Senior Blake Stafford reaches for a pass at a Todd Beamer football preseason practice on Aug. 28. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Senior Blake Stafford reaches for a pass at a Todd Beamer football preseason practice on Aug. 28. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Todd Beamer football preview: Quality over quantity

Titans football gears up for 2019 season in hopes of another league championship.

The Todd Beamer High School football team may be smaller in numbers this year, but quantity is made up in quality.

After last season’s NPSL Mountain Division Championship win and 7-3-0 record, the Titans are looking for a repeat, said TBHS head football coach Darren McKay. The team was also crowned league champions in 2016 and 2018.

Todd Beamer lost to Skyline 38-33 in week 10 playoffs last year.

“Expectations are the same as every other year,” said McKay, who is entering his 25th year as a head coach and his eighth season with Todd Beamer.

“Our general numbers are down,” he said. “We’re looking to see is that a football thing? Is it something where people are sensitive to the issues around concussions and CTE?”

It is common to have more athletes join after school begins, “but this is unusual,” he said.

The Titans only have seven freshmen on this year’s roster and less than 50 athletes total, a stark comparison to prior years where the team’s numbers were well above 80, McKay said.

“The depth issue and pure numbers is the biggest difference,” McKay explained. “We’ve had summer to experiment … we’re not going into August still experimenting.”

Pre-season has focused on trying to create depth wherever possible on the field.

“You’re teaching some kids multiple positions … and having to shorten down some of the actual practice time because you can only run them so long before they start to break down.”

The Titans are feeling the impact of two big losses from last year, McKay said, as former QB Brandon Niksich and Billy Vann both graduated in June, along with a few other key players including Kiko Vaimauga who transferred to O’Dea.

Despite this, the Titans are loaded with a strong lineup of upperclassmen proving to be the team’s dominant force. Filling Niksich’s cleats as QB is senior Brycen Dillworth at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds. The two way starter as a junior (wide receiver/defensive back) has the stature and athleticism more of a runner or basketball player, but his talents on the football field earned him first team All-League honors last year.

“We’re going to be a force to be reckoned with this season,” Dillworth said. “We might not have a whole 80-man roster, but we have the right guy at every position.”

McKay said it’s the right time for Dillworth to become a first-time quarterback with the safety net of a powerful offensive line.

Senior OL I’Ava Lui, 5-foot-11 285-pounds, earned first team All-League as a junior and second team All-League as a sophomore.

Junior OL Jayden Jones, 6-foot-4 280-pounds, started every game of his sophomore season and moved from tight end last season to LT tackle.

Last year, the two senior wide receivers Blake Stafford and Alex Rogers had 30 catches for 615 yards and six touch downs between them.

“If I had to have an inexperienced offensive line or an inexperienced quarterback, I would much rather have the inexperienced quarterback if I have that kind of offensive line.”

Amid the senior studded lineup, sophomore OL Malik Agbo is a standout among the rest in part to talent and also thanks to his 6-foot-5, 300-pound frame. At just 15 years old, Agbo is a national recruit with three D1 offers already in his pocket from Washington, Nevada, and Tennessee.

“If you are going to be replacing the quarterback, it’s nice to know you have an experienced offensive line … offensive and defensive lines should be our strike,” McKay said.

Special teams have been a key factor for the Titans, along with their defense.

Returning to the team this year is senior kicker Nate Clow, a University of Southern California baseball commit.

“He’s a weapon for us,” McKay said. “Not only can he kick a field goal, but he puts the ball in the end zone almost 70 percent of the time on his kickoffs so the other team is starting on the 20-yard line.”

The Titans had the top defense in the league last year and in three of the last four years, have led the league in turnup ratio.

“We don’t give the ball up and we take the ball away which is a huge part of winning football games,” McKay said.

Returning defensive starters include Dillworth, Rogers, and Agbo, along with senior LB Denny Tiumalu, 6-foot 205-pounds, a three-year starter and Mountain Division Defensive Lineman of the Year last season.

Senior LB Andrew Haver, 5-foot 11 195-pounds, second-year starter and leading tackler on NPSL’s No. 1 Scoring Defense.

Senior DB Xavier Watson, 5-foot-10 175-pounds, is a four-year starter and will be the Titan’s most versatile DB with the ability to play over the top, in the box, and at the corner.

Strong defensive line helps the secondary and a good offensive line with three experienced running backs helps your quarterback

“If you can play well on both sides at the front, that helps you a lot,” McKay said. “We’re ready and we’re excited.”

Todd Beamer heads to Kentridge for their football season opener game Friday, Sept. 6.

Players to watch

Offensive:

OL I’Ava Lui, 5’11, 285, sr.; OL Malik Agbo, 6’5, 300, so.; OL Jayden Jones, 6’4, 280, jr.; QB Brycen Dillworth, 5’10, 175, sr.; WR Blake Stafford, 5’11, 165, sr.; WR Alex Rogers, 5’11, 180, sr.

Defensive:

LB Denny Tiumalu, 6’0, 205, SR.; DB Brycen Dillworth, 5’10, 175, sr.; LB Andrew Haver, 5’11, 195, sr.; DB Alex Rogers, 5’11, 180, sr.; DB Xavier Watson, 5’10, 175, sr.; DL Malik Agbo, 6’5, 300, so.

Todd Beamer players stay hydrated in the August heat at preseason practices. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Todd Beamer players stay hydrated in the August heat at preseason practices. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Senior Denny Tiumalu secures the football during a practice play on Aug. 28. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Senior Denny Tiumalu secures the football during a practice play on Aug. 28. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Todd Beamer football players toe the line before a play at preseason practice on Aug. 28. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Todd Beamer football players toe the line before a play at preseason practice on Aug. 28. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

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