Boyle (7-0, 2-0) all but clinched the district title with the victory over the Maroons (6-1, 1-1). Boyle coach Chuck Smith said the game had the atmosphere of a big-time game.
"There was a lot riding on this," Smith said. "It was a big game. It wasn't do-or-die, but playoff home-field advantage was up for grabs."
"There was a lot of emotion and a lot of intensity built into this game," Pulaski coach John Hines said. "Our kids played extremely hard, their kids played extremely hard, and I'm sure from the fans' standpoint, it was a great game to watch."
It was an exciting game, with neither team able to deliver a knockout punch. Boyle led 32-20 with five minutes to play, but Pulaski scored on a diving reception by Jonathan Denham with 4:37 to play that cut the lead to 32-27.
Boyle recovered the ensuing onside kick at the Pulaski 47-yard line and tried to run out the clock. Pulaski burned all three of its timeouts in the drive, which looked to be at the end when Brad Cloud caught a 4-yard pass from Brandon Smith on third-and-6.
However, Pulaski jumped offsides, Boyle ran the clock down to 22 seconds and Cloud picked off Cole Draughn's desperation pass to end the game.
"The offsides really hurt us," Hines said. "That's just a mistake that we don't need to make, a fundamental thing. We had a couple of busted coverages that turned out to be long pass plays for them and we had a fumble when we were driving that they recovered.
"Those are the types of things that a team like Boyle County can really capitalize on and really hurt you with. They've made a living doing that the last four years and that's why they're state champs. If we could go back and take those four snaps out of the ballgame, you never know."
The Maroons gained 370 yards to Boyle's 344 and picked up 301 of those yards on the ground. Even more impressively, those 301 yards came from two players - Denham and Draughn.
"They're outstanding players," Hines said. "They've been flirted with by some of the schools around the state and around the country, and they need to stop flirting and come get them because those guys can flat play for some people."
Denham gained 154 yards on 12 carries, including two 69-yard scoring runs, and Draughn had 147 yards on 19 carries, including four runs of over 20 yards.
"They seemed to all be off of big plays, and you can't survive like that," Smith said.
Boyle did survive, due in large part to plays both big and small.
There were the standout plays, including Greg Peck's blocked punt in the first quarter and Cloud's caused fumble and interception.
And there were the smaller ones as Boyle converted on three third downs and a fourth down in the second half to keep drives alive and run time off the clock.
"Our offensive line played great," Smith said. "They really sucked it up and made big plays when they had to."
The person who may have benefited most from that was junior running back Quinn Givhan. Givhan picked up a season-high 119 yards on 22 carries and scored twice.
"The line opened up the holes and I had the easy part. All I had to do was run," Givhan said. "They had to move the big ol' boys."
Boyle took a 12-0 lead on a 37-yard pass from Brandon Smith to Peck and then a 3-yard run by Smith.
The first of Denham's long runs cut it to 12-6, but Smith found Evan Teague open for a 66-yard scoring strike with 3:06 to play in the first half.
Pulaski picked up momentum by scoring on a 4-yard run by Draughn with 1:38 to play in the first half, then took the lead with Denham's second long run on the first play from scrimmage in the second half.
Givhan's two touchdowns put Boyle back on top 32-20, setting the stage for the final scene.
"We knew if we wanted to be district champs, we had to beat the best team out there," Givhan said. "Pulaski County's a great team. If we didn't beat them, then we could only play for second. We know that by beating them, now we have a chance to do it."|10/1/03***