Any time you're battling Mother Nature it makes it tough for both teams. —Syracuse defensive backs coach Logan Donaldson
PLEASANT VIEW — "It was a dark and stormy night."
That may sound like a trite story opener, but it's a fitting description for the Syracuse Titans’ regular-season finale.
Friday’s game agianst Weber was also a fitting finale for the Titans’ regular season as player after player stepped up and sealed the deal to make their school Region 1 champions. And all this despite biting cold and driving second-half rain.
Indeed, the Titans have written a new chapter in their school’s short history, as they emerged undefeated in preseason and league play — and as the uncontested winner in their region. Knowing that they already had a spot in the upcoming 5A playoffs secure, it might have been easy for the Titans to relax against Weber, but true to their solid work ethic, they remained focused and came away with a huge road win over the Warriors, 31-7, Friday.
“We’re excited to enter the 5A playoffs,” said defensive backs coach Logan Donaldson. “Our goal entering the season was to have the No. 1 region seed. The kids worked hard and they’ve achieved that. We’re excited to be in the position we’re in. We’ll just have to wait and see how things play out and see who we match up with.”
Dominating within the first six minutes of play, WR Diante Mitchell took a handoff from quarterback Brock Anderson and drove 13 yards into the end zone. The Titans scored again minutes later as WR Kiwa Mo’o found the paydirt with a 48-yard pass from Anderson. A third touchdown called back by officials on penalties merely slowed the onslaught, as Anderson kicked a 33-yard field goal to add another three points and bring the score to 17-0 in favor of Syracuse. Attempts by Weber to advance downfield were constantly thwarted by a crushing Titan defense.
Rain began to drizzle at the top of the second quarter, adding a slip-and-slide element to the game. The Warriors failed to advance on downs and Syracuse gained possession of the ball at their own 7-yard line. A toss to WR Jake Garver sent him on a dash up the sideline for a 43-yard carry, followed by a 13-yard run by RB Mason Woodward. With 30 seconds left in the quarter, Anderson stumbled on a snap, but a quick flick to Garver sent the ball into the end zone. With only six seconds left on the clock, Anderson made good on the extra-point kick, and Syracuse finished the half up 24-0.
The third quarter saw both teams become muddy, cold and drenched. A driving downpour continued well into the fourth quarter — a miserable situation for players and spectators. Penalty flags were flying throughout the quarter, due in part to players from both teams being unable to stop once in motion.
A soaked field and insecure footing sent a Titan field-goal attempt wobbling wide of the goal posts. A soggy Warrior pass by QB Mitch Mourdant careened into the grasp of Diante Mitchell giving the Titans possession, only to be fumbled by Syracuse on the 4-yard line, returning possession to Weber. Back-to-back QB sacks by Cardon Malan and Wyatt German and again by Kavika Fonua found Weber stalled at the 15-yard line at the end of the third quarter.
“Any time you’re battling Mother Nature it makes it tough for both teams,” said Donaldson. “The conditions weren’t ideal, but our kids stepped up and conncected with a few more plays than Weber and that made the difference.”
Seconds into the fourth quarter, Garver intercepted a pass and sprinted 34 yards into the end zone. The extra point by Anderson was good and the Titans led 31-0.
Weber took possession at the 14-yard line, where the QB was sacked by Landon O’Camb and Austin Coon. Slipping and sliding, however, created two 15-yard penalties in Weber's favor and the Warriors found themselves on the 15-yard line. Nathan Kelly drove to the 8-yard line, and Weber scored with a 13-yard pass to Garrett Beckey.
Energized by the touchdown Weber kicked into high gear, coming very close to scoring another touchdown, as Mourdant connected with a pass to Anthony Weight. Another 15-yard penalty on the Titans brought the Warriors within scoring distance — but time ran out before they could capitalize.
“Defensively Cardon Malan put pressure on the Weber quarterback — a couple of sacks and a couple of tackles for a loss,” said Donaldson. “Another player that was big for us tonight was senior Jake Garver. He made a great TD catch for us when we needed a pick-me-up and then really sealed the victory in the second half with that big interception he took to the house.”
Anderson kicked four PATs and one field goal, as well as connecting with three different receivers for three touchdowns. He completed 12-of-18 passes for 254 yards and no interceptions. Garver carried for 89 yards on three catches, and Woodward rushed for 111 yards on 14 carries.
As the only unbeaten team in 5A, the Titans emerge with a No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the upcoming playoffs.