Boyle's offense makes most of opportunities

November 30, 2003|MIKE MARSEE

PADUCAH - There have been nights when Boyle County has had better passing numbers. And there have been nights when the quarterback and his receivers have made more dazzling plays.

But with everything that was at stake in Friday's Class AAA semifinal, this just might have been the finest hour for Brandon Smith and the Boyle passing game.

The Rebels didn't make the plays every time, but they made the most of a mere 15 completions to pick their way through Paducah Tilghman's defense.

"We were able to throw the ball against a very good pass defense," Boyle offensive coordinator Chris Pardue said. "Brandon did a great job throwing the ball, our receivers did a great job spacing their routes and we made plays when the game was on the line."


Smith completed just 14 of 32 passes - his .438 completion percentage was well below his dazzling season mark of .725 - for 249 yards in Boyle's 35-21 victory over Tilghman.

And as he celebrated with his teammates after helping the Rebels secure their fifth straight trip to the state finals, he said the numbers meant nothing on this night.

"In this game, stats and everything else didn't matter," Smith said. "All we needed was a victory."

Smith did his part by figuring in all five of the Rebels' touchdowns. He passed for three scores and rushed for the other two.

"Brandon had his 'A' game on tonight," said wide receiver Seth Tamme, Boyle's leading receiver with four catches for 92 yards. "He proved he's one of the better quarterbacks - if not the best - in the state."

Smith was also Boyle's leading rusher, carrying the ball 26 times for 88 yards against a Tilghman defense that mirrors the one Boyle plays.

"I thought I'd be able to run the ball," Smith said. "We run the same defense they do, and we have trouble with the quarterback running."

Six different receivers caught Smith's passes, and each had at least two receptions. That reflects the balance that has been important to Boyle's passing game all season - five receivers now have more than 20 catches each.

"They all came through," Smith said. "In a game of this caliber, every play is a huge play."

Receivers, quarterback have a stronger connection

Many of Boyle's receivers were better equipped to make those plays than they might have been early in the season. Their connection to their quarterback is much stronger than it was in August and September, and that has made the Rebels' passing attack much stronger.

Pardue said it was simply a matter of experience for a group of players who had little of that entering the season.

"Their routes are much more precise, they're catching the ball all the time, and they've played in big games now," he said. "That got us ready for this game."

The difference is evident to the receivers.

"At the beginning of the year, we weren't really where we needed to be. We didn't have our timing down," Tamme said.

That timing was evident in Boyle's second touchdown, when Smith took advantage of time afforded him by his linemen, surveyed the field, waited for someone to work their way into the open, then threw to Tamme for an 11-yard scoring play.

That score gave the Rebels a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter, and that usually signals the start of another Boyle cakewalk. But they would need other big pass plays to secure this win.

Among them was an over-the-middle pass to Ian Loughry, who drug a defender into the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown. There was a halfback pass, a 35-yard bomb from Tyler Morris to Brad Cloud late in the third quarter that set up the go-ahead score.

Cloud then caught a 19-yard pass to get Boyle out of the hole at its own 9-yard line and launch a 91-yard scoring drive, and Evan Teague caught consecutive passes at the other end of the drive to give the Rebels a two-touchdown lead.

Cloud, Boyle's leading receiver on the season with 42 catches for 725 yards, did most of his learning last year and entered this season as the only Boyle receiver with significant experience.

"It's always better as the year goes on, when you have more time to be with each other," Cloud said.

Cloud is often Smith's safety valve when plays go bad, but he isn't a No. 1 receiver in the way Jacob Tamme was last season. And Smith said he's starting to enjoy having so many options when it's time to throw.

"Our receivers are so balanced," Smith said. "You can go to any of them at any time."

"We've come a long way in our passing game since the beginning of the season."

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