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Titans’ defense flies to the finish

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Big stop decides offensive duel

By Josh Cook

Although the offenses dominated Friday night’s football game between Collins and Spencer County, it was defense that decided the final outcome.

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The Titans’ D stopped the visiting Bears on their final drive – halting them on a fourth-and-6 from the Collins 34 with less than a minute to play – to secure a 38-35 Class 4A, District 3 victory.

“I loved the attitude our kids had on that last drive,” Collins Coach Jerry Lucas said. “I saw the fire in their eyes that I hadn’t seen in the first three quarters. All eleven hats were flying around to the football. When it got to winning time, our kids made plays.

“Now we’ve got to figure the rest out, though.”

That’s because the Titans (3-2, 1-0), who had a variety of injuries during the game, couldn’t stop Spencer County’s ground game. The Bears (3-3, 0-1), who were 0-for-6 with one interception through the air, rushed 68 times for 395 yards (an average of 5.8 yards per carry) as two different Spencer players rushed for more than 100 yards – junior Shawn Boykin ran for 149 yards and one touchdown and senior quarterback Trent Holbrook 114 yards and two TDs.

Collins made up for that with offensive efficiency, though. The Titans, who ran 31 fewer plays than the Bears, amassed 385 yards of total offense (162 rushing, 223 passing), although just 74 came in the second half.

Junior running back Dre Farris amassed 203 yards of total offense (89 rushing, 114 receiving) and two touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Nathan Sames had four catches for 67 yards and three touchdowns. Junior quarterback Lawson Page completed 14 of 26 passes with four touchdowns and one interception.

“I thought Dre was outstanding. I thought Nathan Sames was outstanding. I thought Lawson was outstanding,” Lucas said.

Especially in the first half, when the Titans and Bears were locked up in a shootout (somewhat surprisingly considering Collins outscored Spencer, 54-14, in two meetings last season).

Holbrook’s 55-yard TD run on Spencer County’s first possession gave the Bears, who were shut out, 21-0, by the Titans in the regular season last year, the quick lead. Collins answered, though, with back-to-back touchdowns. The first was a 5-yard toss from Page to Sames. The second was a swing pass from Page to Farris, who turned it into a tackle-breaking 39-yard pass play touchdown.

The Bears had the quick-strike response when, less than two minutes later, they tied it on Boykin’s 70-yard sprint to the end zone.

Blanton Creque’s 34-yard field goal, with 1:32 to play, capped a back-and-forth first quarter and gave the Titans a 17-14 lead.

The two teams who combined for 31 points in the first period, combined for 21 more in the second.

Collins increased its lead to 24-14 on Farris’ 77-yard touchdown jaunt before the Bears scored on Chase Smith’s 11-yard run.

The biggest TD of the first half, though, was the last one.

After stopping Spencer late, the Titans took over on their own 20 with a little more than a minute left in the second quarter. But that was plenty of time.

They needed just five plays to score. The biggest of those was a hook-and-ladder play in which Page threw a short pass to Sames (who actually called for the play), who then pitched to Masai Whyte for a big gain. Two plays later the Titans scored when Page threw a 21-yard strike to Sames.

“That was a great drive,” Lucas said. “That was huge.”

Points weren’t as plentiful in the second half, but long drives were.

Spencer County began the third quarter with a 15-play, 80-yard drive – which was kept alive by a personal foul penalty on the Titans – which ended with Holbrook’s 5-yard run that cut Collins’ lead to 24-21.

On the third play of the Titans’ subsequent series, Page’s pass was picked off on the Bears’ 25, but on the very next play, though, Holbrook’s pass was intercepted by Collins junior cornerback Elijah Jones.

“I watched the quarterback’s eyes,” said Jones, who has five interceptions in five games. “When he threw it, I just jumped up for it.”

The Titans took advantage, using 10 plays to go 40 yards, increasing their lead to 38-28 on Page’s 11-yard pass to Sames with 9 seconds left in the third quarter.

Collins looked to be in control, but the Bears battled back, embarking on a methodical, 14-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Smith’s 2-yard TD run with 5:27 to play.

The Titans’ offense, which was on the field for a little less than six minutes in the second half, ran three plays and punted the ball back to the Bears.

Spencer took over at its own 39 with 3:58 remaining and after six rushes had the ball at Collins’ 38 with 90 seconds to play.

On first down Holbrook threw incompletion before Boykin rushed for 6 yards, leaving Spencer with a third-and-4 at the 32. But that’s when Collins junior defensive lineman Kris Jones stuffed Holbrook for a 2-yard loss.

“They ran a quarterback sneak out to the right, and I kept my containment and stayed in my squat to make my tackle on the quarterback,” Jones said.

It all but forced the Bears to throw on fourth down, and Holbrook’s rollout pass sailed out of the back of the end zone.

“I was relieved when I saw the ball out on the track,” Kris Jones said. “We really stepped up, especially with all the adversity we faced.”

The Titans had lost sophomore safety Browning Becherer to a foot fracture during their bye week, then lost several players during the game, including offensive tackle/defensive end Zach “Buck” Wilson, offensive lineman Cody Hardin and cornerback Isaiah Jones, Elijah’s twin brother.

Among those who stepped up in their absences was freshman reserve Jacob Dale. A wide receiver on the JV team, Dale, who is 6 feet 2 and 207 pounds, was playing on the offensive and defensive lines at game’s end.

Whyte tallied 21 tackles and junior defensive lineman Mark Bradford added 16 for Collins, which hosts cross-town rival Shelby County at 7:30 p.m. Friday.