Vaught's Views: Boyle still the smart choice

December 05, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

Sam Harp knew when he played Boyle County and Highlands this season that he was facing not only two of the best teams in Class AAA, but in the state.

Nothing has happened since September to make the Danville coach change his mind, and he's certainly not surprised that Boyle and Highlands will be playing for the Class AAA state championship Saturday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville.

He's also not confused about who he thinks will win the game.

"You've got to go with Boyle County," Harp said. "That's the smart pick."

Considering Boyle is 72-2 over the last five years and riding a 23-game win streak going into Saturday's game, he's obviously right.

Harp's team lost to Boyle, then beat Highlands thanks to a dramatic punt return for a touchdown late in the game by Ronnie Hawkins.


"You've got to be able to run the ball to beat Boyle," Harp said. "You are not going to spread the field and beat them. They are too good defensively for that.

"Offensively, they are very versatile. They've got all the pieces of the puzzle. (Quarterback) Brandon (Smith) makes them go. He's the key. If you took him out, they might only be average. But with him, they are as tough, or better, than anybody in the state, including Highlands."

Last week Paducah Tilghman took its shot at beating Boyle - and couldn't do it as the Rebels won 35-21 against a team that supposedly had far better talent.

"When you win all they have, that says it all," said Paducah Tilghman coach Perry Thomas, an assistant under Boyle coach Chuck Smith at Allen County-Scottsville and Campbellsville. "Obviously, Boyle knows how to take its play to a higher level at playoff time. It's unbelievable what they've done, and keep doing."

Beechwood coach Mike Yeagle, who sent his team against Danville in today's Class A title game, knows a little bit about playoff wins himself. Boyle has matched Beechwood's record of 24 straight playoff wins and can break it with a win Saturday. That would also make the Rebels the first team ever to win five straight state titles.

Beechwood had a chance to win five in a row before losing to Mayfield in the 1995 finals. The Tigers came back to win titles again in 1996 and 1997.

"The pressure just keeps mounting when you keep winning state titles," Yeagle said. "Every game is like a playoff game because everybody expects you to keep winning.

"As a coach, you try to keep that pressure off your players. But you feel it, and your kids know what is at stake. However, Boyle has not had many close calls the last five years. They've dominated people, and that's really a credit to their program because they don't sneak up on anyone."

Boyle also doesn't take anything for granted. Maybe Boyle coach Chuck Smith already has a victory celebration noted on this week's itinerary for his team, but that's only to be prepared.

"I don't even think about what it would mean to win five in a row," Smith said. "I still remember when I didn't think we would ever get one. Maybe if we win it will be something special, but right now I'm much more worried about finding a way to stop Highlands."

That's true, but just imagine what Highlands coach Dale Mueller must be going through today knowing he has to face the unbeatable Rebels on Saturday.

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