Unbeaten Boyle County comes back to beat Highlands

September 21, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

In a game dominated by big plays, it was no surprise that Boyle County needed a big play to beat Highlands.

The surprise, though, was that it was junior Evan Teague who made what might have been the biggest catch of the season for the Rebels in a 22-21 victory over Class AAA rival Highlands here Friday.

The Rebels (5-0) had fallen behind 21-15 and were facing a fourth-down play with nine yards to go for a first down at the Highlands' 28-yard line early in period four. Since Highlands had shredded the Boyle defense on its three previous possessions, the Rebels knew giving the ball back to the Bluebirds might have meant the game was over.

Junior quarterback Brandon Smith was supposed to look for a receiver on the right side of the field. Instead, he had to scramble left to avoid being tackled.


"I saw him scramble and the defensive back came up a little," said Teague, who had a 21-yard catch four plays earlier. "I just headed for the end zone, looked up and the ball was perfectly thrown. It was just an instinct thing."

That pass tied the game 21-21 with 9 minutes, 7 seconds left and Adam Dickinson got a perfect hold from Hagen Smith to hit the extra point that turned out to be the game-winning point.

"The game was everything I thought it would be," Boyle coach Chuck Smith said. "They are a heck of a team."

Highlands coach Dale Mueller felt the same about the game despite knowing his team wasted several scoring chances that could have changed the outcome.

"You've just got to give Chuck Smith and Boyle County credit," Mueller said. "Brandon Smith is so poised and good at buying time. He made some great plays."

Field position turns into points

Boyle opened the game with two drives into Highlands territory that did not result in points. However, the field position those drives gave Boyle finally turned into points when a snap sailed over Highlands punter Adam Rosenhagen's head and out of the end zone for a safety to give the Rebels a 2-0 advantage with 1:53 left in the first quarter.

Highlands exposed Boyle's weakness in the secondary in period two when it completed five passes of 26 yards or more and three times got deep into Boyle territory. However, the only score came on a 48-yard pass to Nick Sheffield that gave the visitors a 7-2 lead. The other two drives resulted in a missed 39-yard field goal and Brad Cloud interception.

Boyle executed a near-perfect eight-play, 80-yard drive in the final two minutes of the first half to regain the lead. Smith was 4-for-6 passing for 63 yards, including a 37-yard strike to Cloud that put the ball at the two-yard line. Smith scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak for an 8-7 halftime advantage.

The Rebels readjusted their defense at halftime to take away the pass since Highlands had elected to take advantage of cornerback Seth Tamme's ankle injury that kept him out of the game and forced his replacement, Quinn Givhan, to try and cover bigger receivers.

Highlands drove to the Boyle 17-yard line thanks to eight rushes for 56 yards only to have Rosenhagen barely miss a 35-yard field goal. Still, it looked like it might not be a wasted drive for Highlands when the Rebels were backed up on their own one-yard line on third down.

That's when Brandon Smith lofted a perfect pass to Cloud near midfield. Cloud, who had five catches for 184 yards, made one defender miss, outran another and reached the 14-yard line for an 85-yard gain.

Three plays later Smith scored on a 14-yard run for a 15-7 lead.

Highlands (4-1) responded with a 12-play, 80-yard drive - all on the ground - to score on quarterback Chase Cecil's 5-yard run. However, the two-point conversion try failed to leave Boyle on top 15-13.

Fumble helps Highlands take the lead

The Rebels mishandled the kickoff and Highlands recovered the fumble at the 15. Three plays later Jordan Nevels scored and a two-point pass made it 21-15 Highlands with 11:24 to play.

"We knew not to worry about what had happened because we still had time to win," Teague said.

Boyle regained the lead on its next possession thanks to Smith, who was 12-for-24 passing for 267 yards, and Teague.

Still, Highlands had three more possessions. Twice Teague had quarterback sacks to stop drives and the final threat ended when Cecil overthrew Nick Sheffield near the end zone.

"I was disappointed we did not stop the run better in the third quarter, but the defense came back in the fourth period," Chuck Smith said. "Winners step up in big games and make big plays. We had guys do that tonight.

"Our defense is not as strong as it has been, or will be. The good thing is that we are putting things together and still managing to win because we really beat a good team tonight."

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