Smith: Hopkinsville has more than Pulley

November 24, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

Hopkinsville has given Boyle County some of its toughest tests during its march to five straight state championships, and the Rebels are bracing for another barn-burner.

Only one of Boyle's 18 postseason games since 1999 has been closer than its two games with Hopkinsville, and coach Chuck Smith said Friday's Class AAA semifinal game at Rebel Stadium could well be just as close.

"I think the game's a toss-up talent-wise," Smith said.

It's a matchup between two teams that both feature Mr. Football finalists playing quarterback in Brandon Smith of Boyle and Curtis Pulley of Hopkinsville.

But just as Boyle has a number of capable players surrounding its quarterback, Hopkinsville has plenty of talent playing alongside Pulley.


"They're not just a one-man team, though Pulley is obviously their best player," Chuck Smith said. "They've got a lot of returning players from last year, and they're a really good football team."

The Tigers (13-0) are trying to advance to the state finals for the first time since 1997, and Smith said he hopes the Rebels (11-2) can match their level of desire.

"You're playing for an invitation to play for the state championship. The motivation is going to be boiling over," Smith said. "The chance is there, it's what are you going to do with it?"

Third matchup in four years

This marks the third time in the four years since Boyle moved to Class AAA that these two teams have met in the semifinals. Both of the previous matchups were compelling games, with Boyle winning 28-21 in 2001 and 13-7 in 2002.

Pulley and Brandon Smith, both of whom started in the 2002 meeting between these teams, were named winners of statewide awards last week. Smith was named the winner of the Frank Camp Award presented by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation, and Pulley won the Paul Hornung Award given by the Louisville Quarterback Club.

Pulley has been one of the state's most highly recruited players this season, and he recently reaffirmed the commitment he made last month to the University of Kentucky.

Chuck Smith said there's no doubt Pulley is one of the top players in Kentucky this season.

"He makes so many things happen for them," Smith said. "He's the key to their football team offensively and defensively."

Pulley is responsible for 49 of Hopkinsville's touchdowns: 27 passing, 18 rushing, one receiving and two on interception returns.

On offense, Pulley is a powerful runner who has rushed for 1,087 yards, averaging 6.9 yards per carry. He has completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 2,480 yards with only eight interceptions.

"He's very strong, very powerful to bring down, and he has really improved his passing," Smith said.

Third straight year over 2,200 yards passing, 1,000 yards rushing

This is the third straight year that Pulley has thrown for over 2,200 yards and run for more than 1,000 yards, though his statistics have declined a bit in recent weeks.

Pulley plays safety on defense, and Smith said he is also a leader on that unit.

Brandon Smith's numbers match up well with those of Pulley. He has accounted for slightly more touchdowns - 39 passing, 15 rushing - and has thrown for 2,925 yards with a .621 completion percentage and only six picks. He also has 853 rushing yards, or 8.2 per carry.

Hopkinsville's other best weapons are receivers Josh Ladson (751 yards, five touchdowns) and Cody Adams (717 yards, nine touchdowns), who have caught 44 and 42 passes, respectively.

Boyle's top receiver, Seth Tamme, has 1,164 yards and 13 touchdowns, and tight end Evan Teague has 588 yards and 13 scores. The Rebels also have their own 1,000-yard rusher in Quinn Givhan (1,260 yards, 21 touchdowns).

"We've got to just do what we do, but we've got to do it a whole lot better," Chuck Smith said. "We've got to have precision in our offense. It's got to be clicking."

Hopkinsville survived a close game last week to beat Madisonville-North Hopkins 16-13 in its regional final.

Meanwhile, Smith said he was disappointed by his team's play in the second half last week against Central, when it won 54-43 after leading 40-0.

"What was so disappointing for me was our lack of desire and determination to make plays," he said. "If that happens this week, our season will be over with. This team is too good."

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