Vaught's Views: Coaches make the difference in Boyle, Danville road wins

November 30, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

Once again everyone in the state should realize why we like to call this Title Town.

Boyle County and Danville are going back to the state football championship games after impressive road wins in western Kentucky Friday.

Maybe some across the state are surprised, or even stunned, that Boyle County beat Paducah Tilghman, the preseason choice to win Class AAA and a team some considered invincible. But no one here should have been surprised by the 35-21 victory.

Same goes for Danville's 25-3 win over Mayfield. The Admirals had owned Mayfield until losing to the Cardinals in last year's Class A semifinal, but Danville again established its dominance Friday.


The victories set up another potential championship weekend for Title Town just like we had in 2000 and 2001 when both teams won state crowns. It also gives Boyle a chance to become the first team in state history to win five straight state crowns (and who is foolish enough to think the streak will stop with five?).

Danville will face Class A power Beechwood, a team it has never played, in this Friday's Class A state title game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Boyle will face Highlands, a team it beat 22-21 at home on Sept. 19, in the Class AAA championship game Saturday in the same stadium.

It's not hard to figure why both teams are back in the state title games. It's coaching.

Sure, Chuck Smith of Boyle and Sam Harp of Danville have good players. They also have capable assistant coaches and strong administrative support. But never, ever underestimate the role these two men play in both programs.

Harp came to Danville in 1988 after Tom Duffy had won state titles in 1984 and 1987. Not only did he maintain the Admirals' winning tradition, he embellished it. He's won state championships in 1989, 1991, 1992, 1994, 2000 and 2001. He also got Danville to the Class A state title game in 1998 when the Ads lost to Caldwell County.

Overall, he's 182-32 at Danville. That means he has won 85 percent of his games. In the playoffs, he's 53-9. That's a winning percentage of .860. Only twice have his teams lost a road playoff game, and the last one came in 1990.

In the last four years, Danville is 51-7. Three of those losses came to Boyle, which won a state title all three years. Two one-point losses came to Class AAAA Oldham County, including one in double overtime. Another loss was 32-26 to Class AAA Lexington Catholic. The other loss was the one to Mayfield in last year's state semifinal game.

That's why there was no way his team was going to panic when it fell behind 3-0 Friday because of a turnover. Instead, the Ads regrouped and dominated the rest of the game to put themselves in position to win Danville's 10th state championship.

Smith has become a playoff master. Overall, he's 33-6 in the playoffs since arriving at Boyle in 1992, an 84 percent success rate. However, his Rebels have now won a state record 24 straight playoff games.

He has an overall record of 131-26 at Boyle, an 83 percent mark. But in the last five years his team is 72-2. One loss was to Danville in 2002. The other was to West Jessamine two weeks later. Other than that, it has been five years of perfection.

What has been so impressive about Smith's record is what his teams have done in the playoffs.

Paducah Tilghman became only the second team in the last five years to score 21 points on the Rebels in the playoffs. Six teams have been shut out by Boyle in the last 24 playoff games. Nine other times the opposition managed just one touchdown.

Boyle outscored its playoff opponents 199-51 in 1999, 233-48 in 2000, 233-57 in 2001, and 158-16 in 2002. This year the margin is 192-33. That means the Rebels are averaging just over 42 points per game and allowing just over eight during their 24-game playoff winning streak.

Those numbers are why it was no surprise that Boyle beat Tilghman. The Rebels took advantage of Tilghman's mistakes to build an early lead and then broke a 21-21 tie in the second half by simply outplaying the team many thought was the best in the state.

No coach prepares a team better than Smith. Tilghman fumbled the first three times it had the ball Friday. Boyle had fumbled four times in 13 games.

The cold, wet and windy weather obviously took a toll on Tilghman. Boyle is used to any adverse conditions because Smith never lets up in practice no matter what the conditions.

This week others across the state, especially those in northern Kentucky, are going to convince themselves that Beechwood is too powerful for Danville and that Highlands is too skilled and deep for Boyle.

Let them think that, but all of us here know Smith and Harp are going to have their teams ready to add to Title Town's reputation just like they did Friday at Paducah and Mayfield.

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