Class 4A finals: Collins upsets perennial power Highlands

mfields@herald-leader.comDecember 7, 2013 

BOWLING GREEN — Remember the Titans?

Who could ever forget them after Saturday night's Russell Athletic/KHSAA Class 4A football finals?

The Collins Titans halted Highlands' six-year run as state champion by upsetting the Bluebirds 37-34 with a stunning finish in front of 2,997 fans in Western Kentucky's L.T. Smith Stadium.

Highlands trailed 30-21 in the fourth quarter but rallied to go up 34-30 on Zach Harris' 1-yard run with 2:33 left.

But Collins, in only its fourth year of existence, didn't blink against the Bluebirds and the glow of their 22 state titles.

Titans quarterback Lawson Page directed a game-winning drive, or at least he got them to the Highlands' 9-yard line before he was sacked for a 3-yard loss.

Following a timeout, Page went back on the field but was told he had to sit out a play because his helmet had come off on the sack.

So with Collins facing fourth down at the 12, with no timeouts and only 13 seconds left on the clock, back-up quarterback Browning Becherer took center stage.

Becherer is Page's cousin and grandson of former Shelby County Coach Tom Becherer, who led the Rockets to a state title in 1987 and is now a Collins' assistant.

"I was nervous," Becherer said, "but I knew what I had to do. I had to do what my cousin Lawson would do."

Becherer took the shotgun snap and fired a bullet touchdown pass to Nathan Sames for the winning score with seven seconds left.

"I felt so confident in Browning," Sames said. "He's a great quarterback. Lawson's a great quarterback. Somebody had to make a play, and so the team made a play."

Collins Coach Jerry Lucas said after the confusion about Page having to leave the game, "I had literally three seconds to explain to Browning what we were running and what he had to do.

"Then he stepped back, looked the safety off, turned around and threw a strike for a touchdown. An unbelievable finish."

Highlands Coach Dale Mueller praised the Titans for being well-coached to handle a tough situation. "They had their second guy ready to come in and make a play."

Collins had a cast of heroes as it halted Highlands' 45-game winning streak against Kentucky competition.

Page hit on 15 of 23 passes for 178 yards and a TD. He ran 15 times for 108 yards.

Ryan Watkins ran 17 times for 121 yards and a score. Sames had six catches for 73 yards and two TDs. Deandre Farris had 107 yards rushing and receiving, and 2 TDs.

Senior linebacker Masai Whyte had 14 tackles, including 13 solo, to lead the Titans' defense.

Collins, which lost to Highlands 47-0 in last year's finals, had an aggressive attitude.

"We had to go after them all night long," Lucas said. "They're the second all-time winningest school in the country, with all those championships, and six in a row.

"We had to come out and keep hitting them no matter what happened."

Mueller's Bluebirds had won several high-scoring shootouts this year, but it couldn't pull out this one despite outgaining Collins 480 yards to 458.

Drew Houliston threw for 367 yards and 2 TDs. Evan Allen and Alex Veneman each had four catches for a combined 151 yards and two TDs. Zach Harris rushed for 103 yards and three TDs.

"I couldn't be more proud of them," Mueller said. "They're men you can count on. They're sad because they lost a high school football game. But in all reality, we embrace adversity.

"This isn't the worst thing that'll happen in their life. They'll come back from this."

Collins, meanwhile, will celebrate one of the biggest upsets in finals history.

Not that the Titans didn't think they could do it.

"We were confident we could slay the giant," Sames said.

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337.Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes.Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com

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