By Matt Nestor
For the past two seasons, the Boylan Titans have opened up with eight straight wins only to have to go on the road, into a hostile environment, with the NIC-10 title hanging in the balance.
In each of those games, at Harlem in 2008 and Hononegah in 2009, the Titans have taken control and won the championship.
This year, Boylan finds themselves in the very same predicament, except this time, the Titans get to host fellow undefeated Hononegah on their home turf.
“It is an event we hope to have possible,” Boylan coach Dan Appino said. “It is a reward for all of our kids’ hard work in the offseason.”
The reward for the Titans is a Hononegah team that is starting to find its stride.
Early in the season, the Indians were struggling on offense and winning games with defense, topped with a 12-0 win over Harlem in a slugfest.
Since that game, however, Hononegah, and more specifically, star senior quarterback Chase Robinson, have found their groove.
Robinson has thrown for 398 yards and four touchdowns and run for 211 yards and five touchdowns in their last three games, while the Indians have averaged 45 points per game. In addition, Carlos Hendrix has broken out of the running back pack with 263 yards in the last two games.
The Titans are not going into the matchup empty-handed. They boast a two-headed monster at quarterback with Lamont Toney and Frank Cimino. In addition, Chris Miller is among the conference leaders in touchdowns despite minimal touches.
The biggest surprise for Boylan has been the outstanding play of running back Tyreis Thomas. The Titans came into the year trying to replace a stable of running backs that had graduated, and Thomas has more than filled that void.
“Tyreis has been outstanding,” Appino said. “He is a special running back and football player.”
Appino said Miller and Aaron Einhorn have also played a big role in helping open up their offense for Thomas.
“Their ability to run jet sweeps, bubble passes and vertical routes help keep the numbers down in the tackle box,” he said.
The biggest key in a game of this magnitude is trying not to get consumed in the moment. Both teams have experience with this from last year, though the Indians return a few more key players.
With emotions riding high, a good week of practice and preparation could be the difference in a game like this.
“Trying to keep emotions in check is a big deal,” Appino said. “We constantly talk about playing big games with our mind and not our emotions. We strive to think our way through plays and situations, sometimes easier said than done.”
From the Oct. 20-26, 2010 issue