Wildcats win 42-38 shootout over Collins, book second straight trip to Class 4A finals
FRANKLIN – It was nuts. It was electrifying. It was everything anyone could have wished for in a high school football game.
In the semifinals of the Class 4A KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl on Friday night, Franklin-Simpson and Collins put on a show at Shadetree Stadium. In a contest with a trip to the state championship on the line, the two sides went at it front start to finish.
But only one team could come out on top – and that was Franklin-Simpson.
The Wildcats (11-3 overall) defeated Collins 42-38 in a shootout to win their eighth straight outing and earn their spot in the 4A title game against defending champion Johnson Central next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. CT at Kentucky’s Kroger Field.
“I’m just really happy. I’m going to enjoy this tonight and I’ll go to worrying about Johnson Central tomorrow,” Franklin-Simpson head coach Doug Preston said. “I’m just so happy for these kids and coaches and our community. I can’t describe it. Right now, I’m the word ‘happy’ in all caps. I’m just really happy for ‘em.”
Leading up to Friday’s meeting, it was anticipated to be one of the best games in the state – and that’s exactly what it played out to be. Behind 949 yards of total offense, the Wildcats and Titans (11-3) had a field day offensively.
Franklin-Simpson came out of the gates fired up and jumped out to a 14-0 lead after the first quarter. With the use of its dominant running back core, two of its four main backs scored their first touchdowns in the period.
Carlos McKinney recorded the game’s first score with a 17-yard run at the 8:50 mark before Saul Brady found the end zone on a 23-yard rush. Brady’s TD capped a seven-play, 74-yard drive and gave the Wildcats the 14-0 advantage to start.
“We started off looking good – and the thought in my head when we were up 14-0 was that we were down 20-0 last week (to Hopkinsville),” Preston said. “Of course they come roaring back. But then we fought back and somehow made some plays defensively, got them off the field and hung on.”
Once trailing 14-0, Collins found its offense in the ensuing quarter and added 21 points to its side of the scoreboard. The Titans’ versatile quarterback JR Lucas accounted for all three of their touchdowns in the second, running for a one-yard score while passing for a one-yard TD and a 96-yard strike.
Collins tied it at 21-21 with 5:17 remaining in the second and trailed by just seven at 28-21 at halftime.
“It was rough, but we couldn’t put our heads down,” Franklin wide receiver Jevon Covington said of the Titans’ comeback. “We had to fight through adversity. That first quarter was huge for us and the scoreboard shows.”
The Titans kept battling into the second half and used a 10-point third quarter to take a 31-28 lead – their first of the night – entering the fourth. Lucas threw an 11-yard TD pass to Nick Eades and Webb Bates kicked a 30-yard field goal while Franklin-Simpson couldn’t get anything going in the period.
Lucas finished with 444 yards and four TDs while completing 26 of his 41 passes. Wide receiver Sacari Toole emerged as Collins’ leading receiver with 145 yards and a score on seven receptions.
In a wild fourth quarter that included three scoring drives, Franklin earned best series of the night – and the play of the game. After the Titans scored on a Lucas TD pass, the Wildcats’ Brady returned the next kickoff 84 yards to put his squad in a great spot to score.
Thanks to the big play by Brady, whose grandfather passed away on Thursday, McKinney scored from six yards out to put Franklin back in front at 42-38 and seal the deal.
“I’m coached some great players, but I told Saul on the sideline “I think you’re the greatest I’ve ever coached,” said Preston of Brady. “When you take his practice habits and his character and all of that, he’s just the greatest I’ve ever coached. That’s saying a lot because I’ve had some awesome players.
“He’s just an awesome person, too.”
Brady finished with 93 yards and a TD on 13 carries. Alongside him, Tre Bass rushed for 127 yards and a score while McKinney had two scores on 56 yards. Additionally, James Baker tallied 86 yards and a TD on just three attempts.
Behind a rushing core that finished with 403 yards to Collins’ 37 and a humbling performance from Brady, Franklin-Simpson now has its rematch against Johnson Central – the team it lost 48-0 to in the 2016 4A finals.
“We get to go to Lexington – Kroger Field. We’re excited,” Preston said.