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It was a slow start but a strong finish for the Collins football team Friday night.
The Titans only led Atherton – which has just three victories in four seasons – 13-7 at halftime before routing the Rebels in the second half, 28-3, for a 41-10 victory.
Collins had clinched the Class 4A, District 3 title – its third such championship in three years of existence – the week before with a victory over Waggener, but the Titans’ triumph over visiting Atherton capped their second straight unbeaten regular season in the district.
The Titans (7-2, 4-0) did it with defense, limiting the Rebels (1-8, 0-4) to 106 yards of total offense, including only 23 in the second half. They gave up just four first downs (all in the first half), forced four turnovers and recorded six sacks.
“Our defensive effort was fantastic from start to finish,” said Collins Coach Jerry Lucas, whose team will be seeded No. 1 in next month’s state playoffs. “We put them in some bad situations [offensively], and I thought they responded well.”
Junior running back Dre Farris provided ample offense for the Titans. He scored five touchdowns – three receiving and two rushing (he had another long TD run called back by penalty) – as he finished with 220 yards of offense on four catches for 124 yards and seven rushes for 96.
“I thought Dre Farris was lights out,” Lucas said.
Thanks to Farris it looked like as if it was going to be lights out for Atherton early, as Collins built a 13-0 lead 6 minutes and 15 seconds into the game.
On the Rebels’ third play of the game a twice-deflected pass ended up in the arms of Titans junior Nathan Sames at the Rebels’ 25. Three plays later, Farris’ 14-yard touchdown run gave Collins a lead, even though the PAT failed, it wouldn’t relinquish.
The Titans stopped Atherton on downs near midfield on its ensuing possession then needed only one play to take a two-touchdown lead. That play, from the Rebels’ 48, was a screen pass from Lawson Page to Farris. Farris caught the ball going to his left, turned up field then was untouched as he dashed to the end zone. Blanton Creque’s kick made it 13-0.
But just when it looked as if the game were over, Atherton made it interesting.
Jowuan Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, and the PAT made it 13-7 with 5:33 left in the first quarter.
Surprisingly, though, that was all of the scoring in the first half as the Titans turned the ball over on downs twice and punted once in their final three possessions before intermission. The Rebels ran 12 more plays (31 to 19) than Collins in the first half and dominated in time of possession (27:43 to 8:17).
The second half was all Collins, save a fourth-quarter Atherton field goal, however.
On the first play of the second half Farris ran 31 yards. On the second play he ran 32 yards for a touchdown. Taking a handoff from Page he ran to his right, cut back left to avoid a handful of would-be tacklers at the 30 then sprinted to the end zone. Thirty-nine seconds into the second half, Collins led, 20-7.
A couple of possessions later, Page’s 38-yard pass to Farris on a flea-flicker play produced a TD with 2:15 to play in the third quarter.
The Titans increased their lead when, on the second play of the fourth quarter, Page rolled to his left, scrambling away from a rush, and passed to Sames for a 29-yard score.
A poor punt set up Atherton’s only points of the second half – Stuart Mudd’s 37-yard field goal – before Collins closed it out on Farris’ final touchdown – a 39-yard pass from Page.
The Titans tallied 258 yards of offense in the second half and 412 (236 rushing, 176 passing) for the game.
Page finished 7-for-17 passing with four touchdowns and also rushed five times for 41 yards.
“I thought Lawson struggled some,” Lucas said. “But I told him in hindsight, ‘If you go seven-for-seventeen for a hundred and seventy-six yards and four touchdowns and that’s your bad game, that’s okay.’”
Meanwhile Collins’ defense corralled Atherton’s quarterback a half-dozen times (twice by senior lineman Blake Ellis).
The only bad news for the Titans was a late-game knee injury to sophomore running back/linebacker Antuan “Bushy” Wells, who had 79 rushing yards and 11 tackles and one fumble recovery.
Collins closes out its regular season Friday night at Bryan Station. The Titans, who’ll have at least two home games in the postseason, will host Fairdale (3-6) Nov. 2 in the first round of the 4A playoffs.