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Collins senior quarterback Lawson Page has never been hit by Masai Whyte on the football field – thankfully, Page admits – but he has seen it happen up close.
“I’ve seen him hit people really, really hard..…like a truck,” Page said. “He’s so strong and so fast, and you mix that together, he’s a monster.”
A physical specimen, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Whyte is the Titans’ senior inside linebacker – and QB of a defense that ranks among the best in Class AAAA - who gobbles ballcarriers up by the bunches.
“If you’re going to have a great defense, and statistically speaking we have one of the best in four-A, it never comes down to one kid,” Collins Coach Jerry Lucas said. “Our defensive line has been playing outstanding, we’ve got a good linebacking corps and our secondary is as good as anybody’s, but I think Masai Whyte is the unquestioned leader on the defensive side of the ball.
“He make a ton of plays for us.”
Whyte, who has made a team-leading 152 tackles so far this season, will be counted on to make plenty more tonight, when the fifth-ranked Titans (10-2) host North Oldham (9-3) at 7:30 p.m. in the Region 2 championship game. The Mustangs come in with the top-ranked rushing attack in 4A (283 rushing yards per game) and Whyte will be key to slowing down their Wing-T.
“My role is to stop the run,” said Whyte, who had 15 stops in the Titans’ 35-6 victory over North Oldham four weeks ago and 13 more in a 36-20 win over the Mustangs last season.
But it’s not his only role.
“In our defense it’s a hard position to play, because the inside linebacker has to do a lot of things,” Lucas said. “He makes our calls for us, makes sure we get into what we need to be in.”
It’s a role Whyte stepped into last season, after learning from standout Michael Brooks for two years (he saw varsity playing time as a freshman and moved into a starting role as a sophomore).
Whyte announced his presence last Aug. 17 with a 20-tackle, 1-interception performance in Collins’ season-opening 21-14 victory at 6A Meade County. He hasn’t slowed down since.
“He has undeniable athletic ability on the football field, he’s the fastest kid I’ve ever had on the defensive side of the ball,” Lucas said of Whyte, who has been timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash. “He’s got a great nose for the football, he always seems to be around it.
“Coaches on opposing teams rave about number three [Whyte’s jersey number] and the plays he can make.”
Whyte led the state runner-up Titans with 182 tackles last season (his single-game high was 21 against Spencer County) despite sitting out two games with a high-ankle sprain, then committed to Western Kentucky University (joining teammate, classmate and cousin, Dre Farris) over the summer.
Whyte started this season just like he did last year, with 20 tackles (in a narrow 23-21 loss to Simon Kenton). He followed that up with 11 the next week against South Oldham, 18 against Ballard and 12 versus Shelby County.
“We really have played really good defense this year, it’s a testament to him,” Lucas said.
The Titans enter tonight’s game ranked third in 4A in scoring defense (13.5), sixth in rushing defense (130 yards per game) and 11th in passing defense (127 ypg).
Whyte is quick to give credit to his teammates, especially Collins’ defensive line, but they are equally as quick to give it back to him.
“We free up the tackles for Masai, and he’s great at making them,” senior defensive end Zach “Buck” Wilson, who ranks third on the team in tackles (with 78), said recently.
So far this season Whyte has 44 solo stops and 108 assists (junior linebacker Antuan “Bushy” Wells is second on the team with 81 total tackles).
“His leadership skills have been incredible this year,” Lucas said.
And Whyte, who had a season-high 22 tackles in the Titans’ 36-32 loss at 6A Central Hardin on Oct. 11, leads by example.
“First and foremost is his work ethic,” Lucas said. “Every day he comes to work, and work hard.”
That work extends to the offensive side of the ball too. So far this season Whyte, who comes into the backfield on Collins’ “heavy” short-yardage package, has 25 carries for 138 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Certainly he has a lot of ability on the offensive side too,” Lucas said.
His favorite job, though, is punishing ballcarriers. Although he never tries to hurt anyone Whyte flies to the football with a goal.
“I want to get them for a loss of yards,” he said.
Teammates, and coaches, however, are never at a loss for words when talking about Whyte.
“He has such a huge role for us, he’s a huge playmaker,” Page said.
“He’s an exceptional football player, but an even better kid,” Lucas said.
MASAI WHYTE’S GAME-BY-GAME TACKLES THE LAST TWO YEARS
20 vs. Meade County
14 vs. Boyle County
16 vs. Oldham County
17 vs. Eastern
21 vs. Spencer
8 vs. Shelby
13 vs. North Oldham
DNP vs. Waggener
DNP vs. Atherton
17 vs. Bryan Station
8 vs. Fairdale
14 vs. Doss
12 vs. Western
13 vs. Warren East
9 vs. Highlands
20 vs. Simon Kenton
11 vs. South Oldham
18 vs. Ballard
12 vs. Shelby County
4 vs. Atherton
18 vs. Spencer County
22 vs. Central Hardin
2 vs. Waggener
15 vs. North Oldham
13 vs. Anderson County
9 vs. Moore
8 vs. Nelson County