By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
It seems like just a bad nightmare in many ways.
But it did happen.
The Collins Titans shocked the six-time state champion Highlands Bluebirds, 37-34 on Saturday at Western Kentucky University. Collins (13-2) snapped the longest playoff winning streak in state history at 34 in a row with a touchdown with seven seconds left.
Collins quarterback Lawson Page had to come out of the game after Braden Hicks cut him down for a five-yard loss because his helmet came off so Browning Bercherer had to come in for a play and made the most of it. He found Nathan Sames over the middle for a 12-yard touchdown on fourth down for the game-winner.
“They coach their guy that if one guy is out, the next guy has to come in,” said Dale Mueller, Highlands Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator. “You have to give a lot of credit to their whole football team. Their second guy was ready to make a play.”
Highlands (13-2) fell to 855-227-26 since the program began in 1915. That’s good for second in the country behind 882-214-34 mark of a Valdosta (Ga.) program that started two years earlier. The Bluebirds are 100-5 since the start of 2007 and had lost two or more games for the first time since 2006.
Collins tore apart the Highlands defense with its spread offense for 458 yards. Page completed 15-of-23 passes for 178 yards. Sames hauled in six catches for 73 yards and a touchdown with DeAndre Farris hauling in six for 69 yards.
But the Titans ran the ball well. Ryan Watkins rushed for 121 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown and Page rushed for 108 on 15 carries.
Highlands gained 480 yards of total offense. Senior quarterback Drew Houliston completed 19-of-35 passes for 367 yards and two touchdowns to finishes with more than 4,000 yards passing and 50 touchdowns on the season.
Zach Harris also had another great game rushing for 103 yards on 25 carries and three touchdowns. He also had two catches for 22 yards.
Evan Allen and Alex Veneman led Highlands with four catches each. Allen had 78 yards and a touchdown with Veneman recording 73 yards and a score.
The yellow flags went mostly against Highlands. The officials called the Bluebirds for eight penalties for 73 yards and just two against the Titans for 21 yards.
A slow start in the first half also did not help the Highlands cause. The Bluebirds moved the ball into Collins territory three times after the first series but lost two fumbles and did not convert a fourth down.
“We had some opportunities where we should have scored more in the first half,” Mueller said. “It was a whole team thing. Offensively, we picked it up in the second half. But in the first half, we struggled. You have to take advantage of opportunities.”
Collins led 10-7 at halftime. Ryan Watkins scored from a yard out with 6:16 left in the first quarter. But Highlands came back and Harris scored from two yards out with 4:15 remaining in the quarter.
The Titans took the lead with 1:25 left in the half. Blanton Creque made a 27-yard field goal.
Highlands scored on its first possession of the second hald when Harris scored from six yards out. But the Titans responded with two scored to go up 23-14 entering the final stanza. Farris scored on a 4-yard run and Sames hauled in a 10-yard pass from Page as time expired.
The Bluebirds scored a quick touchdown in the fourth when Allen hauled in a 34-yarder from Houliston with 10:36 to go in the game. But Collins responded when Farris scored from a yard out to make it 30-21 Titans.
Highlands fought back to take a 34-30 lead with 2:33 left in the game. Alex Veneman hauled in a 42-yard pass from Houliston before Harris scored from a yard out.
Joey Cochran finished with a team-high 11 tackles for Highlands. Two came for a loss of 15 yards.
The Bluebirds will take the rest of the month off before working toward another title in what will be the 100th season of football next fall. Highlands often takes the rest of the month off before beginning winter weights in January.