It's time to 'tango'

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Improved Rockets face Titans’ weapons

By Josh Cook

Collins has dominated its first two football games against Shelby County, so much so that Rockets Coach Todd Shipley balks at calling the cross-town clash a rivalry.


“In a rivalry there is some back and forth,” said Shipley, whose team has been outscored, 88-7, by the Titans the past two years. “It takes two to tango.”

Kickoff tonight is set for 7:30 at Collins for Homecoming, and it appears to be the best chance for a dance so far.

Shelby County comes in 4-1 – after winning only three games the past two seasons since it split to form Collins – and is a couple of questionable calls away from being 5-0.

The Titans, meanwhile, enter 3-2. Their losses have come to traditional power Boyle County, the seventh-ranked team in Class 4A in The Associated Press poll, and Eastern, which is ranked sixth in 6A.

“It should be a great atmosphere for high school football,” Collins Coach Jerry Lucas said.

Lucas’ Titans shut out the Rockets, 39-0, last season after routing them, 49-7, in the inaugural meeting in 2010. In last year’s game, Michael Brooks rushed for 136 yards and scored four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving), Dre Farris ran for 126 yards, and quarterback Lawson Page passed for two TDs as Collins outgained Shelby, 460-32, in total offense.

This season, though, the two teams appear to be more evenly matched, especially offensively. Shelby County comes in averaging 31.4 points and 357.4 yards of total offense per game, compared to Collins’ 28.4 ppg and 353 ypg.

Zach Shipley, the quarterback and coach’s son, triggers Shelby’s triple-option scheme. He has completed 57 of 101 passes for 901 yards and 10 touchdowns, with only one interception, while also rushing for 233 yards and five more scores.

Meanwhile Michael Barry, one of the top receivers statistically in Class 5A, has 22 catches for 412 yards and seven TDs, and Justin Stewart, a fullback, and Chase Manica, a wingback, average a combined 106 (Stewart 54, Manica 52) rushing yards per game.

“They have a lot of weapons offensively,” Lucas said. “We have to be in the right spots. We have to play assignment football.”

Relying on their “take what the defense gives us” offensive strategy, the Rockets have put up big numbers both through the air (471 passing yards in their 35-34 loss to Anderson County on Aug. 31) and on the ground (338 rushing yards last week in their 33-16 victory at Oldham County) thus far this season.

The latter has been especially worrisome, as well as a point of emphasis in practice this week, for Lucas, whose team gave up 395 rushing yards to Spencer County last Friday night in its 38-35 victory over the Bears.

“We have to execute better defensively,” said Lucas, whose team is yielding 265 rushing yards per game.

As always, though, both coaches know the outcome of this game – as most – will be decided up front.

“If our offensive line continues to progress, as it did against Oldham County, then hopefully we can run the ball as well as Spencer,” Shipley said.

The Rockets are averaging 168.4 rushing yards and 189 passing yards.

“Offensively, it’s the same things [as the previous games]. We can’t put the ball on the ground, no turnovers and no stupid mistakes,” said Shipley, whose team lost nine fumbles in its first four games, but none last week.

On the flip side Shipley knows that his defense will have its hands full against the Titans’ dynamic offense that includes Page, the junior quarterback, and Farris, the multi-position junior.

Last week Page completed 14 of 26 passes for 223 yards and four touchdowns, while also rushing for 47 more. So far this season he’s completed 67 of 137 passes for 1,047 yards with 13 touchdowns against seven interceptions, while also rushing for 292 yards.

“He’s probably their biggest weapon because he moves around in the pocket well and he runs well,” Shipley said. “We’ve got to get pressure on the quarterback, get him out in the pocket and make him throw on the run.

“We have to mix it up on defense and make it so he doesn’t know where the pressure is coming from. Then sometimes we’ll drop everybody and hope he throws to the wrong person.”

Three Titans have double-digit receptions so far this season, led by Farris, who has 20 catches for 310 yards and four touchdowns (he also has 28 carries for 219 yards and one TD). Fellow junior Nathan Sames is right behind Farris with 19 receptions for 330 yards and six touchdowns, and yet another junior, Landon Forrest, has 11 catches for 176 yards.

“They’ve got guys everywhere who can catch,” Shipley said. “And all their guys run well.”

The wild card may be Masai Whyte, a junior, who has 88 tackles as a linebacker and who only had two offensive touches against Spencer County (one rush for 12 yards and one reception for 24). Lucas has vowed to get him more involved in the offense during the second half of the season.

“Offensively we still have a lot of room for improvement,” Lucas said.

One of the most improved areas for Shelby County this season has been the defense, which has allowed only 16 points and just 231.6 yards of total offense per opponent. Several of the Rockets’ skill-position standouts (Shipley, Barry, Stewart) also play prominent roles on defense – Barry has six interceptions from his cornerback position – in addition to Devin Ashton (defensive end), Deric Hyman and Jacob Hudgens (linebackers). Several of those seniors saw action in the first meeting between the two teams two years ago.

“They have a lot of weapons, they have a lot of experience and they’ve got a very good football team,” Lucas said, “but we think we have a pretty good football team too.”

The tango starts at 7:30.

Shelby County at Collins, 7:30 p.m.

Radio: WXLN-FM (93.3), WVKY-FM (101.7).

Records: Shelby County 4-1, Collins 3-2.

Coaches: SC – Todd Shipley (13th year, 60-77); C – Jerry Lucas (3rd year, 25-7)/

Series: Collins leads 2-0.

SCHS offense probable starters: Left tackle – Richard Brumbaugh (No. 66); left guard – Zach Lingle (No. 61); center – Ben Shoultz (No. 72); right guard – Jacob Hudgens (No. 50); right tackle – Hoyt Everson (No. 51); tight end – Deric Hyman (No. 6); wide receiver – Michael Barry (No. 3); left wingback – Chase Manica (No. 30); right wingback – Earl Stoudemire (No. 20); fullback – Justin Stewart (No. 33); quarterback – Zach Shipley (No. 4); kicker – Barry.

SCHS defense probable starters: Left end – Stewart; left tackle – Lingle; right tackle – Jalyn Perry (No. 70); right end – Devin Ashton (No. 2); strongside linebacker – Nick Waurio (No. 15); middle linebacker – Hyman; quick linebacker – Hudgens; rover – Malik Manica (No. 22); left cornerback – Barry; right cornerback – Dalton Thompson (No. 18); free safety – Shipley; punter – Shipley.

CHS offense probable starters: Left tackle – Zach “Buck” Wilson (No. 53); left guard – Kris Jones (No. 54); center – Zack Hershey (No. 65); right guard – Cody Hardin (No. 64); right tackle – Blake Ellis (No. 63); wide receivers – Nathan Sames (No. 85), Landon Forrest (No. 15), Jordan Parker (No. 12); running backs – Dre Farris (No. 22), Logan Bailey (No. 8) or Masai Whyte (No. 3); quarterback – Lawson Page (No. 1); kicker – Blanton Creque (No. 19).

CHS defense probable starters: Ends – Wilson, Jones; tackles – Mark Bradford (No. 66), Ellis; linebackers – Whtye, Forrest, Bailey or Antuan “Bushy” Wells (No. 31); cornerbacks – Elijah Jones (No. 6), Isaiah Jones (No. 7); safeties – Farris, Sames; punter – Bailey.