The Titans outscored the Monarchs 32-0 in the third quarter to run past Papio and open the season with a 42-14 victory at Foundation Field Thursday.
As the Papio South staff congratulated head coach Tim Clemenger after the game while the Titan players celebrated with the fans on the field, Clemenger said six words with a look of relief that the game they waited the whole offseason to play was in the books.
“That was a big one man.”
Papio South running back Nick Sich rushed 18 times for 155 yards and two touchdowns, while Landon Jewell added five catches for 55 yards, a receiving TD and punt return TD. Papio running backs Cole Price and Jake Koory combined for 100 yards while Price added a sack on defense.
Papio’s Kaden Johnson and Papio South’s Jack Warner each corralled an interception.
The Monarchs received the ball to start the contest and made quick work of the Titan defense. After running back Cole Price opened the game with a 29-yard run and then inside the Titan 10-yard line, running back Jake Koory finished the drive with a 2-yard TD to put Papio up 7-0 with 4:43 remaining in the first quarter. The Papio South defense added two penalties on the drive inside the redzone.
“That first play of the game by their offense was a hell of a call. That was a great call and that got us on our heels,” Clemenger said. “We had two bad penalties that got us on our heels. They just got caught up in the moment. This game was nuts.”
On the ensuing possession, the Titans moved the ball inside the Papio 30 when Papio South quarterback Connor Crandall was intercepted by Papio’s Kaden Johnson.
After a Papio punt, the Titans marched down the field and ended a 10-play drive with a 21-yard field goal for a 7-3 score with 5:44 left in the first half.
The Monarchs had a big opportunity to score before half. A Papio South punt only went nine yards for Papio to take over at the Titan 23-yard line with just over a minute left.
After three plays, Papio’s 37-yard field goal attempt with 15 seconds left flew wide right to head into halftime with Papio leading 7-3.
“The missed field goal was huge, but even before that, we were just playing better. I think our kids settled in,” Clemenger said. “There was no kicking butt in the locker room or anything. Our seniors took over at halftime and just calmed everyone down and then we were good.”
Less than a minute into the third quarter, Papio South took the lead and never looked back. After a 61-yard rush by running back Nick Sich, the Titans went back to him the next play for a 26-yard TD. A successful two-point conversion put the Titans ahead 11-7.
After a Papio three and out, the Titans went back to Sich on second down for a 28-yard TD to lead 19-7 after a two-point conversion with nine minutes left in the third quarter.
“We’ve seen him do it at the lower levels before,” Clemenger said. “He’s been patient waiting his turn. He has tremendous lower body strength, so we knew he was going to be okay.”
Papio South’s Jack Warner intercepted a pass on the next possesssion that led to a 30-yard touchdown from Crandall to wide receiver Landon Jewell that included a two-point conversion to lead 27-7 with 5:11 left in the third.
The Titans added a rushing TD by Jaden Quelette with 2:49 left in the third after a Papio three and out.
After being outscored 32-0 in the third, the Monarchs scored in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard pass from quarterback Lane Harris to wide receiver Owen McLaughlin for a 35-14 scored with 4:52 left in the game.
After a Monarch and Titan three and out on the next two possession, Papio South’s Jewell returned a punt for a TD to seal the win with a minute left.
Papio fumbled on the ensuing possession for the Titans to take a knee to end the Papio rivalry.
“I’m just super happy for our kids, especially our seniors,” Clemenger said. “We had a really good summer and we told the kids before the game it was going to pay off. It didn’t pay off in the first half. The first half was really, really rough, but we were okay at halftime. In the second quarter we evened out and we weren’t crazy at halftime.”