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Titans surprise themselves with Super Bowl

Winfield Cavaliers football coach Ronnie Bernard said he hadn't beaten a North Carroll team in six years.

Driving to Arbutus for last Saturday's Carroll County Youth Football League Freedom Division ages 10-12 Super Bowl, Bernard hoped to break that losing streak.

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He didn't.

The Titans scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to break the game open and beat his Cavaliers 48-24. It was the second consecutive Super Bowl in which the Titans have beaten his Cavs. Coming into the year, both teams returned only eight players.

North Carroll was in a really bad way.

"We were wondering if we could even field a team. We'd lost most of our offensive line and some key defensive players. We needed to have 15 to players, and we barely made it to 16," Titans coach Brian Fique said. "I would have been happy to have a .500 record."

However, he did have quarterback Ethan Willis and three good running backs. It turned out that North Carroll would turn those assets into a potent ground game.

The backs had good size which came in handy on running plays because the team's offensive linemen were both inexperienced and undersized. The backs blocked for each other, acting as extra linemen. They opened up holes in the defense if the offensive line wasn't able to do it.

They and their teammates were also good learners.

"Our kids bought into everything we tried to teach them. Everybody did his job as part of the whole," Fique said.

He said the Titans squad had the motto, "There are no heroes on this team, and they lived off of that. They all played together, and that's what made us good."

Fique said there was never a "key game" or games in the regular season. The Titans won them all to go 9-0. They led the 10-12 bracket with 298 points and were second-best in points yielded with 54.

As top finisher, they drew a bye in the fist round of the league's postseason playoffs, but they had a rough time against Olney in the semifinal. North Carroll trailed 18-12 in the fourth quarter before scoring a touchdown to pull it out 20-18.

Winfield accumulated no such statistical excellence during its regular season. North Carroll had beaten it rather handily on two occasions, and Olney won another game, 28-6. While the Cavaliers' 238 points were second only to North Carroll's, their defense was only middling.

However, that defense was strong enough in two playoff games. Winfield blanked Hampstead 26-0 and topped Clarksburg 28-14.

It continued to hold in the first half last Saturday.

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North Carroll quarterback Willis opened the scoring with a 60-yard first quarter touchdown run. However, Winfield's Tommy Nelson scored on 55- and 30-yard runs to put the Cavaliers ahead, 16-8 at halftime.

"We ran 10 different formations on offense, and our defense shifted every game. We never ran the same defense in consecutive games," Bernard said.

The constant shifting in strategy had worked for his Cavaliers in the first half. Both offense and defense were on target.North Carroll, which averaged 37 points in two regular season defeats of Winfield,was being held in check.

But then came the second half and things fell apart for his team.

On the first play of that half, Brandon Fique ran 50 yards to the Winfield 10 yard-line. Willis later scored on a two-yard quarterback sneak. But the kick failed and Winfield still led 16-14.

The Titans' Peyton Peters recovered the subsequent onside kick. Then, quarterback Willis scored his third touchdown, this one on a 45-yard off-tackle keeper play.

North Carroll now led 20-16.

Later in the third quarter, North Carroll's Justin Staubs ran 60 yards for another score that upped the Titan lead to 26-16.

Near the end of the quarter, Nelson scored his third touchdown for Winfield, this on a 20-yard sweep.Ryan Bernard kicked his third two-point conversion, and the score was now 26-24, Titans.

However, that was as close as Winfield would get. The fourth quarter was all North Carroll.

On perhaps the key offensive play of the game, quarterback Williams, facing a fourth-and 12 situation, completed a 30-yard pass to Staubs for a first down.On the next play, Staubs ran 25 yards for the score, the two point conversion was good, and the Titans led, 34-24.

Later, Brandon Fique ran 45 yards for another Titan touchdown to up the lead to 40-24.

Staubs than picked off a Winfield pass and ran it for yet another North Carroll touchdown. Fique booted his third two-point conversion of the day to make the final score 48-24.

Winfield coach Bernard said that he, along with assistant coaches Chad Vogel and Steve Heck, had made extra strategy changes for the game. His team blitzed more than usual on defense and spread out on offense to open holes in the North Carroll defensive alignment.

The changes were only somewhat successful. Their team did move the ball well on offense, but it was hurt by turnovers.

And defensively, Winfield's kids simply couldn't hold North Carroll after the first half.

"They have a good run offense. Their backs are fast, and they block well. We had to rein in their outside running. We had to come up fast from the back side or they would get away, but we couldn't stop them," Bernard said.

"But all in all, I liked the way the boys played."

So did Fique and his assistant coach, Rob Greer. He said that this Super Bowl win was more satisfying to him than last year's.

"The cards were really stacked against us this year. We were barely able to make a roster. We'd lost most of our coaches and players, and we were really depleted," he said.*

"I'm really excited for the kids. They played as a unit, and everybody became good friends. They all played for each other."*

While both coaches looked back on this season, Winfield's Bernard also looked ahead to the next one. He hopes for another Super shot at North Carroll.

"I told the players the third time must be the charm," he said.

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