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The Collins senior football players went out in style.
Led by their elder statesmen, the Titans annihilated North Oldham, 42-14, in the Class AAAA, Region 2 final Friday night. It was the third regional championship in a row for Collins’ seniors in their final game on their home field.
“It was a special night; it was emotional,” senior running back/wide receiver Dre Farris said. “I think we finished it off the right way, winning our last game on this field.”
Farris accounted for 221 yards of total offense and one touchdown, senior running back Ryan Watkins ran for four touchdowns, senior quarterback Lawson Page threw for 182 yards and two touchdowns, and senior linebacker Masai Whyte made 14 tackles to lead the Titans (11-2) to their sixth consecutive victory and into the state semifinals for the third consecutive year.
Fifth-ranked Collins will play at eighth-ranked Owensboro (10-3) at 4 p.m. EST Friday in 4A’s final four. The Red Devils won Region 1 by beating Franklin-Simpson, 21-13.
The winner of the state semi will advance to the 4A final, to meet the winner between top-ranked Highlands (12-1) and sixth-ranked Lexington Catholic (10-3), at 4 p.m. EST Dec. 7 at Western Kentucky University’s Houchens Industries/L.T. Smith Stadium.
“It’s just nice for them to get this win,” Collins Coach Jerry Lucas said of his seniors. “To see the things these guys have accomplished, winning four district championships, three regional championships, one semistate championship…..nothing they do surprises me. I love watching these kids.
“They’re really good kids, they play hard, and they all love to make big plays.”
And they made plenty Friday night in the second meeting this season between the Titans and the Mustangs.
Just as North Oldham (9-4) did in the first matchup, it took the opening kickoff and went down and scored. In Oct. 25’s 35-6 loss to Collins the Mustangs kicked a field goal on their first possession. This time around, though, they got a touchdown as Quinton Shea scampered into the end zone on a 15-yard run – converting on third-and-long – 4 minutes, 41 seconds into the game. Brandon Peege’s extra-point kick went wide, though, leaving North with a 6-0 lead.
The Titans quickly responded, going 59 yards in five plays. Page’s 7-yard touchdown pass (on their patented “front pylon” play) to senior wide receiver Nathan Sames and Blanton Creque’s subsequent PAT made it 7-6 less than 2 minutes later.
Two series later, Adam Judd’s 62-yard punt combined with a personal foul gave the Titans the ball on their own 6-yard line. That’s when Collins went to its “heavy” package – putting Farris and Whyte in the backfield with Watkins and bringing in 6-foot-1, 330-pound Mark Bradford and 6-4, 210-pound Zach “Buck” Wilson, both seniors, on the offensive line – just as the Titans had done on their initial, tone-setting drive in the earlier victory over North.
Just like that night, they pounded the ball down the field, and, with the help of a couple of third-down penalties on the Mustangs, Collins drove 94 yards in eight plays, the last of which was Watkins’ first touchdown run – a 3-yarder.
“We went to ‘heavy’ and wore them out and drove down the field on them. I think that changed the whole game,” said Farris, who finished with 10 carries for 124 yards. “They couldn’t keep up with us.”
Added Watkins, who finished with 64 yards on 13 carries: “We knew to win we just had to run the ball down their throats. We knew they couldn’t stop us.”
Senior cornerback Elijah Jones picked off a pass on North’s ensuing possession and Collins converted that into points when Farris caught a short screen pass from Page, then went 41 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-6 with 1:44 left in the second quarter.
Farris, who finished with six receptions for 97 yards, credited the Titans’ offensive line with clearing his path to paydirt.
“On that play they just led me to the end zone,” he said.
Collins had a chance to add to its lead after North Oldham fumbled the ensuing kickoff (senior Jordan Parker recovered the ball for the Titans), but Creque missed a pair of field goals just before the half. His first try, from 36 yards, got pushed right by the blustery winds. His second, after a running-into-the-kicker penalty, from the 31 was blocked.
The Titans took the second half-opening kickoff, though, and continued their first-half pace, driving 52 yards in six plays. The biggest of those was a 30-yard pass from Page to Sames, who wrestled the ball away from a North defender in midair (and maybe on the ground, too). That set up Watkins’ second touchdown, a 10-yard run.
Collins’ defense then stopped North Oldham on downs, and seven plays later Watkins’ 8-yard touchdown run completed a 63-yard drive and made it 35-6 with 2:41 to play in the third period.
The Titans stopped the Mustangs on downs again before Watkins’ final touchdown, a 1-yard dive, ended an 8-play, 60-yard drive and started a running clock (via the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s “mercy” rule) with 10:25 to play.
“Ryan has been our workhorse all year long,” Lucas said of Watkins, who has rushed for 919 yards and 14 touchdowns this season after transferring from Eastern High School. “It was nice to see him get four touchdowns. He always gets the hard yards, and he did tonight. It was nice to see him finish drives and get in the end zone.”
North Oldham scored a late touchdown to account for the final margin.
Collins held the Mustangs, who came in with the top-ranked rushing attack in 4A (283 yards per game), to 215 yards on 30 carries, and a lot of that came on the Mustangs’ first and second-to-last drives (which was highlighted by a 52-yard run by Arien Beasley).
“I thought he [North Coach Billy Martin] had some nice adjustments from the first game,” Lucas said. “But I thought [Collins defensive] Coach [Tom] Becherer and the kids adjusted to them well after the first drive.”
The Titans harassed a pair of North quarterbacks into 5-of-14 passing for 60 yards with two interceptions.
Collins, meanwhile, racked up 401 yards of total offense – 219 on the ground, 182 through the air (Page completed 15 of 22 passes).
“The difference in the game was we were more physical, especially in the second half,” Watkins said. “We played with a lot of fire and heart and just wore them down.”
Titan Thanksgiving Football Final 4 Pigskin Practice
The Collins football team will host an open-to-the-public practice, called the Titan Thanksgiving Football Final 4 Pigskin Practice, from 9 to 10 a.m. Thursday at Titans Stadium. It will be Collins’ regular walk-through for its state semifinal game Friday at Owensboro. Doughnuts, coffee and orange juice will be provided for those in attendance.