TCA vs Manitou

Quarterback Ethan Boyles of The Classical Academy escapes from Manitou Springs defensive end Jayden Omi. Photo by Tim Clark

The Classical Academy football coach Justin Rich went with the hot hand when his Titans hosted Manitou Springs in Tri-Peaks League action on a chilly Friday.

With temperatures in the 40s feeling considerably colder due a steady wind out of the north, Titan senior running back Zach Gray had no problem staying warm, carrying 25 times for 208 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-13 win for the Titans (3-3, 2-0).

“The flags were straight all night. It’s calmed down now,” Rich said. “We had thought about throwing around the ball a little bit more. Didn’t need to, our offensive line played great. Tight ends played great, so we just ran behind the big guys and got the work done.”

A 55-yard keeper by quarterback Ethan Boyles got TCA on the board in the opening minutes, but from that point forward, it was almost all Gray, as the senior scored twice in the first half to give the Titans a 21-0 lead at the break.

“I just want to play for my team, honestly. Whoever gets the ball, it ain’t up to me,” Gray said. “I’m just here to play, help my teammates win the game.”

The Mustangs (2-4, 0-2) got on the board early in the second half as a quarterback scramble from Hunter Zentz and a couple of defensive penalties got the visitors into the red zone before Zentz hit Caleb Allen for an 8-yard score to make it 21-7.

Gray again made it a three-touchdown game soon after, with a 15-yard run where he hit a big hole to his left before shedding a couple of would-be tacklers inside the 10 for this third touchdown.

“It’s kinda crazy. Honestly, I couldn’t do any of that without the O-line,” Gray said. “They did most of that work for me. I just ran the ball.”

Manitou Springs briefly made things interesting when backup quarterback Tate Christian hit Jayden Omi to get the Mustangs to the TCA 5-yard line before Quinn Hogan carried a direct snap over the goal line from a yard out. The Mustangs followed up with a rare defensive stop to have a chance to pull within a touchdown but eventually turned the ball over on downs inside their 20.

That was more help than Gray needed as went on to surpass 200 yards and score his fourth touchdown to put the game out of reach. It was a big game for the senior, but it wasn’t the first time a Titan back has had a big game this season.

“We’re very, very lucky,” Rich said. “Hunter Christopherson, two weeks ago, did nearly the same thing, so we kinda go with the hottest hand, and this offensive line, we’ve got three guys in there that have had 30-plus starts in their high school careers. So as they start playing together more and more, it’s nice just to run the ball. It makes calling plays a lot easier when you have five guys with a lot of experience.”

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