Vaught's Views: This is a football town

September 04, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

No matter whether you are a Boyle County or a Danville football fan, there's one thing neither side can dispute. This has become a football town.

Just ask country music singer Eddie Montgomery.

"The football here is very well known. As I travel across the country, people mention the state championships the two teams have won," Montgomery said. "Almost everybody knows about the football here and almost the kids here grow up wanting to play for Boyle or Danville. It's to the point that teams know if they don't play their best when they come here, they are going to get beat."

Danville and Boyle renew their rivalry Friday at Admiral Stadium. It has grown into one of the state's premier games because of the success the two teams have had.

The talent level in this game has become so good that even in 2000 and 2001 when the Admirals lost to Boyle, they still went ahead and won Class A championships each year. Last season the Rebels lost to Danville to end their 47-game win streak, but Boyle went on to win its fourth straight state championship.


From 1999-2002, Boyle compiled a 58-2 record and won four state titles. In the same span, Danville was 45-12 and won two state championships.

Chuck Smith of Boyle and Sam Harp of Danville are recognized as two of the state's best coaches - and should be. Harp has won six state titles since coming to Danville in 1988 and led his team to a 42-game win streak from 1991-93. Smith took over a program at Boyle that had never been able to compete for a state title and made it one of the best in the state.

"Danville and Boyle County have teams as good as anybody in the state," said Tony Cruise, sports director for WHAS radio in Louisville. "Everybody knows about those two programs."

If they didn't, they learned in 2000 and 2001 when both schools won state championships to prove this really was Title Town when it came to football.

"It does surprise me sometimes that even people from out of state know about the football here," Smith said. "Certainly in the state it is something people talk about because you have two state championship teams in the same town. That's pretty unusual."

Danville's drop to Class A made this possible

It never would have been possible if Danville had not dropped from Class AA to Class A in 1999. That meant the two rivals no longer competed in the same district and could both advance to state title games.

The move did not change the significance of the annual rivalry. Players on both teams still view Friday's game as the biggest of the year and know it is more intense than any state championship game can ever be. But once it ends, the teams can move on and Title Town can cheer for two potential championship teams.

"The game is still for bragging rights, but it does not have playoff implications. Before, the rivalry was getting ugly, mainly among adults," Harp said. "Now you play the game and go on with the rest of your schedule.

"Football here has always been good. I just think people focus more on it now because of the success we've both had in the playoffs in the past few years. We'll have a lot of people not affiliated with either team come to the game just because they want to see two championship caliber teams play."

"You have to keep the game in perspective as a coach and player, even if everyone else in the town, and maybe the state, sees it as the game of the year," Smith said. "It's fun for a week. All the focus on the whole town. The good thing about that is that it filters down to the young kids and makes them want to play for Boyle or Danville. But if we were still in the same class, this game could never have got as big as it has because only one team could have gone on to win a state title."

Both teams could make that trip again this year, too. Both opened the season ranked No. 1 in their respective classes in the Associated Press prep rankings. Harp returned most of his key players off last year's state semifinal team, but Smith lost most of his starters off the 2002 championship team.

Both teams have two impressive wins. Boyle routed Lexington rivals Henry Clay and Lafayette. Danville beat Louisville Manual and Lincoln County.

But in Title Town, the goal remains the same - win a state title every year.

Montgomery's son dreams about playing for Smith

Montgomery went to Danville High School before moving to Garrard County prior to his junior year in school. Now his children go to Boyle County. His 7-year-old son already dreams of playing for Smith.

"All he wants to do is play football for Boyle County," Montgomery said. "But that's the way with most kids around here now. I think it's great that the tradition of both schools is such that everybody wants to be a part of it. That says a lot about the coaches and the programs they have."

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