Boyle, Lincoln both looking to improve

October 30, 2003|MIKE MARSEE

Boyle County already knows its postseason destiny, and Lincoln County has a pretty good idea of its fate as well.

And though the two teams are on divergent paths, they'll be looking to accomplish many of the same things when they meet Friday.

Boyle (9-0, 4-0 Class AAA, District 4) secured its fifth straight district championship last week, while Lincoln (2-7, 1-3) clings to only the smallest of playoff hopes.

But the coaches of both teams hope to see improvement in their respective squads in the regular-season finale.

"We've really got to polish it up before we get to the playoffs," Boyle coach Chuck Smith said. "We're constantly, every day in practice, making those improvements."


Smith is readying the Rebels for up to five more weeks of football in pursuit of a fifth consecutive state title, while Lincoln will likely be done once the final horn sounds Friday at Rebel Stadium.

But that doesn't mean Lincoln coach Robbie Lucas is any less interested in seeing the Patriots get better.

"We're going to approach this game like we do every week: We're going to try to get better even though we're in the last week," Lucas said.

Lucas said the Patriots have done that over the course of the season, though they have little to show for their efforts.

"We feel like we've gotten better," he said. "That's not equated to wins and losses, and I didn't know at the start of the season whether it would or not.

"The seniors have stepped up and the kids have started taking a little pride in what they're doing. That's what we're hoping will happen this week."

Smith said pride plays a role in Boyle's intensity level in practice as the playoffs draw near.

"I've seen the last couple of weeks they've really picked up," he said. "They realize they're preparing for the big run.

"I think they start to understand the importance of the little things a lot better."

Lucas said he doesn't believe the buzz that Boyle isn't as good as last year.

"I do not listen to a bit of that," he said. "He's got a great system over there."

Meanwhile, Smith said it's clear Lincoln is getting better.

"I do think they're a lot better team than they were last year," he said. "You can very definitely see improvement."

Lincoln offensive line has shown major improvement

Lucas said one area of major improvement for Lincoln has been its offensive line, led by seniors Tyson Stewart and Kris Kirkpatrick and including juniors Michael Bailey and Jordan Hardwick and sophomore Brian Glass.

"It's a good group that works pretty well together, and we feel like we've got an offense that suits our linemen," Lucas said.

Improved line play has made things easier for quarterback Chris Hart, running back Logan Boyd and receiver Nate Rice, the senior linchpins of the Lincoln offense.

Hart threw for 138 yards, Boyd had 97 yards rushing and Rice had 78 yards receiving last week against Pulaski Southwestern, which the Patriots trailed by only a touchdown with five minutes left before falling 49-21.

"If people look at the score they'll think I'm crazy, but I feel like we had a shot to win that game," Lucas said.

Brad Cloud scored three touchdowns last week in Boyle's 70-0 win at Taylor County - one rushing, one receiving and one on an interception - and he leads the Rebels in all-purpose yards with 1,008, including 626 receiving yards on 34 catches. Quarterback Brandon Smith raised his completion percentage to .586 by going 12-for-14 last week.

But Chuck Smith said the Rebels' defense, led by Andrew Bertram with 69 tackles, Cloud with 67 and Ian Young with 62, has also made strides recently.

"I like the way we've been getting after it on defense, how we've been swarming the football," the Boyle coach said.

Boyle's defense has shut out Lincoln by a combined score of 131-0 in the two games since the series resumed in 2001 after an eight-year hiatus, and the Rebels lead the series 11-10.

While Boyle has its district title in hand, Lincoln must beat Boyle and see winless Marion County beat Taylor County to earn the No. 4 seed.

"It's a very slim chance, but I would love to get these seniors into the playoffs," Lucas said. "They've worked hard enough to deserve such a reward."

That reward may not be forthcoming, but Lucas said he's sure the Patriots will throw everything they have at top-ranked Boyle.

"These opportunities don't come around very often," he said. "Hopefully our kids will relish the fact that we are playing the number one team in the state."

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