Titans vs. Rockets Part IV: Fright Night

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Coaches top fear? Holding onto ball

By Josh Cook

Jerry Lucas and Todd Shipley don’t have friggatriskaidekaphobia – the fear of Friday the 13th.

What they do fear, though, are turnovers and big plays in tonight’s crosstown-clash between Lucas’ Collins football team and Shipley’s Shelby County football team. 

Both could be keys when the Titans take on the Rockets at Robert Doyle Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30.

“We can’t turn the ball over,” said Lucas, whose team is plus-4 in turnover margin (having forced five miscues while committing only one) in the first three meetings between the two.

The Titans forced two turnovers in their first two victories over Shelby County, 49-7 in 2010 and 39-0 in 2011, but only one last year, in their 34-33 instant-classic triumph over the Rockets.

“We can’t give up any big plays. That’s what hurt us last year,” Shipley said.

In the 3-year history of the game Collins has five touchdowns of 43 yards or more. Shelby County, meanwhile, also has five of 40 or more, but four of those came in last year’s loss.

In that game the host Titans took an early, 7-0 lead before the Rockets responded with two touchdowns. It continued to go back-and-forth from there. The final lead change came on Lawson Page’s 11-yard TD pass to Landon Forrest with 3 minutes to play.

“We’re going to have to execute,” said Lucas, whose team trailed, 20-14, at halftime of last year’s game. “I didn’t feel like we executed well in the first half last year.”

After that victory Collins won seven of its next eight games (the only loss was a 55-52 overtime setback at Bryan Station) before falling to Highlands, 47-0, in the Class AAAA state championship game. The Titans (2-1) have won two of their first three games this season. Since a 23-21, last-minute loss to 6A Simon Kenton in its season-opener, Collins has beaten 5A South Oldham and 6A Ballard.  

“They return a lot [from last year],” Shipley said of the Titans. “They’re very, very good on offense. They’re very sound on defense, and they have a very good kicker in [Blanton] Creque. They’re a very well-rounded football team....They don’t have a lot of weaknesses. 

“They’re a big-play offense, but they can line up with their big boys and go shoe-to-shoe and punish you that way, too.”

Page punished the Rockets last year, rushing for 98 yards and a touchdown and passing for 218 yards and two more scores.

“The key to any passing team is getting pressure on the quarterback,” Shipley said. “Lawson does a great job of moving in the pocket. The thing we can’t do is get pressure on the quarterback then let him escape.”

Since last year’s loss to the Titans, Shelby County is 7-1. Its lone setback was to Jeffersontown, 42-33, in the second round of the 5A playoffs. Despite losing a plethora of players from that team to graduation, the Rockets are off to a 2-0 start and coming off an open date.

Shelby County, led by senior quarterback Dalton Thompson, has averaged 37.5 points and 355 yards of total offense in victories over Henry County and Spencer County. One of Shelby’s few flaws, however, has been holding onto the football. The Rockets have six turnovers (five lost fumbles and one interception).

 “They’ve got a good-sized line and really good-looking skill kids,” said Lucas, whose team has only one turnover in its first three games. “Our kids know Shelby County is a good football team....We know we’re going to have to play well to win.”
Who will win?

We’ll find out tonight.