbacks coach at The Classical Academy, he hopes his perspective can help his Titans when they meet one of the few teams that still runs the flexbone, No. 2-ranked Palisade, in a 3A quarterfinal game at 7 p.m. Friday at Stocker Stadium in Grand Junction.
"It's kind of ingrained into my mind in how the option works, and what you want to do," said Harridge, now a captain in the Air Force who teaches cadets to fly after previously accounting for 50 total touchdowns from 2001-03. "I see it from an offensive standpoint. Working with the defensive coaches, it's playing assignment football, having everyone accounted for."
TCA (9-2), ranked No. 7 in the playoffs, won its first playoff game in school history Nov. 8 by holding off No. 11 Conifer, 14-12. One week later, the Titans embark on their longest football trip, a 311-mile trek in hopes of achieving the program's first road victory in the postseason.
The Titans will be tasked with finding a way to slow down the Bulldogs, who average 332 rushing yards and more than 42 points per game. Longtime coach Joe Ramunno, the brother of Lewis-Palmer football coach Tony Ramunno, returned to Palisade this season, where he won four consecutive state championships in the 1990s. He previously coached football at Colorado Mesa University for 14 seasons.
Knowing how Palisade operates on offense is one thing. The hard part, however, will be transferring the practice techniques to the playing field, where it'll count the most.
"There offense is very impressive," Titans coach David Bervig said. "High school kids in general have a hard time with this kind of offense. We've got to be disciplined. If not, it'll be a long night. Chance has been a great resource to get ready for seeing the flexbone."
For Titans quarterback Jantzen Ryals, his new coach is more just than a resource.
"When I was in kindergarten and first grade, coach Harridge was my hero," Ryals said. "We would go to Air Force games a lot, and I thought he was the coolest guy ever. I actually had a poster of him in my room when I was a little boy. When I found out he was going to be coaching us, I thought it was awesome, and I was super excited to start working with him."