They play on the same field. They wear the same uniforms, but make no mistake about it, life is different for the Phoenix Arcadia Titans.
A year ago, they entered the season known as a team that powerhouses had no trouble beating. That was before they went unbeaten during the regular season, whipping most of their opponents, and then winning their first two 4A Division II playoff games before losing in the semifinals to eventual state champion Tucson Palo Verde, 10-0.
With star running back Chip Sivak and quarterback Alec McDuffie back, the Titans are in an unfamiliar role as the team to beat in the state.
“We’re not going to sneak up on anybody,” Titans coach Jim Bevell said. “You look forward to it because you want to play the big games. We can’t afford to have down days.”
Sivak liked it better when the Titans got little respect.
“There is nothing wrong with being the underdog,” said Sivak, one of the Valley’s top running backs. “Nobody expects you to do anything and you come out and surprise people. This year, we know we’ve got people gunning for us.”
Bevell insists the Titans don’t deserve all the praise they are getting before even playing a down — not with a new offensive line.
“You’re not going to hear me moan and complain that we don’t have experience on the line. I think we’re going to have some kids that can fill in. It’s just going to take some time,” Bevell said. “I am concerned about our depth. We were very fortunate last year. We had very few injuries and we had good depth. It took us a long way. This year, there are some holes it’s going to take us a long time to fill, if we get them filled.”
Last season, the Titans were able to put together long sustained scoring drives almost every time they touched the ball. Bevell warned that may not happen this year.
“We have to invent ways to score,” he said. “There are teams that are going to gear up for the option. We’re expecting that. We have to adapt to our personnel.”
One of Bevell’s biggest tasks is convincing his Titans they will have to work harder to duplicate last season’s success.
“They are just now beginning to see,” Bevell said. “They’re 17, 18 years old and they expected things just to roll like we did last year.”