Paducah Tilghman already aiming to dethrone Rebels


August 06, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

Boyle County returns home today from its annual preseason camp that has laid the foundation for the four straight state championships the Rebels have won.

Even though Boyle won't open what everyone has to consider a major rebuilding season until Aug. 22, the Rebels are already the target of every Class AAA team because of their recent state dominance.

Paducah Tilghman goes into this season considered the team to beat in Class AAA by many. Of course, Hopkinsville had the same lofty aspirations in 2001 and 2002 only to lose close games to Boyle in the playoffs.

"I think we have a legitimate chance to win it all," said Tilghman coach Perry Thomas. "We have 19 starters returning, but Hopkinsville is in our bracket and they have 14 starters back. They are the thorn in our side. We beat them last year during the season, but they beat us in the playoffs. It's tough just to get out of our region. We have a lot of good teams."


Still, Thomas senses that everything is in place for Tilghman to win a state title. Former Tilghman standout Randy Wyatt, who played football at Kentucky, has revived the track program and has helped improve the speed of several football players.

No team in state may have more individual talent

Then there is talent. No team in Kentucky may have more individual standouts than Tilghman.

Start with running back Joe Casey, one of the top-rated runners in the nation. He's 6-1, 215 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds. He's already verbally committed to Kentucky even though offers continue to come from other schools.

"He's as good as I've seen. He has the ability to break away from you and at the same time run over you," Thomas said.

Go to quarterback Hunter Cantwell, another Division I recruit. While Casey has run for 5,000 yards the last two seasons, Cantwell has thrown for 5,000 yards.

"He's not an option quarterback, he's a thrower," Thomas said. "He's special. He'll have a chance to break (Tim) Couch's (state) accuracy record."

Receiver Curtis Hamilton is another Division I prospect because of his athletic ability.

"I think we are at a point now where we have a chance to compete for a state title every year," Thomas said.

That's what he wanted when he left Campbellsville to take the job at Tilghman. He had some talented teams at Campbellsville, but he never felt he would be able to annually beat teams such as Danville or Mayfield.

He admires what Smith has done at Boyle

However, he knows being in position to win a state title and winning one are not one and the same. That's why he admires what Smith has done with Boyle. Thomas was on Smith's staff when Smith was head coach at Campbellsville before he came to Boyle in 1992. Thomas, like most of us, never envisioned Smith doing what he's done the last four years.

"It's unbelievable what he has done," Thomas said. "It doesn't matter where he did it. He obviously had some kids that can play, but to win four state titles in a row and go 58-2 is unbelievable to any coach.

"We play good football. Hopkinsville plays great football. Male does. Danville does. Trinity does. But even those schools do not do those things. Hopefully, he'll continue to win, but not the AAA title while we are also in AAA. I love Chuck to death, but it is time for someone else to win. He's got to learn to share a little more."

Which as Thomas, and others, have learned recently is not something Smith and the Rebels do very well.

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