Vaught's Views: Highlands eager for rematch with Boyle Friday

September 15, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

When Chuck Smith talks football, not only does everyone in Boyle County listen, but those across the state do, too.

Something about winning five straight state championships and 76 of the last 79 games gives a coach that kind of credibility.

So when Smith says his Rebels will be playing the best team they have faced this season Friday at Highlands, it's only natural that everyone pays attention. After all, the Rebels have already played Lexington Catholic and Danville, two teams capable of winning state championships, and Henry Clay.

But the Durden Ratings agree with Smith's assessment of the Bluebirds and have Highlands ranked No. 1 overall in the state with - guess who - Boyle second and Danville third. According to the ratings, Highlands is a 12-point favorite, a number Smith wouldn't dispute based on the talent he's seen at Highlands this year.


Now, Highlands coach Dale Mueller wants to make sure Smith remembers that lavish praise come Friday night when the game starts.

"I have great respect for Chuck as a person and football coach," Mueller said. "I am hoping he will keep true to what he said about us and that everyone there believes it."

Naturally, the Highlands coach was joking. What else could he do? His team got close to Boyle a year ago here and lost 22-21 despite outplaying the Rebels most of the game.

But the Class AAA state title game? It was total domination by the Rebels in a 44-10 win. The game got ugly at the end, too, with a fight at midfield and northern Kentucky fans have had Friday's game at Highlands circled on their calendars for months.

"Do I have any fans?" Mueller joked. "The players' fans are looking forward to this game. I can't deny that. But this is a game people throughout Kentucky are really excited about. It's a rematch of last year's state title game. It's the team (Highlands) that once won three straight Class AAA titles playing against the team that has just won three straight (Class AAA titles)."

Highlands is not used to losing to a team once, much less twice like it did to Boyle last year. Mueller can remember only one other time when Highlands lost twice to the same team in one season.

Smith's team knows about big-game atmospheres. The seniors have already played in three state title games. Boyle opened the season in a game televised by WKYT-TV and then played a game at Commonwealth Stadium before coming home to an overflow crowd for the Title Town Showdown against Danville.

But Friday's atmosphere will be different. The Danville-Boyle game is a happening. The game at Highlands offers a far different atmosphere.

Boyle's bench will be in front of the home stands. Highlands fans, as well as Boyle fans, will literally walk through the Boyle bench area to get to their seats. Fans are so close to the players that encouraging words, or disparaging remarks, are easily heard.

"It's going to be a buzz saw," Smith said. "It will be high intensity. I know it will be another standing room only crowd. The game has had a lot of buildup all winter. It will be a good test for our kids to go into that hostile environment and see how they hold up. Our older kids have to lead the way, but we'll also find out how some younger guys will compete."

Mueller found out all he wanted about Boyle and Danville last year. Highlands lost by one point to both teams during the season before getting routed by the Rebels in the title game. After playing Boyle Friday, Highlands will come to Admiral Stadium next week.

"I'm just hoping for two more points each game this year," Mueller said. "I'm afraid to wish for anything more."

After last year, he should be.

Hear more about the game

Join Title Town Talk on WHIR-AM 1230 Thursday from 6-7 p.m. to hear more about the game. Boyle County assistant coach Chris Mason will be on the show along with Danville players Kelvin Turner and Jacob Moore.

Joining myself and co-host Charlie Perry of WHIR at Arby's to talk about Title Town football and the upcoming games will be country music singer Eddie Montgomery. Stop by, give us a call or just listen to the talk about "My Town."

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