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When Collins football coach Jerry Lucas looks at Fort Thomas Highlands, he said he doesn’t just see an opponent he wants to beat in tonight’s Class AAAA state final, he sees a program he aspires to be.
“We’re excited to play in the state championship, but to be able to do it against a program like Highlands, with as much tradition as anybody in the state of Kentucky, we're even more excited about the opportunity,” said Lucas, whose team will meet the Bluebirds at approximately 8 EST tonight at Western Kentucky University’s L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green.
Indeed, Highlands has a storied history.
The Bluebirds enter this weekend’s KHSAA state championship games tied with Class 6A Trinity, which plays Pleasure Ridge Park on Saturday night, for the most titles (21).
“Flip a coin between them and Trinity for the greatest high school program in Kentucky history,” Lucas said.
The Bluebirds, who began playing football in 1915, certainly have left their stamp in the KHSAA record book. They lead the state in all-time victories (841) and undefeated teams (13) and tonight will try for their unprecedented sixth consecutive state title (Highlands is currently tied with Boyle County, which captured five titles from 1999-2003).
“We feel like we are trying to build that tradition here,” said Lucas, whose team is in its third year of existence. “We’re trying to build the Titan football program so twenty years from now these kids can look back and know they had a huge hand in building our program.”
The Titans have built up to tonight. They went 11-2 in their first season (2010), losing in the state quarterfinals. Last year they went 11-3 in their second season, losing at Franklin-Simpson in the state semifinals (the Wildcats lost to the Bluebirds, 42-14, in the state final). This fall Collins has taken things one step farther.
“Your first championship game, it's a big deal for your program to have that experience,” Lucas said. “We know the type of program Highlands is. We know they've won twenty-one state championships. We know they've won five in a row, we've talked to the kids about that.…We know they’re an outstanding football team, but our guys are excited.”