The Antelope Titans found the time during Friday afternoon’s walkthrough to work on a trick play they hadn’t used all season – a double pass that’s been in Titans coach Matt Ray’s football family for three generations.
The play worked to perfection Friday night as the No. 6 Titans spoiled No. 13 Del Campo’s homecoming, 27-20. Antelope (8-0) also took control of the Capital Valley Conference title chase. The Cougars fell to 6-2.
“The (double pass) is a play my dad (Jeff Ray) and grandfather used to use when they coached at Quincy High, and I used it to win a section title when I was coaching at East Nicholas,” Matt Ray said. “I put that play in my pocket for just such occasions. But the players still have to execute it.”
Antelope faced fourth and goal from the Del Campo 22 with 3 minutes left and the score tied 20-20 when Ray called for the trick play. Quarterback Montel Aaron passed to wide receiver Davaeon Johnson, who waited for the Cougars’ defense to give chase before delivering a slightly fluttering pass in the deep corner of the end zone to a sprinting Ryan McCombs.
Antelope cruised in the first half as Aaron outplayed Cougars quarterback Ben Purcell. Aaron threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Logan Paulson and scored on a 12-yard run, and Jaevin Braund picked off Purcell and raced 75 yards to stake the Titans to a 20-0 halftime lead.
But Del Campo roared back in the second half with a strong ground attack led by Javone Jackson, who finished with 151 yards on 24 carries. Jackson ran for 105 yards in the second half, including a 62-yarder in which it seemed all 11 Titans defenders had a hand on him at various times. He scored on runs of one and 19 yards to get his squad back in the game, and Purcell connected on a 23-yard pass to Ray Griffin that tied the score 20-20.
“(Del Campo coaches) made some adjustments and went to their strength, which is inside where they have some big dudes,” Ray said. “What a grinder. The Sierra Foothill League and the Delta get all the love, but the CVC is just unbelievable this season.”
The Titans’ game winner was set up by a 51-yard pass from Aaron, who has verbally committed to Temple, to McCombs. The rangy tight end finished with five catches for 144 yards.
Antelope won on a gutsy call by Ray for the second straight week. The Titans prevailed 42-41 in overtime at Cosumnes Oaks last week on a two-point conversion run by Davaughn Silver.
Paulson, for one, isn’t worried that the Titans’ luck will run out with the playoffs looming in three weeks.
“Nah, we’re not worried at all,” the junior wideout said. “We have more plays like that one. It was great, though, to get the win on their field. They scheduled us for their homecoming, and we all thought that was really disrespectful.”
Mark Billingsley is a Carmichael-based freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org or @editorwriter001.