TRAVERSE CITY — The key word in Traverse City West practices this week was “emotion.”
So after Friday night’s 36-0 homecoming shutout over Gaylord, quarterback Brandon Konchek said the Titans “played with emotion.”
“We weren’t playing at the level we thought we should,” West coach Greg Vaughn said, the fourth-year Titans’ coach. “Tonight, we came out, we challenged our guys all week. And I think they responded.”
The Titans shut out their second opponent at Thirlby Field this season, beating the Blue Devils at home to finish second in the Big North Conference behind rival Traverse City Central.
West moves to 6-1 (4-1 Big North) on the season with two non-conference opponents left before playoff draws. Under the old “six-and-in” playoff system, that would have been enough to qualify, but West now heads to the backend of its schedule with Marquette and Detroit Catholic Central remaining.
As of Friday night, West had a 61.85 playoff point average, which ranks 20th in Michigan. Models project the Titans to qualify with Friday’s win even if they lose their final two games of the season, but that would put them near the bubble at 24th with 60.73 points. Holt currently has the 32nd spot with 50.04 points.
Vaughn said there’s no question the Titans have to continue to win.
“The way our schedule works out, and the different teams, that there’s no guarantees that with six wins we’re going to get in,” Vaughn said. “We told our boys going into this week that we’re in playoff mode.”
The Titans took a 29-0 lead at the end of the first half after two rushing touchdowns from Brandon Konchek (31, 45 yards), one from Michael Schermerhorn (1 yard), and a fumble recovery score from Carson Douglass. Konchek scored on a 7-yard TD rush at 9:27 to go in the third quarter to end the scoring run.
Konchek tallied 105 yards rushing on 10 attempts and 79 yards passing on nine completions. Will Gaston led in receiving yards with 35. Ben Schollett led in tackles with 10. Aiden Lewandowski was a team-second with eight. Lewandowski, Douglass, Jaden Emerson and Luke Miller each had a sack.
The Titans succeeded on their first two two-point conversion tries on their signature split-squad formation. They failed to get the extra two points when Konchek, the field goal holder, tried to make a pass to typical kicker Schermerhorn on a fake field goal.
“It’s the oldest formation in football,” Konchek said. “It’s insanely flexible. We’ve got so many different things we can do out of it, and obviously we can shift back into it and kick a field goal if we need to.”
The Titans now take a road trip to face Marquette and standout quarterback Austin Ridl next Friday.
Vaughn said it’s a long road trip that he’s taken both as a coach and a player.
“We’re somewhat familiar with them because they played Central the last couple of years,” Vaughn said. “Watched them here this year and saw what they can do — and they’re good athletes.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at William Hart Stadium.