For reasons no one seemed to know, Syracuse’s student section, “The Curse,” came to Thursday’s mid-October game against Farmington decked out in Santa hats and reindeer costumes for a “Christmas morning” theme.

While their fans rowdily celebrated the season of giving in the stands, the Titans on the field were all about taking.

Syracuse’s defense grabbed three interceptions and forced a safety in the second half as the Titans pummeled Farmington, 40-20, securing sole possession of the Region 1 title and capping off a 6-0 run through region play. It’s the first time the Titans have won the title since 2019 and the first time they’ve done so undefeated since 2012.

“We knew what we had going into this year,” Syracuse coach Mike Knight said. “We talked about it all year that we felt we were going to be the team in the end.”

Poignantly enough, Syracuse’s claim of the title came by defeating the team that was projected to win it all at the beginning of the season. Farmington suffered its second loss and finished third in region standings.

The Titans started out the year with two losses by a combined seven points before evening out at 2-2. Once region play started, they went on an absolute tear, fueled by their shutdown defense, winning by an average of 34 points per game.

“All year, they’ve been phenomenal,” Knight said, “but the last four weeks, they’ve been so tough against region opponents. They’ve done such a phenomenal job of working to get better every day… Coach (Mitch) Tulane and his defensive staff do a great job of getting those guys ready to play.”

The Titans’ defense, which hadn’t allowed a touchdown in over a month, got going early on, forcing negative yardage on every play of Farmington’s first drive for a three-and-out.

After the Titans scored on their first possession with a goal-line run up the middle by junior running back Kobe Bennett, Farmington started to pick up steam getting downfield on the Phoenix’s next drive. That’s when junior cornerback Keller Facer was in the right place at the right time as a bobbled catch by a Farmington receiver wound up right in his hands as he dove for the pick.

Syracuse’s next drive was a chaotic sequence that left Phoenix fans and coaches fuming. The Titans kept their drive alive with a defensive pass interference call giving them a first down, and the subsequent not-so-subtle disagreement from the Farmington sideline led to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. On the next play, Farmington jumped on a loose ball and recovered a fumble, but further review from officials reversed the fumble and gave possession back to Syracuse.

A few plays later, on the first play in the second quarter, Hopkins rolled out right and pitched to junior Jake Metcalfe, who then tossed over the defense for a wide-open DJ Mayes, and the junior receiver hauled in the pass to give Syracuse a 14-0 lead.

On Farmington’s next drive, senior Brevin Hamblin came out of nowhere with the play of the game. Hamblin undercut a pass by Wight, nabbed the interception, and with nothing but green grass (well, turf) in front of him, took the pick all the way back 52 yards for the score.

“We sustained drives,” Knight said, “and the pick by Brevin was something that spring-boarded us and gave us a chance to settle in. We’ve done good playing with a lead, so that gave us the opportunity to do that.”

Farmington finally got on the scoreboard just before the end of the first half as Wight connected on two big pass plays to get down in the redzone, capping off the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior Adam Stucki, who dragged his defender over the goal line for the score.

After halftime, Syracuse scored again on its first drive, and the rout was on. The Titans subsequently forced a safety, then kicker Rhett Thompson later nailed a 21-yard field goal. In the midst of it, Titans senior defensive tackle Sam Pula had the crowd rocking with an interception early in the half, then provide a huge play later, drilling Wight in the endzone for a safety.

“He’s one of the strongest guys we’ve ever had at Syracuse,” Knight said. “He’s a smooth defensive tackle. I think he’s one of the best in the state.”

The Phoenix furiously rallied in the fourth quarter, as Stucki caught another touchdown pass from 10 yards out. After forcing a 3-and-out by Syracuse, they scored again with minutes to go as Mitch Nielson hauled in a touchdown catch for 20 yards. Suddenly, it was a two-score game with four minutes still left on the clock.

Nevertheless, Syracuse efficiently and methodically drove the length of the field on its last drive, and Hopkins sealed the deal with a fade route pass to senior Dylan Croxford for a six-yard touchdown in the last minute.