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SPANISH LAKE • The Trinity football team has lost two games in the last two seasons.

They're the only two games that matter to the Titans.

The first came in 2016, when the upstart Titans were beaten in the Class 2 championship game 26-18 by Lamar, which holds the longest dynasty in Missouri high school football with seven consecutive titles. Trinity finished 12-1.

The second loss came last fall in the Class 2 District 2 title game. Lutheran North survived 48-46 as it held Trinity quarterback Isaiah Williams out of the end zone as he scrambled for the game-tying 2-point conversion in the final half-minute of the fourth quarter. Trinity finished 9-1.

Back-to-back heartbreaks have fueled the returning Titans this offseason — all 20 of them.

That's right, 20.

The No. 1 small school in the preseason rankings, Trinity brings back 10 starters on offense and 10 on defense. The senior class has more than 150 combined Division I scholarship offers, players who have paid their dues on the varsity since they were freshmen.

The Titans are at the peak of their powers.

“We've always been a brotherhood, but I feel like we all want this,” senior right tackle Ira Henry said. “We've been wanting this. This is our last go around so we've got to get it.”

It's championship or bust for Trinity. Among the high-profile standouts who will contribute to the title chase are Henry (6-foot-5, 310 pounds) and junior left tackle Jalen St. John (6-6, 315). Both have been offered by a lengthy list of high-powered Division I programs.

Williams (5-10, 177) is a four-year varsity starter who threw for 1,898 yards, 29 touchdowns and was intercepted eight times in eight games of action as a junior after DuBourg and St. Charles forfeited their regular-season matchups with Trinity. Williams spurred the overtures of more than 40 high-profile college programs and verbally committed to Illinois in March.

Junior Teryion “Mookie” Cooper (5-10, 185) is an all-around athlete who had 646 combined rushing and receiving yards and scored eight touchdowns as a sophomore. He's among the top-rated junior recruits in Missouri with 23 offers, including Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri and Illinois. Cooper will see time in the backfield with senior Alphonzo Andrews (5-9, 185), who has 10 scholarship offers, and junior Reggie Love (5-11, 190), who averaged more than 9 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns in limited action. He has 14 Division I offers.

Senior receiver Marcus Washington (6-2, 195) caught 29 passes for 637 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. He'll pick from a who's who of college programs as his next destination. Junior receiver James Frenchie (5-10, 175) caught 13 passes for 444 yards and scored seven touchdowns. He's the No. 3-rated junior recruit in Missouri.

Senior linebacker Shammond Cooper (6-2, 200) has led the Titans in tackles in each of the three previous seasons. He will announce his college destination Jan. 3 when he, Williams and Washington compete in the Under Armour Game in Orlando, Fla.

Senior Bryce Childress (5-9, 170) did some of his best work last season at cornerback, where he had 31 tackles and four interceptions. He's verbally committed to Illinois as a receiver. Junior safety TJ Rush (6-1, 180) had five interceptions last season, one for each of his Division I offers.

The length and scope of the talent on Trinity's roster is stunning, but the Titans are under new management. Terrence Curry was promoted from within the staff after Cory Patterson accepted an assistant coach position with the University of Illinois. Patterson was the architect of Trinity's transformation from football also-ran into title contender.

Curry, who played at Kirkwood and then took his talents to Missouri, has a wealth of football knowledge, but this also is his first time leading a program.

“It's exciting because I've been with those guys the last two years,” Curry said. “Being a first-year coach, it puts me at ease that I have experience out there. It helps teaching those younger guys the system. It's a gift at the moment, but when they graduate it'll be the great curse. We'll address that when that time comes.”

As with any transition, it has had its bumps in the road. The coaching staff has turned over and there have been changes in preseason preparation and practice. But ultimately, it's not up to Curry to make plays. His eligibility has been used up.

“The players make the team at the end of the day. We make this team,” Williams said. “A coach is going to lead us in the right direction, but you can't play without players. This is our team. It's up to us on the field.”

Trinity believes it has the talent and the players to compete with any team in the country. It will test that right off the bat when it travels 14 hours by bus to Moultrie, Ga., and opens its season against Colquitt County at 7 p.m. Saturday. A week later it plays in the finale of the Gateway Scholars Classic against host East St. Louis. Both opponents are far larger, but Trinity believes size doesn't matter. They're ready for anything.

“We got tired of people saying we were good because we don't play anybody. We have one of the hardest schedules in Missouri. We're going to see how good we are,” Washington said. “I think we have a chance to win every game on our schedule, I don't care what no one is saying.”

2018 area football schedules

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