ROSWELL, Ga. – After a sub-region title and the school’s first-ever playoff victory last year, Blessed Trinity head coach Tim McFarlin says the Titans can match or exceed his team’s performance this season.
With the Titans moving up from AA to AAA, a region title part may be a tall order, but BT appears capable of improving its regular season record (6-4) and perhaps advancing beyond the second round of the playoffs, depending on the team’s draw.
“I think we’ve got the ability to go a couple of rounds in the playoffs,” McFarlin said. “But we’ve got to stay healthy.”
The move up to AAA has put the Titans in the same region with three teams that reached the AAA playoffs last year. Woodward Academy reached the second round and St. Pius the third round before losing for the first time in 2011.
Cedar Grove also was a playoff team. Those three teams are likely playoff qualifiers from the region this season along with Blessed Trinity.
The Titans return eight starters on both offense and defense, including many of the top players from last year’s 7-5 team that lost twice to powerhouse Buford.
Keying the offense are quarterback Spencer McManes (1,637 yards passing, 12 touchdowns) and tailback Jordan Denson (1,087 yards rushing, 9 TDs).
McFarlin says having an experienced, quality quarterback “makes all the difference,” and with a talented running back, the Titans make it hard on opposing defenses to focus on either BT’s ground or aerial game.
The Titans graduated their top receiver last year, Chris Dore, and McFarlin has moved Sam Roberts, Denson’s backup at tailback, to wide receiver to take advantage of Roberts’ speed.
Roberts will join returnees John Davis and Dylan Cote, with Tennessee baseball signee Nathaniel Maggio and promising sophomore Pat Jasinski, who had a huge game at linebacker as a freshman in the Titans’ playoff loss to Lamar County, at tight end.
The Titans return four starters in the offensive line, along with fullback Casey Bradley, described by McFarlin as “a well-rounded player.”
The returning linemen are Jack Crisafi, Jim Murphy, Zack Mitchler and Nick McGraw, with Crockett Hayes, a transfer from Lassiter, challenging for a starting role.
“We’re going to be about 240 to 260 across the front,” McFarlin said. “We have a chance to be really good on offense.”
The Titans will have a number of players going both ways, but McFarlin hopes to limit how much they will be on the field.
Miles Kinder will anchor the defensive line at one tackle, with Maggio back at end, and a number of players likely to share time at the other two spots.
Will Slaten returns at outside linebacker along with Jasinski. Mitchler takes over in the middle for leading tackler Liam Walsh, and may have his offensive duties reduced with the addition of Hayes.
Davis returns as a starter in the secondary along with Roberts and Chris Keegan, who backs up McManes at QB. Ryan Mediate is also in the mix for s starting role.
“We’re faster at linebacker and in the secondary,” McFarlin said. “The question is if we have enough up front to stop a solid running game.”
The Titans will have to replace standout kicker Davis Plowman, who is now at Texas A&M, but they are strong in other aspects of the kicking game with highly regarded snapper Tucker Etheridge and his brother Nathan, who will be the team’s punter.
The Titans open their season a week earlier than most teams, hosting Westminster on Aug. 24. They play at Lovett the following week.