COLORADO SPRINGS - In a battle of unbeatens, The Classical Academy football team found a way to overcome five turnovers to keep its record intact.
Titans junior quarterback Jantzen Ryals threw three interceptions (all in the second quarter) but made up for it by throwing three touchdown passes to lead the host Titans to a wild 20-15 victory over rival Discovery Canyon (4-1) on Sept. 28.
“Discovery Canyon is a great team,” said Ryals who threw for 189 yards on 16 of 26 attempts to help TCA improve to 5-0. “Our (offensive) line gave us great protection. Our defense did a great job.”
Ryals’ final pass resulted in a 7-yard touchdown to senior Alex Willis with 6:09 remaining in the fourth quarter to give TCA a 20-9 lead.
“It was a basic stack play,” said Willis, who had the wind knocked out of him and had to leave the game after making a catch earlier in the drive.
Ryals threw a pair of second quarter touchdown passes to senior Joey Trese (seven catches, 132 yards) on strikes of 75 and 24 yards as the Titans built a 14-3 halftime lead.
“It was good to have a lead,” Trese said. “We knew that (Discovery Canyon) was not good at coming from behind.”
It was a playoff-type atmosphere as about 2,000 people jammed into the tiny stadium on the TCA campus to witness the final non-league game for both squads.
“It feels like this is a budding rivalry,” said Discovery Canyon coach Shawn Mitchell. “The schools are close (about two miles as the crow flies). The kids all know each other. A lot of them live in the same neighborhoods.
“Last year was the first time we beat them in four years. Not to take anything away from TCA tonight, but we shot ourselves in the foot too many times.”
TCA first-year coach David Bervig also talked about the rivalry.
“We knew it was going to be a fun atmosphere, and it was,” Bervig said. “It kind of feels like we’re a small town, because it’s a community.”
In a game filled with miscues, it was a fumble by Thunder senior tailback Cameron Packwood (game-high 164 yards on 21 carries) that proved to be the difference maker. It happened at the TCA 39 yard line with 8:46 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“I heard the wrong play,” Packwood said. “It was a 43 Counter, but I heard 43 Iso. I was supposed to take a side step and then get the ball. I never got a good grip on it.”
From there, TCA needed just seven plays to march the length of the field as Ryals capped the drive with his touchdown pass to Willis.
Packwood gave the Thunder hope when he scored on a 9-yard run at the 7:06 mark of the third quarter to pull Discovery Canyon within 14-9. Senior Grace Adams’ try for extra point was wide right.
DCC got the ball back on a fumble at midfield a few minutes later when Ryals mishandled a snap while in the shotgun. The drive stalled at the 28, forcing sophomore Mitchell Carter into attempting a 45-yard field goal. But holder Ben Gilson could not get the ball down.
Ironically, a similar situation occurred at the 3:56 mark of the fourth quarter when Carter lined up for 32-yard field goal attempt. Gilson again mishandled the snap and it rolled to Carter. He picked it up at about the 29 and passed to a quick-thinking Quincy Campbell who caught it at the 22 and scampered into the end zone to pull the Thunder within 20-15. The two-point conversion attempt failed.
“I was looking for the ball in case (Carter) needed me,” Campbell said. “We pulled it off and we did great. Too bad we couldn’t get the ball back.”
TCA took the ensuing kickoff and picked up three first downs (one on a penalty and two on the hard running of junior Andrew Register) to run the clock out.
“This is a great win for us,” said Register, who rushed for 75 yards on 15 carries. “We needed to show we could beat a great football team. We showed the rest of the state we’re going big this year.”
Discovery Canyon junior quarterback Alec Wirtjes did his best to help offset the usually one-dimensional Thunder rushing attack. He completed 10 of 17 attempts for 113 yards.
Both teams open league action this week. TCA travels to Harrison (0-5) on Friday, while Discovery Canyon hosts Lewis-Palmer (2-3) on Thursday at District 20 Stadium.