COLLINS — Collins was bound and determined to sprint to the finish line towards a state title Friday night.
In the end, the Tigers managed to do just that in their 40-36 victory over West Marion, although the win didn’t come easy in the fight for the 3A South State championship.
“We just focus on the process and focus on what’s important and that’s getting better every day,” Collins head coach Ryan Earnest said. “Finish what we started.”
Collins was up early and often. Their first score came on a gutsy fourth-down conversion by senior quarterback Detric Hawthorn when he threw a 35-yard completion to get them first and ten at the opposing 35-yard line. Two plays later, he ran the score in himself to make it 8-0 Collins.
Collins dominated until the end of the first quarter, scoring 16 points while holding West Marion to 0.
Tigers senior running back Rakerian Forrest made it no better for the Trojans when he ran it in from 7 yards out, then tacked on the two-point conversion to make it 24-0.
“They ran the football on us,” West Marion head coach Brad Duncan said. “Everything we would try to do defensively, they had an answer for us.”
Going into halftime, the score was 32-14, but things turned around in the second half.
“It was good and positive at the half,” Duncan said. “These kids are resilient, and they bounce back.”
West Marion went on a second-half tear, scoring 22 unanswered points to start the third quarter.
“To come back out to start the third quarter and score, that’s big,” Duncan said. “It’s just leadership and that’s what it’s all about.”
The Trojans stormed back until the score was 36-32.
But then Collins came alive.
Hawthorn and the Tigers had a chance to take advantage late in the fourth quarter with the ball on the West Marion 4-yard line. Senior running back Timothy Durr got the carry, but only got three yards. Hawthorn tried the quarterback sneak, and gained nothing.
Down four points, Collins had one shot to save their season.
“It was a game of runs,” Earnest said. “Just find a way.”
Hawthorn did just that, as he took the quarterback sneak three inches for the score.
West Marion had 1:38 to put the game back in their favor starting from their own 46, but Trojan quarterback Josh Miller was sacked on the 10-yard line, running out the clock.
“The kids played their hearts out,” Duncan said. “What a run these guys have had.
“We just ran out of time. (The Tigers) made the plays when they had to.”
Collins will face Charleston in a rematch for the Class 3A MHSAA state title on Dec. 5.