Division III, Section III
Coach: Jim Ellison
Last year’s record: 6-5, lost in first round of 4A-II state playoffs to Williams Field
Returning offensive starters: 7, including running back Sosaia Maafu, who had 112 carries for 648 yards and 14 touchdowns last year, including three 100-yard rushing games in the final six contests.
Returning defensive starters: 7, including linebacker Andrew Bradway, who was second on the team with 79 tackles last season.
Aug. 26 vs. Coronado, Sept. 2 vs. Washington, Sept. 9 at Thunderbird, Sept. 16 at Shadow Mountain, Sept. 23 vs. Camelback, Sept. 30 at Maricopa, Oct. 6 at Paradise Valley, Oct. 14 vs. Tempe, Oct. 21 at Saguaro, Oct. 28 vs. Higley.
Aug. 26 at Coronado: The Titans have routed the Dons in the past two meetings, and will look to get the season off on the right foot in this one. The teams aren’t in the same division anymore as Coronado dropped down to Division IV, but this is a crosstown rivalry that always has the interest of the community.
Sept. 9 at Thunderbird: The two teams finished with identical regular season records last year, but their playoff fates were quite different. The Titans were bounced in the first round, while Thunderbird went on to the 4A-II title. Arcadia will get an early indication on how close it is to the upper tier Division III programs.
Oct. 28 vs. Higley: Arcadia started off 4-0 last season, but a loss to the Knights began a downward spiral in which the team would lose five of their final seven games. The teams match up again in the regular season finale as both expect to be in the playoff mix.
In the past, Arcadia coach Jim Ellison's motto was to make the playoffs and then see what happens. The Titans made it last year as the No. 15 seed, but not unpredictably, it was a short stay. Arcadia had to travel to face Williams Field, and the Black Hawks cruised to a 37-10 first round victory.
With that in mind, Ellison doesn’t want to just get in any longer.
“We’ve talked about being an upper tier team, maybe a four or five seed, so we don’t have to face somebody like (Williams Field) right off the bat,” he said. “We know we’ll meet them eventually. I don’t want that so early. That’s what we’ve worked on, cranking it up so we can be in that upper tier.”
Ellison is confident that this year’s group can do it. The Titans won six games last season and return seven starters on each side of the ball.
Quarterback Cole Richardson (69-of-139, 1,146 yards, 6 TD, 10 INT) will be a senior and will have Alex Reynolds as his main target. Running back Sosaia Maafu became a starter after the team’s top two tailbacks were lost to injury, and finished the season with 648 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns. He had a stretch of three consecutive 100-yard games after taking over starting duties, and Ellison likes his frame of mind entering the year.
“When he started (last) year, we knew how good he could be, but Sosaia had to accept that main role,” Ellison said. “We don’t have to tell him any more that he’s good. He gets it now. Before we had to tell him to run people over. Now he knows he can run people over.”
Andrew Bradway was the team’s second-leading tackler last season and is back at linebacker. Ellison likes his cornerbacks and said he will rely on them in one-on-one coverage. He said Josh Anderson is getting collegiate looks and has the ability to lock down opposing receivers, and that D.J. Warrick and Vince Roscoe will alternate at the other cornerback spot. Safety is the team’s biggest question mark defensively, but Ellison hopes to have that ironed out following the team’s August 17 scrimmage with Goldwater and Boulder Creek.
Arcadia started last season 4-0 before stumbling. Ellison knows his team will need to win more than six games to get a higher seed, and believes the personnel is in place to do it. The Titans have games scheduled against both the 4A-I (Saguaro) and 4A-II (Thunderbird) champions from a season ago, but the expectations are high.
“We really have had a good offseason,” Ellison said. “Our players are physically stronger. We’ve gotten compliments from others about that. We’re finally to the point depth- and strength-wise, barring injury, to be (an upper tier program).”