Titans facing Calhoun in midst of playoff hunt
Despite a 1-5 start to the season, Victoria East are still within reach of the playoffs thanks in part to a pair of back-to-back victories against district opponents.
With just two games left on the schedule, each game could have huge implications of whether or not the Titans (3-5, 2-2) make the playoffs. East currently sits in fourth place in District 30-4A, but a loss to Calhoun (8-0, 5-0) Thursday night and West victory Friday will put the rival schools at 2-3 in district play (East holds the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to a 54-58 victory in early October).
"The kids have done a great job to put us in a position to still have an opportunity to make the playoffs," first year head coach Roland Gonzalez said. "It's an extremely important game to us."
The Titans face a stiff challenge this week when they host Calhoun, which secured a share of the district title with last week's 39-6 victory over Beeville.
Calhoun presents an interesting challenge to many teams with the rarely used, but always dangerous triple-option offense. The Sandcrabs have been extremely effective on the offensive side of the ball, with quarterback Hunter Boerm topping 1,000 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.
"When you play option teams you have to be disciplined and maintain your assignments," Gonzalez said. "Everybody has an assignment and it's important for us to be disciplined and take care of particular assignments."
The Titans had a stroke of good luck with the schedule that will help prepare them for Calhoun. East was on a bye last week, while Calhoun hosted Beeville and will have just three days to prepare for the Titans.
"I wouldn't consider it an advantage," Gonzalez said. "I think it is beneficial to our kids to have the extra week off. It's just an unfortunate situation with the schedule they're in."
The week off gave East time to heal and prepare for the triple option offense that'll come to Memorial Stadium Thursday night.
The Titans need as much time to prepare for a rushing offense as possible since they have given up 275 rushing yards per game this season and held just two opponents to less than 200 on the ground. The Sandcrabs have averaged 438 rushing yards per game.
Gonzalez, however, feels the experience of facing power run-based teams will help the Titans against Calhoun.
"I think we're fortunate that we've seen a couple other teams that run a power offense," he said. "So, we've had a little bit of experience with this type of offense."
Offensively, the Titans have looked like a different team in their two previous games with sophomore Jonathan Ortega taking over the quarterback duties from Mark Cavazos. In those two wins, Ortega has gained 783 total yards and 13 touchdowns.
"Jonathan has done a great job for us," Gonzalez said. "He has a great supporting cast around him and he's done an outstanding job so far."
One of those supporting cast players is Deondic Lofton, who has caught seven passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns in the two games Ortega has thrown him the ball.
However, like most games, how well each offense does will depend on the battle in the trenches.
"They're big on offense upfront. They have the advantage on offense to our defense," Gonzalez admitted. "But from our offense to their defense I think we match up pretty well."
East's confidence level has risen over the past three weeks with a pair of wins that have put the Titans in position for a playoff spot. However, there is still plenty of work left to be done.
"Our primary goal right now is to make the playoffs and this game is the most important one for us at this time," Gonzalez said. "It's important for us to maintain a positive attitude and do a good job against Calhoun."
Kick off between East and Calhoun at Memorial Stadium is set for 7 p.m.