Through the last two games The Classical Academy football team has outscored opponents 103-27.
But despite the offensive uptick, the Titans expect a battle on Friday as they host Elizabeth in their biggest 2A Tri-Peaks test of the year.
A year ago Elizabeth claimed a 7-3 win over TCA in a game in which the weather was not kind to the Titans passing game, but on Friday coach Justin Rich hopes to air it out with a new starting quarterback.
Senior Hayden Cooper, a wide receiver and a kicker, stepped in under center for the first five games of the season, but sophomore Sam Guilez returned last week, throwing for 159 yards and two touchdowns.
“That’s a hard thing to do, so getting Sammy back gives us a more traditional quarterback at that position,” Rich said. “And that puts Hayden Cooper out there as a wide receiver and he’s dynamic athlete and a good target. That alone is going to help us out.”
Cooper averaged just 17 passing yards per game as the Titans relied on their run game, led by sophomore running back Cade Palmer, who is 83 yards shy of 1,000 on the season.
“Cade is a dynamic athlete, really fast and good vision,” Rich said. “He can turn a 5-yard gain to a 55-yard gain with that kind of speed.”
Cade’s brother Cole leads the Titan defense with 50 tackles and four sacks — and the speed to hunt down a runner if needed.
“Cole is as fast as just about anyone on our team, so he makes us right a lot of times if we mess up on our gap sound. We are very lucky to have those two guys,” Rich said.
Gap control will be important Friday as the Titans face a balanced offense and a true dual-threat quarterback in Vince Weber.
Weber, a senior, has 546 passing yards and leads the team in rushing with 250. The Cardinals have four other backs with more than 130 yards and three or more rushing touchdowns.
“Balance is the key right now,” said Elizabeth coach Michael Zoesch “We have multiple kids who can run and receive and we are the best when we can stay balanced. We have multiple guys who can run and catch the ball and we have a bunch of different threats.”
At 5-1 Elizabeth is in the midst of its best start since the program’s 2010 3A state championship run, with its defense earning the credit, according to Zoesch.
“Our defense has been playing so well and that’s kind of what we are leaning on,” Zoesch said. “Our kids are riding high right now. Defensively we know we can compete with anybody but TCA is going to be a tough one for us. But the kids are confident, playing hard and doing things well defensively.”
The Cardinals are fresh off a 7-6 win over La Junta, the reigning 2A state champions. Elizabeth blocked a point-after attempt early, and held the Tigers with two red-zone stops, including one late the third quarter with La Junta on the 2-yard line to hang on to the one-point lead.
“We had our backs against the wall and the kids stepped up,” Zoesch said. “Our kids weren’t doing anything different, but it was so impressive because La Junta is so tough running the ball in those situations. Our kids took the challenge and rose to it.”
The Cardinal defense has held teams to a combined 13 points through the last three games. They are led by sophomore Ryan Connelley with 41 tackles. Senior Cole Morse has 20 tackles including five for a loss and three sacks.