Vaught's Views: 'Crazy' Sphire courted Boyle

December 22, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

Bob Sphire has a football coach's mentality that makes him want to schedule the best possible competition to play his Lexington Catholic team.

That's why he was excited when he finally persuaded five-time defending state champion Boyle County to play in the season-opening St. Joseph's Hospital Bowl at Lexington Catholic Aug. 21 against his team.

Sphire remembered the exciting games the Knights had with Boyle from 1997-2000 before the teams moved into opposite brackets in Class AAA. In fact, Lexington Catholic's 28-13 win over Boyle in 1998 is the last time the Rebels have lost a playoff game.

Yet no one else in Sphire's family shares quite the same enthusiasm for opening the 2004 season against a team that has won 25 straight games and should be even better than it was last season.


"I called my wife after (Boyle coach) Chuck (Smith) said they would play. The phone just went dead. Then she said, 'You are one crazy man,'" Sphire said. "I got in my car after school and went to pick up my two kids and told them we were going to play Boyle County. My daughter said, 'Dad, have you ever been 0-3?' We play St. X and Scott County the next two weeks, but this is still a good opening game for us."

If that's not enough, Sphire still remembers the last time Catholic played Boyle and lost 18-16 in the 2000 playoffs. His son, who is now 8 years old, came into Sphire's bedroom the next morning and Sphire will never forget what he said.

"It was one of those days when you didn't want to get your head off the pillow. My son comes in and said, 'Dad, when I grow up, I want to play for Boyle County.' I'll never forget that," Sphire said.

Despite his own family's skepticism, Sphire is convinced this is the right matchup. He took a chance by waiting for Boyle to decide whether it wanted to play in the bowl. If the Rebels had said no, Sphire likely would have had to bring in an out of state team to play Catholic.

"I was rolling the dice in terms of finding a quality opponent if Boyle said no, but I went out on a limb for a chance to get the hottest program in the state in our bowl," Sphire said. "I've been wanting to hook up with them the last two or three years and now we finally have."

Sphire anticipates the game being shown live on TV. Two of the past three years WLEX-TV has carried the game. Sphire already has had talks with them and WKYT-TV as well as a cable company about airing the game.

"I can't guarantee it will be on TV, but I'll be shocked if it is not," Sphire said.

Sphire knows Boyle will be favored. His says the Rebels will have the state's top returning quarterback, Brandon Smith.

"He's already had a great career and he should be the leading candidate for Mr. Football going into next year," Sphire said.

Boyle will return the majority of its starters. Catholic has to rebuild its offensive line and defensive secondary. However, the Knights are not talent-less.

Linebacker Brandon Logan was another of the state's top juniors last year. He already has scholarship offers from Michigan and Kentucky.

"He will have many more offers coming," Sphire said. "He's a very athletic, hard-hitting kid. He's very skilled, too. He can cover receivers, and will have to against Boyle County."

Catholic returns most of its skilled players on offense, including quarterback Justin Burke. He had an impressive sophomore season in his first year as a starter and already is hearing from Notre Dame, Stanford and Michigan.

"He's a fabulous player," Sphire said. "He's got the whole package. He's similar to Brandon in that he can hurt a defense running as well as throwing."

Still, Sphire almost sounds like he's agreeing with the rest of his family when it comes to playing Boyle.

"Boyle County is really good. They are riding a wave, but no matter what happens, it will be fun. Or I hope it will," Sphire said.

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