The Columbus Titans Football team arguably was the surprise team in 2019 with an 8-2 record after posting a 1-8 record in 2018.
Now that they are on everyone’s radar, the Titans are hoping to go from surprise team to favorites in 3A.
In fact, only two starting seniors return this year for the Columbus Titans.
“The best part of last season was that we came together as a team, improved in so many facets of the game, and had so many players contribute to the team success,” said second-year Columbus football head coach Blake Burns.
“We had a lot of success last season, but there were times when the big moments seemed to get to us, and we didn’t respond well. We have to continue to mature and be prepared for those moments.”
Those moments described by Burns begins on the offensive and defensive lines.
Burns noted the change from last year to this season is the players upfront.
2nd Team All-CNC League defensive lineman Kody Schalk is the only starter returning on the line this season.
On defense, the 6’3″ 245 lbs. junior recorded 24 tackles along with three sacks, two forced and recovered fumbles.
Senior utility lineman Caleb Murillo, 6′ 280 lbs., joins Schalk on the Columbus football line.
Sophomores Jake Eddington and Nathan Stice should plant the foundation for a solid line for the Titans.
Eddington, 5’9″ 265 lbs., brings varsity experience from his freshman year into the 2020 season.
“We will look for seniors such as Lynn Shallenburger, Sylas Stone, and Caleb Murillo to continue to set the example for us daily on how to work and be a positive teammate,” said the Titans coach.
“We also have a strong group of junior leaders such as Gabe Martin, Jaxson Haraughty, and Trent Smith that will do their part each day to help set the standards in our program.”
The skills positions for Columbus could bring plenty of highlight-reel moments in 2020.
Senior Lynn Shallenburger, 5’11” 150 lbs., doubles at wide receiver and defensive back.
Junior running back Gabe Martin, 5’10 165 lbs., returns for Columbus. Last season he recorded 552 yards on the ground with four touchdowns as well as 51 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
Martin earned 2nd Team All-CNC League Running Back and Linebacker honors in 2019. The Topeka Captial Journal named him Honorable Mention last season as well.
Junior Trent Smith will factor into the running game along with Martin. The 5’9 160 lbs. CNC League Honorable Mention Linebacker also carried the ball 28 times for 114 yards and one touchdown.
Smith forced two fumbles, recovered two, and credited with 72 tackles.
Junior Jaxson Haraughty moves over from wide receiver over to quarterback in 2020.
Haraughty inherits an offense that averaged 31 points per game in the regular season and a defense that held teams to an average of fewer than two scores.
Four of the eleven defensive starters for the Titans earned All-CNC League defensive honors last season.
However, Burns reinforced that front line’s performance could decide the results of games this year.
“We will win or lose with the way our offensive and defensive line performs,” said Burns.
“They will set the tone for us on both sides of the ball.”
Columbus joins a physical and athletic group of teams in 3A District 1.
The Titans travel to fellow CNC member Baxter Springs for the start of district play.
Columbus also travels to Galena and Caney Valley, both known for their hard-hitting athletic ability.
Columbus begins the season at home on Friday, September 4th, 2020, against CNC rival Frontenac.
Burns feels though that his team is up to the challenge of a demanding schedule and will take the season day-by-day.
“We have to practice with focus, effort, and intensity to improve daily, and maintain that for the duration of the season,” said the Titans coach.