TCA looks to notch program's first boys' soccer title in 4th straight trip to final

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Photo - The Classical Academy's Titus Grant, left, and Jonny Stephens celebrate Grant’s second goal of TCA's 5-0 win over Durango n in their 4A state soccer semifinal game Wednesday, November 9, 2016 at Echo Park Stadium in Parker. TCA will play in the championship game Saturday. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
The Classical Academy's Titus Grant, left, and Jonny Stephens celebrate Grant’s second goal of TCA's 5-0 win over Durango n in their 4A state soccer semifinal game Wednesday, November 9, 2016 at Echo Park Stadium in Parker. TCA will play in the championship game Saturday. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

Seniors on the The Classical Academy boys' soccer team have never ended their season anywhere other than Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

That in itself is an incredible feat.

The flip side of that, however, is that no player on the squad knows what it feels like to lift the state title trophy.

The Titans will make their fourth consecutive trip to the title game on Saturday against Battle Mountain, again at the home of the Colorado Rapids at 1 p.m.

The seniors are hoping they don't leave the program with yet another silver plaque. They want gold.

"With the experience, we know what we've done wrong in the past three years," leading scorer Titus Grant said after his team's semifinal win Thursday. "So we're not going to really change things up, we're going to have to play our game, come up big and hopefully get the win."

The third-seeded Titans (17-2) have rolled through their playoff competition. They've outscored their postseason opponents 16-2, posting three shutouts in four games.

Their semifinal game (a 5-0 win) proved nearly as comfortable as their playoff-opening win (6-0).

But having been down this road before, the Titans know it will take a better effort to win that elusive championship when they face No. 9 Battle Mountain (17-2).

"You can always do better, always," said Titans junior Jonny Stephens, who notched two goals Thursday. "Like tonight, there were a lot of things we can improve on. This wasn't our perfect game."

Last year's 1-0 finals loss was missing a big piece for the Titans, and that was Grant. The Seattle Pacific University commit was reduced to being a cheerleader last season after seeing two yellow cards in the semifinal, resulting in a one-game suspension.

Last year he scored a team-high 29 goals in 20 games. He's already hit that mark this year in 19 games.

All the experience - and experiences - the Titans have dealt with over the past four seasons have given them what they need to get over that hump.

"It's motivating every year just to get there, especially after a loss from the last championship," Stephens said. "... Terrible feeling, you don't want to feel it again."

The team isn't taking anything for granted. They've watched all the high seeds around them fall by the wayside, knowing that could have been them.

Instead, they've focused on their task.

"I think they're very determined," longtime coach Blake Galvin said. "I think they've got a realistic outlook as well. It's high school soccer, it's the state final, anything can happen. We've seen it before. There's a lot of optimism, but there's a reality there. I think they're ready."