Underdog Titans set to face Kent Denver
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
PEACH VALLEY, Colorado – Coach Scott Parker had a message for his playoff-bound Coal Ridge football team.
“I told the kids, ‘You’re the first team to go to the playoffs in Coal Ridge history. That’ll never be taken away, but we need to reminisce about that later. This is a new season.'”
The 15th-seeded Titans, in the postseason for the first time in the program’s five-year varsity history, aren’t employing a happy-to-be-there approach as they prepare to face No. 2 Kent Denver at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Coal Ridge (7-3) will be on the road and big-time underdogs in a first-round matchup that pits the Titans against last year’s 2A runner-up.
As Parker’s words suggest, Coal Ridge doesn’t plan on rolling over for the 8-2 Sun Devils, whose stingy defense has allowed just 61 points all season and has pitched six straight shutouts.
“It feels good that we’ve accomplished so many things this season,” Titans junior safety/running back Cody Walls said. “As a team, we’ve come so far since last year. It’s a good feeling, but we want to keep going.”
Advancing won’t be easy. With that shutdown defense and a balanced offense leading the charge, Kent Denver steamrolled its way to a Colorado League title.
After non-league losses to Class 3A Silver Creek and 2A’s top-seeded team, Florence, in the season’s first three weeks, the Sun Devils were unstoppable. Kent Denver hasn’t allowed a point since a 23-13 Week 4 win over Faith Christian – the team that beat Kent in last year’s state title game.
Senior quarterback Richard Yates and junior running back Matt Florence pace the Sun Devils’ offensive attack.
Yates tossed for 1,142 yards and 14 touchdowns on 64-for-117 passing in the regular season. He threw just four interceptions. Florence has racked up 1,084 yards and 15 TDs on 147 carries for a team that’s averaging 33 points a game.
“They’re going to be a tough opponent,” Coal Ridge senior tight end/defensive lineman Austin Strong said. “If we come out and play Coal Ridge football, we can beat them. We’ve just got to play our ball.”
The Titans’ brand of ball is defensive in nature. Coal Ridge is allowing just 13.7 points per contest and boasts five defensive TDs. Walls, whose seven interceptions leads the team, has two of those scores.
Linebacker Bryant Hernandez has five picks and Alex Hunt, Giovanny Hernandez, Anthony Walker and Alex Zupcsek all have three sacks.
Walls leads the offense with 544 yards and four TDs on the ground. Brent Hazzard has 400 rushing yards and three scores to his name.
Those contributions have spurred quite the turnaround in Peach Valley, where the Titans shattered all sorts of team records in 2010. Most notably, the team’s seven wins decimated the previous season-high total of four wins set in 2008.
Senior receiver/cornerback Kyle Kelly credits a unified approach with reversing the program’s fortunes.
“I think we’re playing as one,” he said. “We’re more united this year.”
And they’re more fit.
“All of us seniors got all of us together and started going to the weight room and stuff,” Kelly relayed. “We had a lot of meetings last year, in the spring and the winter, telling everyone to get into the weight room.”
The extra conditioning work paid immediate dividends, first in summer 7-on-7 ball and then with a 4-0 start to the regular season.
Time will tell if the postseason yields more milestones. By simply making the playoffs, the 2010 Titans have already elevated the program’s standards.
“It means a ton,” Walls said. “I mean, it’s helped what we’ve gone through because we don’t want to be there anymore. It makes it feel so much better, and we just want to accomplish so much more.”
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