This is uncharted territory for the Antelope Titans. Opening in 2008, Antelope is into the third round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs for the first time after beating the Sacramento High Dragons Friday night, 31-24.
“This is a special time,” said Antelope head coach Matt Ray, who’s been at the Titans’ helm since Day One. “We’ve only had six full varsity teams, so history has been short. But this certainly is a new ring for us and anyone left is going to be very good.”
The second-seeded Titans (12-0) host No. 3 Rocklin (9-3) next Friday for a chance to play for the section title the following week at Sacramento State. Rocklin beat Del Campo 42-6 Friday night, while one of the best Sacramento High seasons in decades came to an end, and the Dragons finished 8-4.
Antelope and Sacramento each entered Friday’s game with high-powered offenses. But defense led the Titans Friday as they held Sacramento to just 117 rushing yards and limited Dragons quarterback Caden Voges to 21-of-41 passing for just 240 yards. Voges finished his prep career with 11,485 passing yards.
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“We thought that they’d come out in a 4-3 defense and they ran a 3-4 instead,” Voges said of the Titans’ defensive front. “We fought hard all game but, in the end, it was just too much to come back from. It’s crazy. This is it. I started playing with a lot of these guys in eighth grade.”
Antelope sacked Voges nine times, with defensive linemen Josh Cook and Nick Hansen in Voge’s face all night. Voges also threw an interception but had a 34-yard touchdown toss to Anthony Bradley. The Titans also forced three fumbles.
“We started blitzing more because we knew we had to get to him,” Hansen said. “We’re building a tradition here of a very physical team.”
Ray said that his defense has been consistently good and has overcome some key injuries in the middle of season. Both Cook and Hansen stepped up when the players on the depth chart ahead of them went down. Ray said it’s taken until the playoffs for the defense to really start gelling. His defensive backfield has been solid all year, Ray said, led by Capital Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year Davaeon Johnson.
But it’s the way the Titans are playing as a team that has Ray most giddy as they continue to advance and set school records. As he told his assembled team after Friday’s game, “good teams beat good athletes every time.”
The Titans’ offense was led by Devaughn Silver’s 116 yards and a touchdown, a one-yarder, that was part of a 17-point outburst. Elijah Dotson and Darnell Silver also had touchdown runs of 12 and 28 yards, respectively.
So the Titans’ players and coaching staff will enjoy some turkey Thursday, thankful that they’ll play Rocklin at home the following day.
“When you’re playing football after Thanksgiving,” Ray said. “You’re doing something right.”
Mark Billingsley is a Carmichael-based freelance writer: email@example.com or @editorwriter001.