Note: "Tonight" in the story refers to Friday.
The McDowell Titans will be looking for their first Northwestern 3A/4A Conference win tonight when they host the South Caldwell Spartans in the annual homecoming game.
They’ll also be looking for a way to generate some offense.
The Titans (1-5 overall, 0-2 NWC) enter tonight’s contest (7:30 kickoff) on a four-game slide, during which points and yards have been scarce.
McDowell has scored just 29 points in the last four games, an average of 7.3 per outing. The Titans have averaged just 166 yards of offense during the stretch. Their highest total — 223 yards — during the four-game span actually came in the worst loss, a 55-8 defeat against Mitchell.
Last Friday’s 28-7 loss to St. Stephens was indicative of the kind of doldrums in which the Titans have been mired. McDowell managed just 196 yards and one TD against the Indians. St. Stephens ran back the opening kickoff for a score. Just before halftime, the Indians, who led 14-0, put together a 62-yard drive in just 50 seconds to go up 21-0 at the break.
“I thought we had a good week of practice, and then we went back to doing things we hadn’t done in a couple of weeks,” said McDowell head coach Darrell Brewer. “That kickoff hit us, and the sideline was like a morgue. But I thought the kids came out in the second half and played hard. Other than that kickoff and that one drive where the quarterback looked like Peyton Manning, that was a close game.
“So we just came out this week and got back to work trying to get better.”
It would be a good time for the Titans to make a leap forward. South Caldwell (3-3, 0-1) is the league’s only other 4A program besides McDowell. Typically, the winner of this game ends up making the State 4A Playoffs while the loser starts basketball practice a little early.
That’s what happened last year when the Titans whipped South Caldwell 48-28 and went on to claim the lone playoff berth despite the fact the two teams tied with 2-5 NWC marks.
South Caldwell has shown improvement since last season, and has a couple quality wins to its credit, including a 14-13 victory over Maiden, and a 44-43 win over R-S Central, a team that defeated the Titans in Week 1.
Both McDowell’s and South Caldwell’s schedules the rest of the way may make tonight’s game even more important. The Titans will have league heavyweights Watauga, Alexander Central and Freedom remaining after tonight. South has Freedom, Hickory, St. Stephens and Alexander Central still on its schedule. In all likelihood, neither club will be favored in another game the rest of the year.
The Spartans have some solid skill position players, but the Spartans’ offensive and defensive lines will be a major concern for Brewer tonight.
“They look solid, and they are pretty big up front,” said the first-year head coach. “They’ve got a couple of kids who can run, but their size up front is what really concerns me. I hope we can do something up front and keep them hemmed in a little on defense.”
That means stopping junior quarterback Avery Raynor (5-11, 185), who is 46-of-96 for 616 yards and four touchdowns with nine interceptions. Senior running back Spencer Piercy (5-11, 175), who placed second in the conference in the 200 meters last spring, has rushed for 499 yards and seven scores on 72 carries, an average of 6.9 yards per attempt.
Senior Austin Raynor (6-4, 210) has caught 13 of his brother’s passes for 156 yards and two TDs. Isaiah Kirby (6-0, 180) has 14 receptions for 145 yards a score.
Meanwhile, the Titans will likely need a big game from junior running back Quantavian Moore (88 carries, 555 yards, 5TDs). They’ll also need a solid outing from the two-headed quarterback combo of sophomore Gabe Marsh and junior Riley Moore. The duo has combined to go just 3-of-18 for 17 yards with three picks — all of them thrown by Marsh last week against St. Stephens.
Defensively, the Titans got a whopping 16 tackles, 13 of them solo stops, by linebacker Harley Allison in the loss to Saint. Jacob Pearson added 12 tackles, 10 of them solo. Preston Dennison added nine tackles while Grayson Blackwelder and Braedon Allison made eight apiece.
Harley Allison leads the team with 74 tackles. Pearson has 60 stops and his four tackles for loss is tied with Richard Handy for the team lead.
Notes: The Titans lead the all-time series 17-9 … Brewer said the Titans are as healthy as they’ve been all season and should have everyone available tonight.