In Greek mythology, the Titans were immortal giants—characters of such incredible strength as to defy the gods in a quest for heaven.
In Chapel Hill Park and Recreation youth football, the Titans are a team that showed such giant character and strength as to defy the odds. In doing so, this band of 11-12-year olds claimed a league championship, a small corner of heaven, and maybe even a bit of immortality.
The 11-12 Chapel Hill Titans won the this fall’s Central Piedmont Youth Football League (CPYFL) 11-12 Division II Championship on Nov. 10, defeating the Archdale-Trinity Panthers 33-29 in a thrilling championship game in Ramseur.
“A Chapel Hill flag football team won one a Division I championship about three or four years ago,” Chapel Hill Park and Recreation athletics specialist Mike Troutman said, “but this is the first time any of Chapel Hill’s tackle football teams has won a division championship.”
Still, it was an unlikely ride to the top for the local gridders, which primarily used sixth graders (due to the lure of local middle school ball) against other teams’ sixth and seventh graders.
“We lost our first two games of the season, and at one point we were 2-4,” Titan head coach Scott Ragland said.
“They finished the season on a four-game winning streak,” Troutman said, “and they won five of their last six games. We had a chance to show some progress, but they showed even more that I thought they would.”
After winning a first round playoff game by forfeit, the Titans’ semifinal game was at Durham County Stadium against the same Durham Firebirds Red squad who had beaten the Titans early in the regular season.
“I think that loss 34-13,” Troutman said. “We got our revenge in the playoffs 18-14 though.”
Ragland said it was to be a much-improved Titan team in the playoffs, however, and he made sure his players knew it.
“I told them that they’d worked hard,” he said, “and that they’d really learned so much about how to play the game.
“It was fun to see them after that game,” Ragland said. “It was really neat to watch this team develop over the course of the season.”
One factor in Chapel Hill’s success may have been the fact that Carrboro Recreation and Parks didn’t have the number to field an 11-12 team this fall, Troutman said only a few Carrboro players ended up with the Titans.
More likely, the team’s improvement could be attributed to a consistent game plan.
“We stuck with our single wing offense through the season,” Ragland said, “but we did some variations on it with our formations. Really, today’s wildcat offense is just evolved from the old single wing.”
Ragland said every offensive success began with good blocking.
“We’d pull our guards and use lead blockers in front of our quarterback Jake Johnson,” he said. “The blocking on our offensive line really made all the difference: without that blocking, our quarterback wasn’t going anywhere.”
Shining in the O-line was right guard Ben Gleiter, who was often found leading the way for Johnson and standout wingback Bryan Stevens.
“We had great blocking, and when you give (quarterback) Jake Johnson some room, he’s really hard to stop,” Ragland said. “Johnson is fast, but he’s also solid—he’s a wrestler too—but he’s also a modest kid with a great attitude: if he runs over somebody, he helps them up. Bryan Stevens, our wingback, also had some really strong runs.”
From a “Wide Tackle Six” formation geared toward shutting down big-play outside runs, it was the Titans’ defense that finally capped off the winning season with key plays in the closing minutes of the championship game at Eastern Randolph High School.
“Ty Baldwin and Patrick Johnson, Jake’s little brother, both made huge plays in our secondary during the championship game,” Ragland said. “Ty broke up a long pass play, and Ben (Gleiter) recovered an onside kick to start the second half, which was huge because we scored on that possession.
“Toward the end, the other team was driving, and then they ran a trick play, and Brady Furey tackled their kid who otherwise would’ve (scored). Then it still came down to the last play, and Patrick Johnson intercepted the very last pass.”
Ragland said it took more than players to earn a championship, however.
“Parents were great and so supportive, and we also had great coaches,” he said. “Jim Greenlee coached the offensive line which really progressed this year. Gary Monroe was our defensive coordinator who installed a special defensive alignment just for the championship game, and that was huge.
“Quincy Heyson was a huge help, and Jim Gleiter was our offensive coordinator, and did a great job mixing it up. Teams would start to key on Jake Johnson, and then Jim would call a reverse to Bryan Stevens who would have a strong run, and keep teams off-balance.”
“It truly was a team effort, and all the coaches are real proud of the kids for how they worked hard and came together as a team,” Ragland said.
And while wins, losses, and records may be forgotten with time, these Titans will likely remember this championship for a lifetime.
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