STAGE IS SET
Titans ready for rematch with Southeast Valley
LAKE CITY — The South Central Calhoun football program is all too familiar with how difficult it can be to reach the UNI-Dome.
The Titans have had no trouble reaching the state quarterfinals, reaching this round in each of the last four years. The clinching victory and reaching Cedar Falls is a recent hurdle South Central Calhoun (8-1 overall) would love to clear on Friday.
The seventh-ranked (Class 1A) squad will square off with No. 5 Southeast Valley (9-0) on Friday night in Gowrie. It’s a rematch of a regular-season showdown, won by the Jaguars.
South Central Calhoun’s resume is impressive, as this is ninth state trip for the Titans as a consolidated program. SCC has qualified for the quarterfinals five of the last six seasons and seven of the last 11 years, including semifinal trips in 2014 and 2015.
Including the last four years as Southern Cal, before joining Rockwell City-Lytton, SCC has been to the quarterfinal round or better in 11 of the last 15 years.
The 2020 senior group has circled a trip to the UNI-Dome as a top priority.
“Our team has been to this round of playoffs a lot in previous years,” said senior quarterback Cole Corey. “But we have yet to make it over this hump. The past couple of years we were in the game and so close to going to the Dome…only to fall short.
“It would mean a lot if we could win this game and finally get there.”
This senior class has compiled a 37-5 overall record, making the state playoffs twice with unbeaten regular-season marks.
Senior running back Brennan Holder has enjoyed a productive season, but a team win on Friday night would be the ultimate highlight.
“It means a lot that we made it to the quarterfinals,” Holder said. “Our team has been to this spot every year that the seniors have been a part of high school football.
“We know what it’s like to go home at this spot, and we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The Titans have put together a strong offensive attack, with 2,238 yards and 34 touchdowns on the ground — the eighth and fourth best, respectively, in 1A.
The two-headed duo of junior Blake McAlister (907 yards) and Holder (580) have combined to run for 1,487 yards and 11 and 10 TDs, respectively. Six different running backs have reached the end zone for the Titans, and four backs have rushed for more than 200 yards on the year.
“We’ve been in this spot several times in the last few years,” McAlister said. “But we have never been able to get over the hump.
“I think we all know the opportunity is there if we all come out and play up to our capability.”
Corey has a combined for 17 touchdowns, nine through the air and eight on the ground. Corey has completed over 60 percent of his passes (57 of 96) for 863 yards.
In their last two playoff games, the Titans have rallied to advance, showing their determination late in contests.
“What makes this team so special is our ability to come together as a group,” Corey said. “I have been impressed with how everyone on the team kept fighting the whole game even when we were down.
“Coming from behind the past couple of games will definitely help us in the long run. It teaches us to keep our heads on straight when we face adversity during games.”
The Titan defense has been stingy as well, picking off 12 passes, led by three from junior Kevin King. Senior Jordan Khommanyvong and Corey have two each.
“We’ve been through a lot of adversity in 2020, but we’ve stayed together and done what we can to be successful,” Holder said. “We know our offense can drive the ball down the field as long as we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot. In both (playoff games) we were able to play for each other at a high level to be able to score in the end. I think we know that the game isn’t over until it’s over, so it will help us moving forward with close games.”
South Central Calhoun defeated Dike-New Hartford (30-22) and South Hamilton (20-8) to reach this point. The Titans dropped a 32-23 decision to the Jaguars during the regular season on Sept. 25.