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The key for Collins in tonight’s Class 4A, Region 2 championship football game at Western is fairly simple.
“We’re going to have to stop them from running the ball to win,” Titans Coach Jerry Lucas said.
Of course that’s easier said than done.
Whether Collins (9-3) can or can’t stop the Warriors’ ground attack likely will be the deciding factor in this three-match – the third consecutive season the two teams are playing for a regional title.
The Warriors won the first meeting, 31-26, two years ago before the Titans turned the tables in the rematch, 13-12, last year at Robert Doyle Stadium. The rubber match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. in Louisville.
“We’ve had two great battles with them the last two years, and I’m sure this one will be a great one, too,” Lucas said.
In 2010, Western returned the opening kickoff of the game on its way to a 21-0 lead. Collins fought its way back, but four turnovers (including a fumble in the end zone and an interception in the end zone) and 12 penalties were ultimately too much for the Titans to overcome. Collins outgained the Warriors 528-207 in total offense as Titans quarterback Branden Cresap completed 37 of 66 passes for 440 yards. Meanwhile Western rushed on 42 of its 44 plays that night for 207 yards.
Last year Lawson Page’s 24-yard touchdown pass to Cedric Hinkle with 7:08 to play capped Collins’ comeback. The Titans, who played without running back Dre Farris because of an ankle injury, outgained the Warriors, 249-168, in total offense but Western once again won the turnover battle (2-1).
One difference between this meeting and the previous two is that the Warriors have a new coach. Torrey Shinholster has taken over for LaVell Boyd, who went to Seneca.
“There’s a lot of similarities [between this year and the past two],” Lucas said. “They have a new coach, but I think he was on staff before. They’re very similar to what they’ve done in the past.”
As in the past Western, which returned 11 starters (five on offense and six on defense) from last season, has played a very difficult schedule.
“Their record is a little misleading,” Lucas said.
The Warriors (6-6) lost their first four games of the season to 6A Ballard, 6A Male, 4A Highlands and 3A Central. Since then, though, Western has won six of its last eight games. Its only losses in that span were on the road, at 6A Central Hardin and at 6A Eastern.
Western is 6-1 against 4A teams, with the lone loss a 51-23 setback to top-ranked Highlands in which junior running back Cory Durham rushed for 200 yards.
Western is coming off a 46-34 victory over Nelson County this past Friday night in the second round of the playoffs. In that game Warriors’ sophomore running back Adrian Williams-Rolston ran for four touchdowns, including three of more than 40 yards.
“This team is going to come out and run the ball,” Lucas said of Western, which has rushed the ball on 74 of the 91 offensive plays it has run against Collins over the past two years. “They’ve got a stable of backs.”
Last week Doss quarterback Devonte Moffitt rushed for 149 yards and had touchdown runs of 57 and 56 yards in addition to the 66-yard TD pass he threw against the Titans.
“The thing about our defense is, we have to eliminate the big play, or at least cut it down,” Lucas said. “The other night [against Doss] in the second half we at least were making them earn it.”
The good news is that the Titans should be close to full strength on defense. Sophomore safety Browning Becherer (foot) returned in the second half of last week’s game, and junior D-lineman Kris Jones (leg) is expected to be back tonight.
Page, who was in on a handful of plays at safety the last two games, could see some action again on defense too.
On the flip side Page will trigger an offense that has produced 2,226 yards on the ground and 2,430 yards through the air this season.
“We’ve done a good job of being balanced all year and I think we can either come out and sling that thing around or come out and run it,” Lucas said. “We just have to control the line of scrimmage.”
“I feel really good about where we are right now. We just have to execute.”
And stop the run.
Collins at Western, 7:30 p.m.
Records: Collins 9-3, Western 6-6.
Coaches: C – Jerry Lucas (3rd year, 31-8); W – Torrey Shinholster (1st year, 6-6).
CHS team stats: 39 points per game (26.8 opponents’ points per game); 185.5 rushing yards per game (184.1 orypg); 202.5 passing yards per game (164.4 opypg).
CHS stat leaders: RB/DB Dre Farris (102 rushes for 763 yards and 13 TDs & 51 catches for 838 yards and 13 TDs & 61 tackles); QB Lawson Page (159 of 302 passing for 2,430 yards and 32 TDs with 9 INTs); RB/LB Masai Whyte (50 rushes for 282 yards and 6 TDs & 148 tackles); WR/S Nathan Sames (51 catches for 803 yards and 14 TDs & 77 tackles and 4 INTs); RB/LB Logan Bailey (71 rushes for 381 yards and 4 TDs & 41 tackles); WR/LB Landon Forrest (30 catches for 449 yards and 2 TDs & 76 tackles and 4 fumble recoveries); WR/CB Elijah Jones (5 INTs and 51 tackles); OL/DL Blake Ellis (51 tackles); OL/DL Zach “Buck” Wilson (73 tackles); DL Mark Bradford (59 tackles); CB Isaiah Jones (45 tackles).
WHS team stats: 20.7 points per game (23.3 opponents’ points per game).
WHS key players: RB Cory Durham (No. 2); RB Adrian Williams-Rolston (No. 23); WR/DB Dion Sutton (No. 1); QB Bryson Harris (No. 5); RB Doreon Gordon (No. 8); RB/LB Darion Fort (No. 10); WR Joseph Foster (No. 3); WR Ryan Love (No. 24); OL/DE Chris McGraw (No. 51); LB Antonio Turner (No. 40); TE/DE Dujuan Rouson (No. 56); WR/FS Travon Harrison (No. 17).