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TCA will use freshman QB heading into playoffs after junior's injury
Coach's son preparing, and has for years
There is no question Austin Bervig is The Classical Academy’s quarterback of the future. The freshman has been running the Titans’ offensive system since fifth grade and has showcased great mobility and an accurate arm on the junior varsity and C-squad this season.
No one, however, expected that Bervig’s time was now. Not with TCA’s championship hopes and dreams kicking off at 1 p.m. Saturday when the No. 4 Titans (9-1) host No. 13 Delta (7-3) in the 3A state playoffs first round.
Bervig has been vaulted into the starting lineup and will make his first varsity start after Jantzen Ryals’ season came to a crashing halt with a broken clavicle in last week’s 14-3 loss to Pueblo Central.
“It was pretty crazy,” Bervig said. “I had some nerves going into the Central game but after that I have just been really focusing on practice and working hard to make myself comfortable.”
It’s a significant blow after Ryals led the Titans to an undefeated record by leading the 3A Southern League in touchdown passes (21) and finishing second in yards (1,842) during his breakout junior season. The big-arm quarterback posted a 101.0 quarterback rating after completing 117-of-211 pass attempts with 11 interceptions.
Coach Dave Bervig, Austin’s father, said TCA’s spread offense will certainly be affected, but it doesn’t mean the Titans, who also have one of the region’s top defenses, won’t be effective.
“We’re definitely going to run a game plan that’s for a freshman as opposed to an experienced kid,” he said. “We’re going to try and be successful with the intermediate routes. Austin is very smart and he is going to take the underneath route”
Bervig struggled in his first significant varsity action against Pueblo Central. The freshman entered late in the third quarter for Ryals and finished 2-of-7 for 20 yards and two interceptions. Bervig wants to put that behind him and has made strides this week in practice with a series of quick completions and good reads.
“There is some pressure. I try not to think about it and do my job,” Austin Bervig said. “Over the last two days of practice the nerves have started to go away and I’m starting to feel more comfortable.”
TCA has begun to unite around the young QB similar to when the Titans rallied after losing defensive standout Justin Miller (114 tackles) for three weeks.
“We have no lack of faith in Austin or the rest of our team,” senior captain Thomas Caracena said. “We have been through a number of remarkable things this season all ready.”
Miller is likely to see an increased offensive role out of the Titans’ pistol formation that has the bruising fullback line up as a “wildcat” quarterback. Still, he believes in Bervig.
“We’re going to try and put as little pressure on him as we can and kind of take it upon ourselves,” Miller said. “We’re going to do all we can to support Austin so he can do his best.”
TCA leading rusher Andrew Register (941 yards) says Bervig has already shown the poise of a leader in the huddle.
“He’s got a great presence,” Register said. “He is very positive and we’re positive with him. He is an awesome quarterback.”
One advantage that Bervig may provide is his ability to scramble amid pressure. It will be important to not force any throws into coverage and to utilize his athletic ability.
“I’m more of a running quarterback but I can still throw the ball pretty well,” Bervig said. “If there is a hole I’m going to take it.”
Delta has allowed 18.7 points per game this year and is coming off a 35-0 shutout over Steamboat Springs. The Panthers forced three sacks and two interceptions.
Dave Bervig believes his Titans will be ready, just as they have continuously found a way to win this season.
“I haven’t seen them panic,” Dave Bervig said. “These kids know that when you have a teammate go down, someone is going to step up.”