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With 1 minute and 17 seconds to play, 86 yards to go and Collins and Spencer County tied at 14-all on a Friday night in early October, Collins football coach Jerry Lucas had a good feeling.
That’s because Titans senior quarterback Lawson Page was going onto the field.
“I knew it was on, I just knew it when he took over,” Lucas recalled earlier this week.
Page engineered a 5-play, 55-second, game-winning drive – completing all four of his passes, for 77 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown pass to Nathan Sames with 22 seconds to play – that gave the Titans a 21-14 district victory over the host Bears that warm night in Taylorsville.
“It’s what we call ‘winning time,’” Lucas said.
And win Page has done since taking over as the Collins’ QB in the first game of the 2011 season. In 42 games as a starter Page has guided the Titans to a 33-9 record, three district titles and three region titles.
“He’s a winner,” Lucas said.
If Collins (11-2) can win today at Owensboro (10-3) in the Class AAAA state semifinal, the Titans will make their second consecutive state finals appearance . That game is at 4 p.m. EST Dec. 7 at Western Kentucky University’s Houchens Industries/L.T. Smith Stadium.
There have been drives – as well as memorable plays aplenty – like that throughout Page’s career.
There was the time his freshman year when, in a junior varsity game, he tackled a player so hard he was flagged for “excessive tackling.”
There was his fourth-down run against Western two years ago in the region final when he tried to hurdle a defender and got the first down on the Titans’ game-winning drive.
There was his Johnny Manziel-esque, runaround-and-sling-it touchdown pass to Landon Forrest at the end of the half in the Titans’ victory over North Oldham earlier this season.
There was his lead block that helped Dre Farris spring a big run in the Titans’ 42-14 victory over North Oldham in last Friday night’s Region 2 final.
“He can do it all,” Lucas said. “There’s no doubt in my mind he would be one of our top defensive players. We could put him at defensive end, linebacker or in the secondary and he’d excel.”
For the past three years, though, Page has done pretty well for himself playing almost exclusively quarterback (there have been some appearances on defense too). In 42 games he has thrown for 7,338 yards and 93 touchdowns (against only 21 interceptions) and also rushed for 1,822 yards and eight more TDs.
So far this season Page has completed 167 of 272 passes (61.3 percent) for 2,873 yards with 34 touchdowns and only three interceptions (and two of those were in the same game).
“He is a complete quarterback. He’s hard-nosed, gritty. He understands the game,” Lucas said. “But if he’s one for two [passing] and we win the game, he could care less.”
Page, it seems, will do whatever it takes for his team to win, whether it’s running or passing. Last season, for example, Page, who is 6 feet 1 and 200 pounds and a traditional drop-back passer, ran for nearly 1,000 yards (997 to be exact) in addition to throwing for 2,929 yards and 36 touchdowns for the state runner-up team.
“He’s a load when he takes off with the football,” Lucas said. “He’s as dangerous when he takes off with it as he is when he throws it.”
Just ask the North Oldham defender and would-be tackler Page stiff-armed to the ground during a run last week.
This season, though, with Eastern transfer Ryan Watkins taking on the role of workhorse running back, Page has settled more for staying in the pocket as he has settled into his position.
“He calls out protections, makes all his own calls. He doesn’t look to me for anything any more,” Lucas said.
Page and Lucas have a unique relationship. Page calls him his “second father.”
“We’ve just got this great bond,” Page said. “He gets mad at me some times, but I really learn from what I do.”
Lucas, in fact, has been known to put Page in tough situations – i.e. not leaving him a backfield blocker when he knows the opposing team is coming with a blitz – so his quarterback can learn from them.
That practice has paid off in the postseason, in which Page has completed 65 percent of his passes and thrown for 665 yards and eight touchdowns.
Page doesn’t just set the tone for the Titans on the field, though, he does so off the field as well.
“He’s as strong a leader as we’ve ever had, and I’m going way past Collins,” said Lucas, formerly a long-time assistant at Shelby County. “When he speaks, everybody listens, and I don’t know that you can teach that.”
Why is Page such a good leader?
“Because he cares about people, first and foremost,” Lucas said. “He is a friend to everybody he meets, and you can’t teach that. He’s a ‘yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am,’ kind of kid. There’s not a person who’s met the kid who does not love him.”
Something that has baffled Lucas is the lack of love Page has received from colleges. Lindsey Wilson has offered a grant-in-aid, and Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State and Murray State have shown interest. But Lucas has been surprised that some of the state’s larger schools haven’t come calling.
“There’s nothing I’d like more than to have the game on the line and the ball in his hands,” Lucas said. “You give him the ball with ninety yards to go with a minute or less left, he’s going to score.”
Just ask Spencer County.