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They are familiar refrains at nearly every Collins football game.
“Twenty-two’s in the backfield.”
Those are just a few of the things opposing defenders yell before the snap. The object of their attention in those cases is Titans junior running back Dre Farris, No. 22.
“That’s pretty normal,” Collins Coach Jerry Lucas said.
That’s because Farris, who stands 5 feet 10 and 175 pounds, lines up in a variety of places – from running back to slot receiver to outside receiver – on offense for the Titans (9-3), who play at Western (6-6) at 7:30 tonight in the Class 4A, Region 2 final.
This season, though, it has been easier to keep track of Farris than to keep up with him.
“He’s just a special player,” Lucas said.
The proof is in his production. Through 12 games Farris is Collins’ leading rusher, leading receiver and leading scorer.
He has carried the ball 102 times for 763 yards (an average of 7.5 yards per rush and 63.6 yards per game) and 14 touchdowns. He has caught it 51 times (which ties him with Nathan Sames for the team lead) for 838 yards (an average of 16.4 yards per catch and 69.8 yards per game) and 13 TDs.
Then there are his numbers as a return man for the Titans. Farris has brought back 15 punts for 247 yards (16.5 yards per return) and one touchdown as well as 17 kickoffs for 444 yards (26.1 yards per return).
“And people try hard not to kick him the ball,” Lucas said.
All totaled Farris has accounted for 2,293 all-purpose yards (191.1 per game) and 28 touchdowns for Collins.
“Dre is the type of kid who has amazing numbers, but he could have even more amazing numbers. In our offense, though, we try to spread the ball around,” Lucas said.
Here is a quick look at some of those numbers:
§ In three of his last four games Farris has amassed more than 200 yards of total offense. He had 220 yards (124 receiving, 96 rushing) against Atherton on Oct. 19, 208 (135 receiving, 73 rushing) against Fairdale two weeks ago and 226 (162 rushing, 84 receiving) against Doss last week. He also topped the 200 mark, rolling up 203 (89 rushing, 114 receiving) earlier this season against Spencer County.
§ Of his 27 offensive touchdowns, 14 came on plays of 30 or more yards and five were on plays of 57 yards or more. Included among those were his TD runs of 75 and 64 yards seven days ago in the Titans’ 49-30 victory over the Dragons in the second round of the playoffs.
“In the open field, I don’t think of it as football. I think of it as a track meet,” said Farris, who has been clocked at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash. “I just try to use what God gave me, my speed.”
Farris also has a gift for making defenders miss. Whether it’s meeting them head-on (as he did on a 45-yard screen pass touchdown against Waggener) – “He’s one of those who can get the hard yards, or he’s going to run by you,” Lucas said – or by making them miss with quick cuts (see his punt return for a TD against Boyle County) or with a spin move.
“I try to avoid as much contact as I can,” said Farris, who missed several games late last season (including the region final against Western) with an ankle injury. “There’s no sense running through people when I can run around people and score.”
It’s a running style that Farris, who began playing football at the age of 6, traces to his early affinity for 5-foot-9 Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, and likens to current Oregon star De’Anthony Thomas, another 5-9 running back.
“He’s not very big, but he’s elusive and fast,” Farris said. “He has the knack for the big play.”
Meanwhile Farris, who also has one interception and 61 tackles as a defensive back for the Titans, said he hopes to make some big plays of his own tonight to help the Titans keep chasing their big dream.
“First and foremost, it [the goal] is to get past Friday’s game, make things happen and win a state championship,” Farris said.