DEL CITY — After a 1-5 start, Carl Albert could've folded up shop and been done for the season.
The Titans could've focused on basketball or next season or anything but the rest of a football season that had started off disastrous by most standards but especially for Carl Albert and its lofty expectations.
Five weeks later, though, the Titans are heading to the second round of the playoffs after knocking off No. 6-ranked Del City 28-21 in the Class 5A playoff opener on Friday night at Robert Kalsu Stadium.
“Especially coming off four losses like we had that we could've won,” Carl Albert coach Gary Rose said. “We were a very, very average to poor football team early in the season.
“They could've given up. But we as coaches are never going to give up and they took on that same attitude.”
Carl Albert (6-5) will host Claremore next Friday at Harris Field in the second round. Del City's season ends 9-2.
The Titans did it Friday by limiting mistakes, holding down Del City's big-play threats and grinding it out with a steady dose of quarterback Steven Thompson on the ground.
Thompson carried 38 times for 189 yards and scored all four of the Titans' touchdowns.
His final score came on Carl Albert's first drive of the second half, when he sprinted 70 yards for the touchdown to put the Titans up 28-7.
“When I hit that hole, I was just praying to God that I could make it to the end zone,” Thompson said. “I was running for my life.”
But less than six minutes later, Del City had cut the lead to a touchdown and the Eagles defense was holding strong.
That's when Carl Albert turned in its most important drive of the night, even though it resulted in no points.
The Titans took more than nine minutes off the clock with a 16-play drive that featured 10 carries by Thompson.
The most critical play was Thompson's two-yard gain on fourth-and-1 that kept the drive alive for the final five plays.
“That was an amazing drive,” Thompson said.
Del City drove the ball to the Carl Albert 11 before the Titans defense came up with two big stops before intercepting John McBride's pass in the end zone to all but seal it with less than four minutes remaining.
Carl Albert was without one of its best lineman, Caleb Holland, who was held out with a medical issue.
That left the Titans scrambling, moving Kyler Walker to the other side and plugging Anthony Woods at right tackle.
“They did a great job for us up there tonight, especially considering what we were missing,” Rose said.