Highlands-Boyle could be AAA title preview

September 18, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

Boyle County and Highlands will play for the first time Friday, but it would be fine with Dale Mueller if they played a second time later this season.

"It would be awesome if we got to play again in the (Class AAA) title game," said the Highlands coach. "Boyle County has been fulfilling its end of that. We haven't."

Both teams are 4-0 going into Friday's showdown here. Boyle has won four straight state titles, including the Class AAA title in 2001 and 2002, and 62 of its last 64 games. Highlands has won 15 state titles, including four from 1996-2000.

"We've won 19 games the last two years and call it a drought because we've not won a state title," Mueller said.


Boyle coach Chuck Smith knows Highlands will come here looking to make a statement about its program.

"We've got to get used to teams playing us wanting to make a statement by beating us. It's part of dealing with the success we've had the last few years," Smith said.

Smith believes the Bluebirds do have all the ingredients to get them to the Class AAA title game Dec. 6 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium where Boyle would be the opponent if the Rebels also reach the title game again.

"They are very fast. They have good linemen. They play good defense," Smith said. "This will be one of the better teams we have played in the last five years. They can run, throw, block and tackle. They have not made a strong run at the state title the last two years, but it is going to take an awfully good team to beat them this year."

What worries Mueller is that Boyle is more than a "good team" again this year. The Rebels have wins over Lafayette, Henry Clay, Danville and Nelson County and have impressed the Highlands coach.

"There are no words of wisdom for beating Boyle," Mueller said. "They all play so well. If they have an injury, another guy just steps in and plays well. That's the kind of confidence they have. They just do whatever it takes to win."

Mueller likes Boyle's offense, headed by junior quarterback Brandon Smith. "He can do so many things to win a game," Mueller said.

Boyle's abundance of receivers also worries Mueller.

"Brad Cloud is a great player and he never comes off the field," Mueller said. "Seth Tamme is just a sophomore, but he makes big plays. Greg Peck is a wonderful player. They are just tough to defend."

However, Smith worries just as much about stopping Highlands. Last week T.J. Kramer ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to lead a 35-24 comeback win over Boone County.

Sophomore quarterback Chase Cecil had scoring passes fo 34 and 32 yards to Chris Owens in last week's win, but Highlands also uses junior Brad Bardo at quarterback.

"Who plays varies from game to game. Both are athletic 6-3 guys who can throw," Mueller said. "They are both good players."

Junior Michael Bonomini is the team's top back, but Kramer, Robbie Peterman, Jordan Nevels and Dillon Ruby will all also get chances to run each game.

The talented offensive line is led by 270-pound Sean Sester, who has numerous Division I scholarship offers including one from Kentucky.

"He's 6-8, has good feet and loves to play football," Mueller said. "He's been even better than we expected this year."

Mueller says right tackle Dave Capal is also drawing Division I interest.

"They have skilled players that are extremely fast and they use their running backs very effectively," Chuck Smith said. "They will have the best line we've seen this year. They have good size and are very smart."

Juniors Jamie Hubbard and Shaun Conley along with senior Elliott Hatfield, all returning starters, anchor Highlands' defense from their linebacker spots. They helped hold Dixie Heights and Campbell County to just one touchdown each.

"They do a lot of stunting with their defensive linemen and put a lot of pressure on you," Smith said. "They use a lot of man-to-man coverage because they are so athletic and fast. None of their players go both ways full-time, either. They play a lot of people."

Mueller knows he may use more players than Boyle. However, he rattles off a list of names when talking about which Rebels impress him.

"Ian Young, Zach Cooley, Patrick Wilson, Brandon Record. They have so many good players that just do their jobs and do them well," Mueller said. "It's tough to be overweight or out of shape and play for Boyle or Highlands because we both run and lift (weights) so much. You can tell the Boyle kids are all in great shape.

"It's just going to be a great game for players and fans and one that should be a lot of fun no matter who wins."

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