Syracuse spanked Viewmont 54-0 in the opening round of the playoffs last Friday, the Titans' fourth shutout of the season, and they haven't given up more than 14 points in any game all year long. Wyatt German (87 tackles), Kavika Fonua (75 tackles), Jace Purser (8.5 sacks), Cardon Malon (7 sacks) and Diante Mitchell (4 interceptions) lead the way.
But while the Titans' dynamic defense hogs most of the headlines, their offense, spearheaded by quarterback Brock Anderson (1,712 yards passing with 24 touchdowns, and just two interceptions) can make life miserable for opponents as well.
"Our defense has their work cut out and I think their defense has its work cut out, too," Stephens said. "For us, offensively, the key is going to be how well our offensive line plays. Our offensive line has a very big challenge ahead of them, and if they play well and block well and are able to pass-protect well, that's going to be a big key for us.
"Our receiving corps is very good, stronger than they were last year, I think, and that's definitely the strength of our offense. Hopefully all that works well for us on Friday.
"Their four down linemen up front are solid, their defensive backs are solid, and they're well-coached and good athletes as well," Stephens said, sizing up the Titans' "D." "I think they're just as good as last year. (D-lineman Hunter) Dimick hurt us the most last year, absolutely, but the front four that they have this year, overall, are just as good or better than last year. Their four guys up front are very solid. So we've got to be on our game with our offensive line."
The Hawks have an impressive passing attack, fueled by the play of quarterback Chipper Lucero, who has thrown for a whopping 3,106 yards and 34 touchdowns. His favorite targets are Ammon Barker (55 catches for 1,110 yards and 12 TDs), Mack Richards (53 receptions, 790 yards and 10 touchdowns) and Handley Harris (55 catches, 726 yards and eight TDs).
Coach Jones is dutifully impressed by the Hawks' high-scoring passing game.
"They've got three really good receivers that are really tough," he said. "They'll throw it around quite a bit. They've got a heck of an aerial attack, but they've still got a good ground attack, too.
"They're big, physical and have got some good athletes. So we've got to come out and play with a great attitude, great confidence. If we can do that, I think we'll be right there in the thick of it.
"I just hope our dudes are better than their dudes," Jones said.
And if they are, well, then all that stuff regarding revenge and redemption really won't matter.
Alta statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 34.8 ppg
Scoring defense: 20.0 ppg
Passing leader: Chipper Lucero (198-319, 62.1%, 3,106 yards, 34 TDs, 12 INTs)
Rushing leaders: Max Broman (67 carries, 384 yards, 2 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Ammon Barker (55 rec., 1,110 yards, 12 TDs), Mack Richards (53 rec., 790 yards, 10 TDs)
Sack leaders: Brock Davies (5.5)
Interception leaders: Bridger Pennington (3)
Syracuse statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 33.3 ppg
Scoring defense: 7.0 ppg
Passing leader: Brock Anderson (128-183, 69.9%, 1,712 yards, 24 TDs, 2 INTs)
Rushing leaders: Mason Woodward (147 carries, 674 yards, 7 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Kiwa Mo’o (26 rec., 417 yards, 6 TDs), Diante Mitchell (32 rec., 385 yards, 6 TDs)
Tackles leaders: Wyatt German (87), Kavika Fonua (75)
Sack leaders: Jace Purser (8.5), Cardon Malon (7)
Interception leaders: Diante Mitchell (4)
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