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When the clock stuck midnight and Friday became Saturday, Collins football coach Jerry Lucas stood on the track at Titans Stadium.
Just a few moments earlier he had closed the door of the school’s field house, and now he was taking a snapshot – a mental one, as well as one on his cell phone – of the scoreboard.
Home 58; Guests 7.
The Titans had whipped Warren East in the Class AAAA state semifinal to earn a spot in this Friday night’s championship game.
“When we started this thing three years ago, this was just a dream,” Lucas had told a couple hundred Collins supporters in the school’s gym about an hour earlier.
A little more than two years after the new high school opened its doors, and in only its third season of football, this namesake of Kentucky’s only female governor is playing for a state championship at 8 p.m. EST Friday at Western Kentucky University’s L.T. Smith Stadium against Fort Thomas Highlands, one of the most storied programs in state history.
That reality, as well as the magnitude of the moment, wasn’t lost on the Titans after their rout of the Raiders.
“It means a lot to Martha Layne Collins [High School], it means a lot to the community,” junior quarterback Lawson Page said after completing 15 of 20 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns in the victory.
It’s a community that hasn’t had a team in a state football final since Shelby County lost to Male, 29-7, in the 1993 4A championship game. And one that won its only state title in 1987, when the Rockets beat Boone County, 17-14. Current Collins assistant coach Tom Becherer was the head coach of both of those Shelby County teams.
“The amazing thing is this team is so similar to our team in eighty-seven,” Becherer said. “We had a bunch of real good kids who played hard.”
These Titans have worked hard to get here.
Lucas said that a week after Collins lost, 20-15, at Franklin-Simpson in last year’s state semis, the Titans were back in the weight room.
“The only time they’ve taken off was the [Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s mandated] ‘dead period’ [in July], and that was only because we made them,” Lucas said.
“We worked hard all year,” said junior running back Dre Farris, who scored three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) against Warren East. “But we’re not finished. Now we’ve got to go down to Bowling Green and take care of business.”
Win, or lose, though the Titans feel like they’ve laid the groundwork for the future.
“When we started this thing, our motto was, ‘Tradition starts now,’” Lucas said. “We said, this is what we want to accomplish.…And these little knuckleheads have done it.
“We still have one more goal, though.”