Road wars: Titans hope to turn it around tonight

The Titans' Quantavian Moore tries to avoid a Hickory tackler during last Friday's 20-14 loss to Hickory. The Titans travel to St. Stephens tonight (Friday, 7:30 kickoff).

Titans hope to turn things around tonight

On paper, it went down as a loss, and it was a painful one for the McDowell Titans, but there were some definite positives from the Titans’ 20-14 loss to Hickory last Friday.

After all, McDowell had its chances to tie or win the game, driving to the Hickory 13 in the final minute of play before a potential game-winning drive sputtered and the Titans turned it over on downs.

Along the way, McDowell managed to sustain some long possessions, converted several clutch third- and fourth-down situations, and held Hickory to a pair of field goals and two long scoring runs by running back Cody Young, who, literally, does that to every team the Red Tornadoes play.

“It was a heartbreaker,” said Titans head coach Darrell Brewer, whose team is on the road at St. Stephens tonight (7:30 kickoff). “It was a tough one to take as hard as the boys played. They played their tails off and I just hate it for the kids. But I told them Monday morning, I’m proud of them. That’s the best game we’ve played this year. It’s like, can’t we get one break?”

Tonight would be a great time for a few breaks. The Titans (1-4 overall, 0-1 Northwestern 3A/4A Conference) will be on the road for the first time since the season opener Aug. 23 at R-S Central against the Indians (2-3, 0-1). Breaks — turnovers, penalties, big plays — may be especially important Friday. The two teams have met only twice, the last two seasons, and those two games have been decided by a total of six points.

“They’re a good football team,” said Brewer. “They’re a lot like us. They like to hit you on the head and hit you up the gut. They do a lot of the same stuff we’re doing.”

That ‘stuff’ worked well enough for the Indians to hold a 12-8 lead on a tough Freedom team last Friday before the Pats scored 40 straight points en route to a 48-12 victory.

The Indians have some solid athletes, especially at the skill positions.

Junior quarterback Connor Williams (6-4, 190) is 51-of-85 passing for 576 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions. His primary target is senior receiver Zach Lee (6-4, 185), who has caught 34 of those aerials for 444 yards and five scores.

The leading ground gainer is junior Zak McLaughlin (5-6, 160), who has rushed for 554 yards and four TDs on 96 carries. Senior Matthew Houck (5-11, 210) has rushed for 313 yards on 69 attempts.

Senior inside linebacker Hayden Kerley (6-3, 180) is the leading tackler with 76 stops, including two tackles for losses. Junior linebacker Zane McPherson (5-11, 175) has made 51 tackles.

McDowell will answer with a pair of quarterbacks, both of whom saw time under center against Hickory and are expected to split time Friday, according to Brewer.

Sophomore Gabe Marsh made his first start of the year, and junior Riley Moore (22-53, 265 yds., 3TD, 3INT) took some snaps as well as giving the Titans an added dose of speed on the edge at wide receiver.

At times against the Red Tornadoes, the Titans effectively utilized a power set with Richard Handy (6-3, 230) and lineman Troy Harris (5-11, 270) at the fullback spots. Handy ended up leading the team with 61 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Brewer said McDowell may not use the exact same formation Friday, but is experimenting with various aspects of the power game.

The Titans likely need a solid performance from leading rusher Quantavian Moore (77-475-4TDs) against St. Stephens. Moore struggled to get free and find the corner against Hickory, rushing for only 40 yards on 18 carries.

Defensively, McDowell got a big game from linebacker Max Cable, who made a team-high 13 tackles and a sack last Friday. Jacob Pearson added seven stops, including two for losses, and Seth Baird made seven tackles as well. Bryson Effler picked off his second pass of the year.

Junior linebacker Harley Allison leads the team with 58 tackles on the season. Pearson has made 48 stops and is tied with Handy for the team lead in tackles-for-loss with four.

The two teams match up well on paper, and the results of the last two games between them, a 40-36 Titan loss last year and a 19-17 defeat the year before, hint at the possibility of another close game this week.

If that’s the case, Brewer said the Titans are a break or two away from righting the ship.

“I’m a firm believer in what Vince Lombardi said,” said Brewer. “Teams that are used to winning find a way to win, and teams that are used to losing find a way to lose. We’ve just got to get over that hump.

“The kids work their tails off. The come to work every single day. What we’re asking them to do offensively is so completely opposite of what they were doing, and it’s taking some time. But they are getting better every day.”

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