Titans with high hopes
A remarkable 9-Man Region 3 season, which saw three teams go 8-1, continues today.
With the tie-breaker on point differential, TGU holds the top seed out of the region and hosts Region 4 No. 4 seed Mott-Regent at 2 p.m.
Westhope-Newburg-Glenburn took the second seed out of Region 3 with next-highest point differential over No. 3 St. John. The Sioux beat the Woodchucks. The Woodchucks beat the Titans. The Titans beat the Sioux.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a tie at the top of the pack,” TGU coach Scott Thorson said. “Usually you see the ties for third place. Somebody usually surfaces. It was pretty evenly well-balanced and our fourth-place team lost games to all three of us, but took care of business.”
Divide County finished 6-3.
But Thorson’s team is focused on a less familiar foes with the Wildfire. Mott-Regent (4-5) is the only squad in the 16-team field with a losing record.
“They’re a team that looks like they’ll match up with us pretty well,” Thorson said, “and, speed-wise, they’re a good team.”
He should know, considering the wealth of speed and athleticism that’s made his program a title contender in recent years.
Senior quarterback and all-state performer Eli Luna leads the Titans, which won by an average of 27 points in the regular season. Luna averaged more than 10 yards per carry, rushing for 1,283 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also passed for a cool 1,327 yards and 16 TDs, completing 68 percent of his passes with just one interception.
“Probably, our biggest improvements have been made defensively,” Thorson said. “Offensively, we returned a lot of skill players. I’ve been real happy with the way our defense has progressed. We’ve held some pretty good offenses to not too many points.”
Sophomore linebacker Cole Bethke leads the TGU defense with 52 tackles followed by senior lineman Bryce Green’s 45 and Luna’s 43.
Bolstering the running attack is junior Lane Schmitt with 430 yards on 57 carries. Schmitt has six touchdowns.
Thorson is hopeful for the return of freshman running back Johnathan Gutierrez, the team’s third-best rusher with 214 yards. The youngter suffered a dislocated shoulder three weeks ago, but began working out again this week.
The winner of TGU vs. Mott Regent gets the winner of Region 3 No. 3 seed St. John at Region 4 No. 2 Richardton-Taylor. Shiloh Christian, the No. 1 seed out of Region 4, hosts Divide County. Thorson described the playoff field as “very strong.”
“I think there’s definitely a dominatnt team in the east and the west,” he said. “Cavalier and Shiloh Christian, and everybody else chasing. It’s probably a race to see who can play them in the semifinal. Not to say we couldn’t beat Shiloh, but on paper they’re the dominant team in the west.”
First, the team will focus on the Wildfire and extending the careers of a talented senior class.
“It’s an outstanding group of kids,” Thorson said. “They’ve been kids who’ve been starters since sophomore year and Eli played a lot as a freshman. They’ve been the heart and soul, and they’ve played a lot of playoff games. They’ll be a tough group to replace, but they’ve been good leaders and role models for the kids.”
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