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When Collins football coach Jerry Lucas said when he looks at Warren East, he sees a team very similar to his own.
“They’re a lot like us,” Lucas said.
Only one of the two squads will see itself in next Friday night’s Class 4A state championship game, though, and that will be the winner of tonight’s semifinal between the Titans (10-3) and the unbeaten Raiders (13-0). Kickoff is set for 7:30 at Titans Stadium.
Both teams have more than a few likenesses.
Each team is making its second appearance in the state semifinals, and each is searching for its first trip to the championship game (Collins lost, 20-15, at Franklin-Simpson in last season’s semis. Warren East fell, 38-35, to Lone Oak back in 2007).
Collins averages 38.8 points per game, and Warren East is less than two points behind (37.2).
Both are balanced offensively, with more than 2,000 rushing yards and 2,000 passing yards apiece, and have plenty of weapons.
“They’ve very balanced,” said Lucas, whose team averages 190.8 rushing yards and 196.7 passing yards per game, compared to the Raiders’ 198.7 and 161.1. “You’re going to have to stop them from running the ball first, but then they like to throw the ball.”
Warren East is led by senior running back Khyree Boards. On the season he has 146 carries for 924 yards and 12 touchdowns, as well as 18 catches for 409 yards and five touchdowns.
In the Raiders’ 14-7 victory over Owensboro last Friday in the Region 1 championship game, Boards rushed for 122 yards and one touchdown and also threw a halfback pass for a TD – a trick play not uncommon for Warren East.
“They’ll throw the hitch and go, the hitch and pitch,” said Lucas, who has been known to pull a trick play or two out of his bag. “He [Warren East Coach Ben Bruni] must have a lot of time on his hands too.”
The Raiders will also rely on sophomore running back/linebacker Eli Brown. On the season Brown, who is already receiving some Division I looks, has 100 rushes for 741 yards and 11 TDs and a team-high 83 tackles.
Two more Raider rushing threats are Devonte Duvall and Marlyne Walton. Duvall has 75 carries for 385 yards and five touchdowns, and Walton has 46 rushes for 444 yards and seven TDs.
Warren East junior quarterback Jimmy Burns ranked sixth in 4A in passing (Collins’ Lawson Page was fifth) during the regular season. He has completed 121 of 199 passes (60.8 percent) for 2,022 yards and 24 touchdowns so far this season.
Burns’ top target is senior wide receiver Chase Bryant (47 catches, 678 yards, eight TDs) for the Raiders, who appear to be just as adept offensively whether they line up in an I-formation or a Spread formation.
“They do a lot of things on offense,” Lucas said. “On defense, the kids are going to have to do some thinking out there, they’ll have to think on the fly.”
In addition to age (Warren East has 20 seniors, while Collins has just five), the biggest difference, statistically speaking, at least, between the two teams is defense.
The Raiders, who led all six classes in scoring defense during the regular season, are allowing only 7.5 points per game. Ten times, including their past five games, they have held their opponents to single digits. Warren East, which hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 20 points, also ranked first in 4A in pass defense and second in run defense during the regular season.
The Titans, meanwhile, are allowing 26.3 points per game. Those defensive numbers may be deceiving, though, considering the competition. During the regular season Collins played four teams from 6A (beating Meade and Oldham counties and losing to Eastern and Bryan Station), while Warren East met only one 6A squad (the Raiders dominated Daviess County 42-7).
“We have to play well on defense and special teams,” said Lucas, whose team gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown to Western last week.
Last week Warren East used a 21-play, 64-yard drive, which lasted nearly 11 minutes to start the second half, to beat Owensboro.
“I think we overlooked Owensboro a little bit,” Bruni, whose team forced four turnovers in that game, told the Bowling Green Daily News earlier this week. “The one thing that I will say about that is this group has been excellent about learning a lesson from things like that. Hopefully we’ve learned our lesson, and there is only one game that we’re looking at. That’s this week.”
Tonight’s winner will earn a berth in next Friday night’s 4A state final in Bowling Green.
“They are a very good football team, I think it’s going to be a great high school football game and a great atmosphere,” Lucas said.
Warren East at Collins, 7:30 p.m.
Records: Warren East 13-0, Collins 10-3.
Coaches: WE - Ben Bruni (8th year, 55-38); C – Jerry Lucas (3rd year, 32-8).
Radio: WXLN-FM (93.3), WVKY-FM (101.7).
WEHS team stats: 37.2 points per game (7.5 opponents’ points per game); 198.7 rushing yards per game (89.2 opponents’ rushing yards per game); 161.1 passing yards per game (59.2 opponents’ passing yards per game).
CHS team stats: 38.8 ppg (26.3 oppg); 190.8 rypg (184.2 orypg); 196.7 pypg (156.1 opypg).
WEHS key players: RB/LB Khyree Boards (No. 6; 146 rushes for 924 yards, 12 TDs & 18 catches for 409 yards, 5 TDs); RB/LB Eli Brown (No. 32; 100 rushes for 741 yards, 11 TDs & 83 tackles); QB Jimmy Burns (No. 8; 121 of 199 passing for 2,022 yards, 24 TDs, 6 INTs); RB/DB Devonte Duvall (No. 5; 75 rushes for 385 yards, 5 TDs); RB/DB Marlyne Walton (No. 26; 46 rushes for 444 yards, 7 TDs); WR Chase Bryant (No. 4; 47 catches for 678 yards, 8 TDs); WR Timothy Stockton (No. 1; 21 catches for 455 yards, 6 TDs); DL Jaylen Chatman (No. 10; 79 tackles); DL Josh Yoebstl (No. 70; 74 tackles); OL/DL Dillon Morvell (No. 54; 54 tackles); DB Austin Pagel (No. 15; 45 tackles); LB Anthony Kelsey (No. 2; 39 tackles; 3 fumble recoveries); DB Latterrence Crockett (No. 24; 37 tackles, 6 INTs); LB Christian Flores (No. 11; 39 tackles).
CHS stat leaders: QB Lawson Page (159 for 302 passing for 2,430 yards, 32 TDs and 9 INTs); RB/DB Dre Farris (117 rushes for 870 yards, 15 TDs & 55 catches for 889 yards, 12 TDs & 61 tackles); RB/LB Masai Whyte (56 rushes for 312 yards, 8 TDs & 160 tackles).