The sophomore free safety recorded three interceptions for the Trojans, all of which came in the fourth quarter, to seal Carrollton’s 23-7 first-round Class AAA state playoff victory over Washington of Atlanta.
The second-seeded Trojans (9-2) will face No. 1 Eastside (10-1) next Friday night in Covington after the Eagles defeated Creekview, 20-6, in their opening-round contest.
Along with the three picks, Collins also got Carrollton on the board first offensively, taking a punt to the house on a 43-yard return after the Trojan defense forced a three-and-out on the opening possession of the game to make it 7-0 less than two minutes into the contest.
“I’m a sophomore and hadn’t really had any experience on the varsity level, so it feels great,” Collins said of his play on Friday night.
Washington (7-4) turned the ball over five times in the game — one fumble, three Collins’ interceptions and a Josh Barge interception of Bulldog quarterback Quadral Forte. Four of those turnovers came in the final 12 minutes.
With the Trojans leading 17-7 early in the fourth quarter, Collins picked off Forte at the Carrollton 3-yard line with 10:18 remaining in the game, allowing Carrollton to eat two-and-a-half minutes of clock before punting the ball back to the Bulldogs.
On the ensuing Washington possession, the Bulldogs turned the ball over on a fumble, setting up a 1-yard LaBrian Hudson touchdown to make it 23-7 with 3:14 left in the game.
On Washington’s final two possessions, Forte was picked off by Collins in both instances, one with 2:41 remaining and the final one with 40.4 seconds left in the Trojan end zone, putting the exclamation point on a tremendous defensive effort by the Trojans against an athletic Bulldog squad featuring one of the state’s top play-makers, senior receiver Branden Smith, who finished with just one catch for 25 yards.
“I thought our defensive staff did a great job of game-planning,” Trojan coach Rayvan Teague said. “And execution, our kids followed through. We felt like we could stop the running attack with a minimum number, and we did. That allowed us to saturate the coverage. We took away their hinge game by getting up and pressing them, and then deferred them from getting the deep ball by playing the two safeties over the top.”
This was a Trojan defense that started three freshmen Friday night — Zach Gordon and Ryan Dumas on the defensive line and Barge at cornerback.
“We’ve got a really good group of seniors and they played their hearts out (Friday). I don’t want to take anything from them, but it has been very rewarding this year to see our young kids step up when called upon and execute as well,” Teague said.
And with freshman signal-caller Dallas Dickey under center, the Trojans rushed for 260 yards on 61 carries, attempting just one pass on the night.
Senior running back Wes Dothard led the Trojan ground game, finishing with 97 yards on 13 carries, while Louis Hudson (10 rushes, 53 yards) and LaBrian Hudson (7 rushes, 43 yards, TD) also had solid nights.
The Trojan kicking game was also solid Friday night led by place-kicker Joel Smith, who connected on a 37-yard field goal and sent every kickoff into the end zone, making the Bulldogs start at their own 20-yard line each time.
As for the thick fog clouding Grisham Stadium on Friday night, it certainly didn’t bother Collins and the Trojans.
“I don’t really think it affected the game at all,” Collins said. “I mean, we were concentrating and worked hard at practice, and we were focused.”