On Sunday, the New Mexico Titans finished off their perfect season with a 25-14 win over the New Mexico Thunder to avenge their loss from last year and take home the New Mexico Independent Football League Championship.
“It’s huge,” Titans assistant head coach John Pennington told Developmental Football USA. “Last year, we got this far and played the same team and came up short. It was definitely an emotional win, we knew it was going to be tough to beat someone three times. The competition is always there, they have the athletes. We knew our work was going to be cut out for us.”
The Titans improved their record to 15-0 on the year with the win, while the Thunder closed out at 11-3 – undefeated against every team in the NMIFL except the champions.
“They came out to play,” Pennington said. “They had a different game plan than we had seen, than what we had prepared for. They balled out on us for a while and we made some adjustments to pull it out, but hats off to them. It was tough.”
The Thunder were looking to take a 7-6 lead into halftime, before the Titans scored in the final seconds of the half, but they came up short on the two-point attempt and took a 12-7 lead into halftime.
“Two of my really good starting corners, Brack and Phil, I had them go down, so we started plugging guys in and they ended up making some plays,” Pennington said. “We had a pick six called back, but it was a good game – a good physical game.”
In the second half, both teams exchanged scores again to make it 19-14, until the Titans finally outlasted the Thunder to put the game away.
“Finally the offense put together a really long, grinding drive in the fourth quarter,” Pennington said. “That was the final, it kind of took their heart at that point.”
The Titans are led by do-it-all safety Anthony Ratliff.
“He’s the best kick returner, punt returner and safety, averaging a pick-six and a punt return touchdown every game,” Pennington said. “He is the x-factor of the whole team.”
Offensively, a talented backfield makes everything happen for the Titans.
“Jason Bray, our quarterback is just clutch,” Pennington said. “He’s just a veteran and just leads and makes the plays. Jermaine Tee Andre’ Wilkins as a running back has been one of the most durable and always has been. He’s fast, elusive and always gets that extra yard for you. He’s good out of the backfield.
“I would say those are our top three guys, but Ratliff is No. 1.”
“I’m pretty sure a Lubbock team (Lubbock Liberty Eagles) won the southern New Mexico league, the RGFL, so that’s kind of our next move,” Pennington said. “We want to play the Lubbock team, we want to play the best Arizona team and we want to set something up with the Greyhawks. That’s kind of the road we want to take.”