The Rebels have won 71 of their last 73 games, including 18 straight playoff games. During that streak, they've not only won four state titles, but they've also beaten some talented opponents. However, Tilghman might rank as the most talented team the Rebels will have faced. Or at least that's the perception everyone will have going into the game.
Tilghman has the state's best running back, Joe Casey. He's rushed for over 2,000 yards this season and over 6,000 in his career.
"Casey is the strongest running back I've seen," said Mayfield coach Joe Morris. "He gets hit and people just bounce off him."
Morris also coached against former Kentucky standout running back Artose Pinner when he played at Hopkinsville. He says Casey is a better high school player than Pinner.
Morris' father, Jack, made Mayfield a dominant football program. He says Casey is the best running back he's seen since Sonny Collins, another former UK standout, played for Madisonville almost 30 years ago.
If that's not enough to keep Boyle coach Chuck Smith up late this week, then there is quarterback Hunter Cantwell, a Division I recruit, and a talented receiving corps led by Anthony Barton.
"They are the best team I've ever coached against," Morris said. "I know Boyle County is pretty good, but they are going to need to be good to play with Tilghman."
Hopkinsville kept Paducah Tilghman stymied for a half Friday, but lost 28-22 to miss a chance to play Boyle for a third straight year. Instead, Smith will get to coach against Perry Thomas, who was an assistant under Smith at Campbellsville.
"We developed a bond between us because we went through some tough times at Campbellsville together," Smith said. "We kind of built that program. It wasn't easy to do and he stuck with me the whole time. He could have left when things were going bad.
"He is high on my list of important people in football. I think he's a great coach and better than that, he's a great person. I think a lot of him."
Danville coach Sam Harp and Morris have the same admiration for each other. The Admirals have been involved with some terrific playoff games with Mayfield and two years ago needed a dramatic fourth-quarter rally to win at Mayfield.
"That's a game everybody around here still remembers," Morris said. "We had that game won, but then Danville came charging back."
The Ads are lucky to be still playing. If Holy Cross coach Ray Riedinger had punted instead of going for a first down at his own 29-yard line with about one minute to play, the Ads would be putting their equipment away. Danville held, scored with 37 seconds to play and now has a chance to win its 10th state title. If the Ads do, they should send Riedlinger a state ring for the foolish decision he made.
Morris is all but conceding Friday's game to the Admirals. Mayfield beat Metcalfe County 14-7 Friday and the coach insists his team is no match for Danville this year.
"We just are not real good," Morris said. "We are not in the same class with a Danville and Beechwood this year. Defensively, we are mediocre at best."
Mediocre or not, Mayfield is still playing and Danville will need one of its best efforts of the season to get back to Louisville for another state title game.
So will Boyle. But why doubt the Rebels? In what is supposed to be a rebuilding year, Boyle has risen to every challenge. It was superb early in the season when it beat Danville. It made necessary adjustments to beat Highlands, which plays Mason County in the other Class AAA semifinal.
Then the Rebels dominated Pulaski County and stopped the "Cole Train" before he got untracked.
Pulaski quarterback Cole Draughn was last week's national player of the week, but he was outplayed by Boyle quarterback Brandon Smith here Friday.
Champions do things like that. Or take advantage of an opportunity like Danville did.