Lexington Christian Academy football coach Paul Rains said Lucas Witt's gutsy performance in leading the Eagles to victory over host Raceland convinced him that Witt was a special kind of quarterback.
No surprise there, except Rains wasn't talking about Witt's play in LCA's playoff win at Raceland last week.
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He was referring to when Witt was a 5-foot-9, 140-pound freshman and got his first start in the fifth game of the 2006 season.
"He ran and scrambled all over the field, got beat half to death, tossed it here and tossed it there, and we beat Raceland," Rains recalled. "And most of it was that skinny little freshman running all over the place making plays.
"From that point on, we knew we had ourselves a winner at quarterback."
Witt has proven himself time and again since then.
Last season as a sophomore he led LCA to the Class A finals and a near upset of Beechwood in the title game.
This year Witt has the Eagles back in the championship hunt. They visit Hazard, a team they beat 49-7 last month, in the state semifinals Friday night.
Witt has passed for 2,657 yards and 34 touchdowns this season, pushing his career totals to 6,841 yards and 76 TDs. He also has rushed for 1,423 yards and 23 TDs.
While Witt admits he has grown literally (he's now 6-1, 175 pounds) and figuratively as LCA's leader, he credits his teammates for his development.
"Getting experience has made me better, but the main thing is, I'm surrounded by great players," he said. "I've got Dom (running back Domonique Hayden), an offensive line that's been great, and more receivers than anybody could ask for.
"They all make me who I am."
Rains thinks Witt's "No. 1 quality is his competitiveness. The kid just won't quit."
Rains first saw that trait when Witt was a wispy freshman who was overmatched physically every Friday night.
"There were times we got into the huddle, which we usually don't do in our offense, just so we could put Lucas back together and give him a little bit of comfort," Rains said.
"Our big senior linemen would help him get his shirt back up on his shoulder pads, straighten his helmet, pat him on his head and say, 'Sorry, little fella, we'll try to give you better protection next time.'
"Lucas was just trying to survive, but he showed what kind of competitor he was."
Witt has only gotten tougher, as he showed in last week's victory over Raceland.
The Rams, cheered on by a big crowd, led 20-3 before LCA rallied behind a fired-up defense and Witt's passing.
He threw for 372 yards and three TDs. One of those scoring strikes was a 74-yarder to Branden Burdette that keyed the comeback. Witt remembers the play, during which he took a nasty hit.
"I rolled out to my right, and the protection broke down," he said. "I saw Branden streaking down the sideline so I just threw it up, right before I got hit with one of hardest shots I've ever taken.
"When I got up, I saw Branden in the end zone."
Rains marveled at how his junior quarterback galvanized the Eagles in a game that they easily could have lost.
"I can't say enough about the composure and leadership Lucas showed," Rains said. "They had more fans than they've ever had at Raceland, and most of them were breathing down our necks.
"They had us backed up to the edge of the cliff and we were leaning off backwards.
"But we were able to fight our way out of it and turn it around, and Lucas is the guy who showed us the way."
When told what his coach said about his cool under fire, Witt shrugged off the praise.
"There's no reason to be nervous," he said. "Football is a fun game. You just go out and play."