Pioneers dominate after halftime with ground game

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By Josh Cook

The Simon Kenton football team ground out a victory over Collins on Friday night.


Using a ball-control, clock-eating, yard-gobbling rushing attack in the second half the Pioneers spoiled the host Titans’ season-opener – and their first game since they finished as the Class AAAA state runners-up last year –  with a 23-21 victory.

Tyler Smith’s 18-yard field goal with 11 seconds won the game, but it was Simon Kenton’s ground attack that was the difference. The Class 6A Pioneers, who had no 2-way starters, outlasted the Titans, who have 2-way players aplenty, running 28 times for 194 yards – 6.9 yards per carry – in the second half after rushing 13 times for only 21 yards in the first.

“Needless to say, they kind of wore on us in the second half,” said Collins Coach Jerry Lucas, whose team led all but those last 11 seconds, including 14-6 at halftime and 21-14 at the end of three quarters.

The Pioneers put together three, long scoring drives in the second half – seven plays for 77 yards, 11 for 73 and 13 for 62 – as they outgained the Titans, 238-118, after intermission. Collins, which averaged 37.5 points and 301.9 yards of total offense last season, was limited to three TDs and 291 yards.

“We executed very poorly on offense,” Lucas said. “We just couldn’t get it rolling.  

“We put ourselves in bad positions on offense....First down was horrible.”

Lucas said he made a conscious effort before the game to slow down his team’s no-huddle offense to try and make sure his team was fresh for the second half against Simon Kenton.

“I don’t know if it was slowing down the offense some, our execution or Simon Kenton whipping us,” Lucas said, “but for whatever reason, we could not get it flowing [on offense].” 

The Titans got it going early, taking the opening kickoff and driving downfield for a touchdown.

“It was good,” Lucas said, “but it wasn’t clean.”

Senior quarterback Lawson Page gained 11 yards on the Titans’ first play from scrimmage. Five plays later he connected with senior Masai Whyte for a 22-yard gain. Then two plays after that Page connected with senior Isaiah Jones, who was subbing for injured wide receiver Landon Forrest, for a 24-yard touchdown. Blanton Creque’s kick made it 7-0.

The Titans forced the Pioneers to punt on their first two possessions – a bad snap, which went for a 27-yard loss, on third down inside Collins’ 20 led to Simon Kenton’s second kick – but so did they.

The Pioneers’ third possession ended in the end zone when Pioneers quarterback Brenan Kuntz, whose position coach is Roy Lucas (Jerry’s older brother), hooked up with Grant Wassom for an 8-yard TD one play after the two connected for a 25-yard gain on fourth-and-12 from the Titans’ 33. A conversion run attempt failed, though, leaving the Titans on top, 7-6.

Collins had an answer, though. It quickly moved down the field, going 64 yards in eight plays, and taking a 14-6 lead on Page’s 12-yard touchdown pass to last year’s top target, Nathan Sames, with 25 seconds left in the first half.  

Collins gained 173 yards in the first half led by Page, who completed 8 of 9 passes for 109 yards and two TDs.

The Pioneers tied the score midway through the third quarter when Dillion Powell’s 1-yard touchdown run capped off their first long drive before Kuntz passed to Grant Vercheak for a 2-point conversion.

Collins responded with a 10-play, 67-yard drive that Page completed with a 17-yard TD toss to Dre Farris.

Simon Kenton scored again 1:15 into the fourth quarter on Powell’s 6-yard TD run, but his conversion run failed, leaving the Pioneers a point down.

The Titans tried to extend their lead on their penultimate possession but were plagued by penalties (four of their five in the game came on that drive).

When the Pioneers got the ball back “they just methodically worked it down the field,” according to Lucas.

Smith’s game-winning field goal, which came on the heels of a near fumble, capped off the 13-play 62-yard drive.

“That last drive, I thought our defense was exhausted, but they still played hard and didn’t give up any big plays,” Lucas said. 

Simon Kenton outgained the Titans, 359-291, behind Kuntz’s 128 yards on 15 carries (8.5 yards per rush) – 119 yards on 11 carries in the second half – and 12 of 17 passing (only 4 for 7 in the second half) for 144 yards. Powell, meanwhile, rushed 25 times for 114 yards (17 for 75 in the second half) and two TDs.

Page led Collins, completing 15 of 23 passes for 176 yards and three TDs and rushing 11 times for 53 yards.

Senior Ryan Watkins, a transfer from Eastern, was the team’s second-leading rusher (five carries for 34 yards), and Western Kentucky University recruit Farris had five carries for 12 yards and six receptions for 51 yards and a TD. Sames added five catches for 43 yards and a touchdown for the Titans, who lost offensive guard Zack Hershey (a starter the past two seasons) to an ankle injury early in the game.

Senior linebacker Masai Whyte, who is also a future Hilltopper, finished with 20 tackles, and senior Mark Bradford added eight.

“I thought we learned a lot about ourselves, in a positive way,” Lucas said. “With all the things that went wrong, we battled and stayed in the game.”

Collins plays at Class 5A South Oldham at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Simon Kenton 23, Collins 21
At Titans Stadium

Simon Kenton    0  6  8  9 – 23
Collins               7  7  7  0 – 21

C – Isaiah Jones 24-yard pass from Lawson Page (Blanton Creque kick), 7:28. SK – Grant Wassom 8-yard pass from Brenan Kuntz (run failed), 4:07; C – Nathan Sames 12-yard pass from Page (Creque kick), 0:25. SK – Dillion Powell 1-yard run (Grant Vercheak pass from Kuntz), 6:52; C – Dre Farris 17-yard pass from Page (Creque kick), 2:51. SK – Powell 6-yard run (run failed), 10:45; SK – Tyler Smith 18-yard field goal, 0:11.
Team statistics
    SK     C

First downs    21    18
Rushes-yards    41-215    26-115
Pass comp-att-int    12-17-1    15-23-0
Passing yards    144    176
Total offense    359    291
Fumbles-lost    2-0    0-0
Punts-avg    2-49    3-32.3
Penalties-yards    1-5    5-40
Individual statistics
Rushing – SK: Brenan Kuntz 15-128, Dillion Powell 25-114, Cameron Hansel 1-(-27). C: Lawson Page 11-53, Ryan Watkins 5-34, Masai Whyte 5-16, Dre Farris 5-12.
Passing –  SK: Kuntz 12-17-0 144. C: Page 15-23-0 176.
Receiving – SK: Grant Wassom 5-73,  Logan Winkler 2-15, Lars McEntyre 2-10, Evan Meenach 1-22. C: Farris 6-51, Nathan Sames 5-43, Watkins 2-34, Isaiah Jones 1-24.
Tackling – C: Masai Whyte 20, Mark Bradford 8, Nathan Sames 7, Ryan Watkins 7, Zach “Buck” Wilson 7, Antuan “Bushy” Wells 6, Quintin “Pookie” Murphy 6.