By Mike Fields
Special to Kypost.com
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Highlands’ record run of six consecutive state titles came to an end, and it took one of the most memorable finishes in finals’ history to end it.
Collins, in only its fourth year of existence, upset Highlands 37-34 in front of 2,997 fans in the Russell Athletic/KHSAA Class 4A championship game Saturday night.
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 didn’t blink against the Bluebirds and the glow of their 22 state titles.
Quarterback Lawson Page directed the Titans on a game-winning drive, or at least he got them to the Highlands’ 9-yard line before he was hit 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 during 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,” Browning Becherer said, “but I knew what I had to do. I had to do what my cousin would do.”
Becherer took the shotgun snap and fired a bullet touchdown pass to Nathan Sames for the winning score with seven seconds left.
The Bluebirds won several high-scoring shootouts this year, but they couldn’t salvage this one despite outgaining Collins 480 yards to 458.
“It was a great high school football game. I just wish we’d come out on the other side of it,” Highlands coach Dale Mueller said. “I couldn’t be more proud of my guys. 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.”
Highlands quarterback Drew Houliston threw for 367 yards and two TDs. Evan Allen and Alex Veneman each had four catches for a combined 151 yards and two TDs. Harris rushed for 103 yards and three TDs.
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,” Mueller said.
Collins coach Jerry Lucas said about 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.”
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 two 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.”