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Vaught's Views: State title pressure part of Boyle football

August 11, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

The "Drive for Five" will not put any extra pressure on this year's Boyle County football team. Never mind that no Kentucky high school football team has ever won five straight state championships, something the Rebels can do this year if they claim the Class AAA title again.

It's just that Boyle players have become accustomed to pressure and learn to deal with it. Remember the Rebels went into last year riding a 45-game win streak after three straight perfect seasons that ended with state championships.

Many thought Boyle might collapse when Danville ended its 47-game win streak three victories shy of the state record. Many more thought the Boyle dynasty was over when district rival West Jessamine beat the Rebels.

"We learned some lessons last year in the games we lost," said Boyle senior lineman Patrick Wilson. "We learned what not to do. We learned not to hold back and live in the past. We can't wait on the past stars to make plays. We have to have people who want to win and get better every day."

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That attitude is a must for the Rebels this year. They go into the season without a dominating lineman. There's no Bobby Leffew, Travis Leffew, Lance Mertz or Brodie Overstreet on the roster. They don't have a future Division I placekicker like Taylor Begley or David Jennings. They don't return an all-state linebacker like Michael Paul Webb or Matt Quinn. They don't have a returning star at receiver like Jacob Tamme, Matt Miller or Neal Brown. They don't have a Mr. Football like former quarterback Jeff Duggins.

What Boyle has now is tradition

What Boyle does have now that it didn't have until 1999 when it won its first state title is tradition. Now the Rebels expect to win.

Senior Brad Cloud has patiently waited for his chance to star. He's been a mainstay in the defensive secondary for the last two years, but this season he'll get his chance to shine at receiver.

"I've been waiting for my chance to get the ball and help our team," Cloud said. "But it's not about me. It's about winning. I want to be a playmaker not to become a star, but to help our team win."

Winning obviously is the key word at Boyle now. A program that once was happy to make the playoffs now has everyone expecting state titles.

Coach Chuck Smith will open the season Aug. 22 with a young, inexperienced team. Still, the players know a 10-2 season that would be reason for celebration at some schools would be considered a disappointment at Boyle because it would mean the Rebels didn't win the state title.

"There's always pressure, but we will always strive to be perfect," Cloud said. "We don't accept anything less than a 15-0 season. We don't have to worry about anyone else being disappointed. If we don't win every game, we are disappointed in ourselves."

"We always want to be the best we can. Nothing will change that," Wilson said.

It shouldn't. Boyle has become a state power for a number of reasons. The Rebels have been blessed with talent. They've also seemed to make every clutch play in the last four years to win close playoff games. (Just ask Lexington Catholic and Hopkinsville.)

Don't underestimate work ethic

However, don't underestimate work ethic. No team works harder than the Rebels. Smith is either a slave driver or magician depending on who you ask. He has a knack for pushing players to the limit and turning average players into better players and talented players into extraordinary players.

"He's not going to change anything this year," Wilson said. "He's just going to do what he always has because he knows it works. He knows what it takes to win."

Boyle has a cast of challengers waiting to end its title reign. Paducah Tilghman is a popular preseason No. 1 choice even though the Boyle coaches know Hopkinsville also returns a bevy of talented players. Highlands, Covington Catholic, Mason County and Rockcastle County won't concede the title to the Rebels, either.

There's also the annual Title Town battle with Danville, which has become one of the state's premier games in recent years because of the success both teams have enjoyed.

Yet the bottom line for Boyle is adding another championship, and the "Drive for Five" is all that matters to the Rebels. Boyle, like Danville had in past years, learned last season that an early-season loss doesn't keep a team from being a champion.

Then there is that inner pride, something only championship programs have.

"We don't want to be known as the senior class that didn't keep the state championships going," Wilson said.

Who would, and that's why no matter how young and inexperienced the Rebels are, it would be a mistake today to underestimate this team's title chances.

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