Titans advance to state finals with 12th straight win over Bishop McGuinness
By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
NOBLE – A slow start didn’t worry Carl Albert on Friday night.
Not even with a trip to the Class 5A state championship on the line.
After falling behind early, the Titans scored 44 unanswered points and topped Bishop McGuinness 51-28 in the state semifinal game at Noble Stadium.
“People always have high expectations for us, and it always feels great to get the state championship,” said coach Mike Dunn. “It’s not easy. You get everyone’s best shot. You have to play really good teams and sometimes you have to play good teams twice.”
It was the Titans’ second win over Bishop McGuinness this season. The Irish improved drastically since a 49-7 loss at Carl Albert last month. They also welcomed back a few key players that were missing from the first meeting.
“They have gotten better and better over the five weeks since we played them,” Dunn said. “I know they were banged up for most of the year. They did not have the same lineup from Week 1 to the playoffs. They got some of those kids back and we knew it’d be a different football team over there.”
The two teams were nearly even in offensive yards, but the Titans took advantage of miscues by the Irish early in the game.
Carl Albert (13-0) advances to the state championship against rival Del City (13-0). The Titans will be looking for their second straight title and 18th overall. The Eagles advanced to the state title game for the first time since 1976 with a win over Claremore on Friday.
“This is the matchup that everyone wanted to see and it’s pretty cool that the two best teams are playing in the last game,” Dunn said. “It’s hard to get there and I’m proud of everyone involved.”
All four of Carl Albert’s OU commits (Kevin Sperry, Xavier Robinson, Trynae Washington and Marcus James) scored in the win over Bishop McGuinness.
Sperry threw for 216 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another. Washington had two catches for 129 yards with both for scores.
Robinson had 27 carries for 194 yards and one touchdown. He also threw a touchdown pass to James.
McGuinness (8-4) got off to a great start with a long scoring drive. The Irish ran the ball effectively and picked up two fourth downs in the drive that lasted more than eight minutes. Tom Watts capped the drive with a one-yard score for a 7-0 lead.
The Titans answered with a long drive but were kept out of the end zone. Ethan Spiwak drilled a 35-yard filed goal with 10:35 remaining in the second quarter for a 7-3 score.
Things quickly went down hill from there for the Irish who made a series of costly miscues.
After getting stopped near midfield, the Irish had to punt away. The snap flew over the punter’s head and the Titans took over at the Irish 14. Then on fourth down, Xavier Robinson took a direct snap and threw a pass to Marcus James in the end zone for a score and a 10-7 lead.
McGuinness quickly turned the ball over on a failed lateral. Emerson Williams recovered it on the Irish 12. That set up a nine-yard touchdown run by Sperry to make it a 17-7 score with 3:43 left in the half.
On the next possession, the Irish faced a fourth-and-two from their own 26. They rolled the dice with a quarterback draw but lost. The Titan defense stopped Damon Cochran a yard short for a turnover on downs.
One play later, Sperry found Robinson for a 26-yard touchdown pass and a 24-7 halftime lead.
“Our kids did a great job of responding, especially on defense,” Dunn said. “Once our kids settled in, we started getting stops like we need to.”
The Titans kept their foot on the gas in the second half.
Sperry threw three touchdowns in the third quarter. Two of those scores went to Washington on passes of 43 and 86 yards. On the second score, Sperry made an adjustment at the line of scrimmage after seeing the Irish defending Washington with single coverage.
“We’ve been preaching all week about taking advantage of one on ones, so Kevin [Sperry] got me in a fade route,” Washington said. “He threw it up and I went and made a play.”
Sperry also had a 43-yard touchdown throw to freshman Jacson Webster.
McGuinness scored three times in the fourth quarter to snap the Titans’ scoring run.
Robinson added a touchdown run in the fourth to make it a 51-28 final.
Easton Harless led the Titans in tackles with 14 including three for loss and one sack. James had 12 tackles with two for loss. Jakyre Carter had 10 tackles.
Spiwak was 6 of 7 on extra points and had one field goal.
The Titans and Eagles will face off in the 5A finals at 1 p.m. Saturday at UCO’s Chad Richison Stadium. Carl Albert beat Del City last year in the state quarterfinals.
“It feels really good to get back to the state championship,” said junior Caden Davis. “We’re ready to get the young kids a ring and ready to take what’s ours.”
It will be a special game for Dunn who coached at Del City for four years before taking the Carl Albert job in 2021.
Dunn and Del City coach Robert Jones are longtime friends and coached together for years in Texas and Del City.
“This is big time for our district to have two teams in the championship,” Dunn said. “I have a lot of respect for Del City and coach [Robert] Jones. He’s done an unbelievable job and their kids play incredibly hard and disciplined.”