Titans show mettle in loss vs. Sun Devils
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
ENGLEWOOD, Colorado – Cody Walls wants what Kent Denver has. The Coal Ridge junior wants a team that’s a virtual lock to make the 2A football playoffs year in and year out.
Walls and the Titans took a stride in that direction on Saturday, making their postseason debut at Kent Denver’s DeSo Field. It wasn’t a victorious debut, but Coal Ridge hung with last year’s state runner-up in a 20-7 defeat.
And it’s a defeat Walls and his teammates gleaned much from.
“It’s a very great experience,” he said. “You know, you just have to bring your ‘A’ game [in the playoffs]. Kent Denver comes here every year. They know what to expect. I feel like we’ve learned a lot from this.”
The Titans, in just their fifth season of varsity play, were left to reflect on what’s been a banner season for the program. Their 7-4 record is the best the team’s ever produced – by far.
“Our goal was to get to the championship game, but we did make the playoffs for the first time,” Coal Ridge senior Bryant Hernandez said. “That’s good, too. I think it’ll sink in when we settle down a little bit and get back to school.”
On a frigid Saturday in Englewood, the 15th-seeded Titans just couldn’t muster much in the way of offense against one of the stingiest defenses in the state, rushing for 65 yards and throwing for 103. A good chunk of those yards came on a 61-yard touchdown connection between quarterback Robby Moore and Cameron Cotton on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Cotton, who hauled in Moore’s pass and the darted up the right sideline and into the end zone, was the first Kent Denver opponent to put points on the board in a span of six games and 28 quarters. Faith Christian was the last to score on the Sun Devils. That was way back in the third quarter of a game played on Sept. 25.
“We kind of let them off the hook on that one play,” Kent Denver coach Scott Yates said. “You kind of figure that’s going to happen at some point during the season.”
Entering Saturday’s game, Yates’ squad had allowed just 61 points all season.
“I’d say our defense is the No. 1 thing we take pride in,” Sun Devils junior Matt Florence said. “It’s like everything we do. We were a little angry at ourselves when we gave up that touchdown. We were keeping a pretty good zero streak there.”
The Sun Devils, seeded second in the 16-team 2A bracket, have plenty of offensive weapons, too.
And Florence, a cornerback on defense and running back on offense, might be the best of them. The shifty back rushed for 170 yards on 37 carries and caught four balls for 44 yards against the Titans.
Quarterback Richard Yates completed 12 of 20 passes for 143 yards. The senior found Jack Addy with a 10-yard TD pass in the third quarter and ran in a score from a yard out in the second.
Brannon Jones had an 11-yard TD run in the second as the Sun Devils scored the game’s first 20 points.
Some red-zone issues aside – most notably a first-half fumble inside the 5-yard line – Kent Denver moved the ball with relative ease, racking up 286 yards on the ground and 143 through the air.
“A lot of the game we were moving the ball,” Yates said. “We’d get into the red zone and stumble a little bit. That part was frustrating, and we talked about it at halftime.”
After Cotton’s TD, the Sun Devils were able to ice the game with a 19-play drive that ticked nearly 10 minutes off the clock. While the drive ended with a turnover on downs, it kept the ball out of the Titans’ hands.
Brent Hazzard rushed for 50 yards on 12 totes to lead the Coal Ridge offense. Moore completed 7 of 14 passes for 103 yards. Cole Ryan and Giovanny Hernandez recovered fumbles for the Titans.
“We came to the big city and played a team that’s in the playoffs year after year,” Coal Ridge coach Scott Parker said. “We fought them to the bitter end.”
Next up for Kent Denver (9-2) is a date with seventh-seeded Aspen (9-2) in next weekend’s state quarterfinals.
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