Boyle-Danville game gets quarterbacks ready for postseason pressure

September 04, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

Playing quarterback in a state championship game almost seems easy after playing quarterback in a Boyle County-Danville game.

"The Danville-Boyle game is a step above all other games, even the state championship game" said Boyle junior quarterback Brandon Smith. "The intensity picks up. It's just a big game and you have to come ready to play every snap. It's a game like no other.

"There's more pressure on the whole team in this game than there is a state championship game. This is your town. It's your turf. You have to defend it. Everybody really wants to win. You can't relax for a minute."

Smith will be starting his second Danville-Boyle game Friday. Last year the Admirals ended Boyle's 47-game win streak with a 20-10 victory.


Danville's Ronnie Hawkins, also a junior, made several key plays in the 2002 victory. However, he was playing receiver then. This time he'll be Danville's starting quarterback and will be in a similar position to what Smith was last year when his third career start came in the city-county showdown.

"I saw my first Boyle-Danville game when I was about 5 or 6 years old," Hawkins said. "I was little, but I always wanted to be an Admiral and even then I realized just how big a game it was. It's the one game everyone goes to and every player wants to win.

"I'll always remember last year's game because we won. Winning my first game as a quarterback against Boyle would be special, too. But I know the pressure you feel. If you can play well in the Boyle County game, you are not going to be nervous in a state championship game."

Smith can vouch for that. He rebounded from the loss to Danville to help the Rebels win 13 games and capture their fourth straight state championship.

"It's not that the state game still doesn't have pressure, but it's different and not as much," Smith, who has thrown for 335 yards and six scores this season, said. "You feel a lot more pressure in the Danville-Boyle game because everyone you know is there and watching."

Smith always wanted to be a quarterback and that's his favorite position. Hawkins is different. He would prefer to play receiver. However, when three-year starter Adam Schott graduated, Danville coach Sam Harp knew he wanted Hawkins as his next quarterback because of his speed and versatility.

"Playing quarterback is what I have to do to make this team as good as what coach Harp wants," Hawkins said. "I am not going to go against coach Harp. That wouldn't be very smart of me. If he wants me to play quarterback, that's what I'll gladly do."

Both Smith and Hawkins know the quarterback has to be the team leader.

"There is more leadership on me at quarterback," Hawkins said. "You have control of the whole team. At receiver, you can be a leader, too, but there is not as much pressure on you. Not many people worry, or even notice, your mistakes at receiver.

"At quarterback, everybody knows when you make a mistake. But I like the pressure. Our first game this year I was so nervous and so quiet that the linemen couldn't hear me calling the plays. I had to get louder, and did. But playing in this game is going to give me even more experience in front of a big crowd and I know I have to be a leader for us to win."

Smith didn't understand how valuable experience was for a quarterback a year ago. Others tried to tell him he had lessons to learn, but he didn't believe them.

"Our seniors last year eventually taught me how to lead," Smith said. "Experience is underrated. I am a far better quarterback now than I was a year ago. I know what is going on more.

"Experience is the most important thing for a quarterback. When everybody said last year that I needed experience, I disagreed. How hard could it be? Now I realize experience really does mean a lot and that I had even more to learn than I realized. You can do drill after drill in practice, or even scrimmages, but there's nothing like game experience and the quarterback has to be a leader every play."

Smith is a more accomplished passer, but wants to run more this year much like former Boyle quarterback Jeff Duggins did during his three-year career. Hawkins prefers running over throwing, but knows he has to become a more accurate passer to make defenses respect the aerial game. He's averaging 45 yards per game rushing.

"We've got plays where I get to run," Smith said. "I like running. When you play quarterback, you hardly ever get to hit anybody. You just stand back there and take the hits. When you run, you get to deliver a blow every now and then."

Hawkins knows playing receiver last year helped him understand pass routes and pass coverage. He's worked on his throwing and knows Boyle will probably make him show that he can withstand a rush and complete passes. He's 5-for-16 passing for 120 yards and three scores.

"But I would still prefer to run. I just like that better," Hawkins said.

Smith is glad he's getting a chance to play defense this year, something he didn't get to do last year.

"I love defense. I love the contact," Smith said. "It gets you in the flow of the game. Sometimes you lose that standing on the sidelines. Plus if you are having a bad night offensively, there's no better way to make up for it than to go out on defense and make a play or get a big hit, especially in a big game like Danville-Boyle."

Harp doesn't think either quarterback should be judged on who wins the game.

"It's a team game and individual statistics don't matter," Harp said. "How a quarterback handles the team is just as important as any stat.

"The good thing about this game is that it is like a playoff atmosphere and will make any quarterback better. Where else will you get that many fans pulling for you or against you? A state title game is not as heated as this game. You can learn a lot about a quarterback in this game and how he responds to situations. That's why win or lose, this game turns out to be a great learning experience for any quarterback."

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