Boyle defense shows improvement since September

December 05, 2004|HAL MORRIS

LOUISVILLE - With the Boyle County offense giving Highlands every chance it had to score here Saturday, the Rebels relied on a strong defensive effort to keep it close in a 22-6 loss to the Bluebirds in the Class AAA championship game.

Three times in the first half, Highlands started a drive in Boyle County territory. But time and again the Rebels' defense stepped up, holding Highlands to a pair of field goals over the first 24 minutes.

"That's been our whole focus since we played them last time was for our defense to improve," Boyle senior Jacob Arnold said. "And I think it improved quite a bit, considering they had the ball so much."

The defense was vastly improved from the first time the two teams played Sept. 17. The Bluebirds rolled up 328 yards of offense in 49 plays, 303 of it on the ground, in a 21-0 win in that game.


Saturday the Rebels gave up 260 yards on 59 plays, including 153 on the ground, and forced Highlands into 3-for-11 passing for 107 yards. But 61 of those yards came on a halfback pass from James Hubbard.

"I think the defense stepped up and played a good game. We did let them have a couple of big plays on us," said linebacker Danny Commarford, who led Boyle with seven tackles, including a sack for a 7-yard loss. "But we held them to a couple of field goals. We felt like we always had a shot at them during the game. We never felt like we were overwhelmed or anything like that.

But Arnold said the defense felt more pressure to keep the Bluebirds out of the end zone with the offense not able to get things going.

"I would say it did because we were out there a long time," he said. "Our penalties were stupid stuff. Offsides and snap infractions and throwing interceptions and turning the ball over."

Playing without leading rusher Michael Mitchell, whose ineligibility was upheld earlier in the week by a state court of appeals, Highlands was trying to move the ball with reverses and keepers by quarterback Shane Cecil.

It rarely worked.

Turn back early turnover

After a turnover on Boyle's opening drive gave Highlands the ball at the Rebels' 24, Evan Teague sniffed out the end-around by Highlands' Robbie Peterman and dropped him for an 8-yard loss. Commarford stopped Cecil for no gain and Justin Auton missed a 50-yard field goal.

"I just think that we came out there ready to play, we gave it our all. Not everything goes your way when you want it to," said Teague, who recorded five tackles. "We didn't allow many big plays like last time. I think that's something to look at."

The Rebels turned the ball over again on the first play of their next drive, giving Highlands the ball at the Boyle 33. But again, the Boyle defense was ready.

Even after a personal foul on Teague gave the Bluebirds a first down at the Rebels' 15, Greg Peck stuffed another end around by Jordan Kramer for a 3-yard loss. On the next play, Cecil tried a keeper left, but Teague came flying in and stopped him for a 2-yard loss. Highlands eventually settled for a field goal from Auton to make it 3-0 with 3:24 left in the first quarter.

Boyle coach Chuck Smith said it was plays like those that kept his team in the game with the offense struggling.

"I think they did a great job actually. When you have a turnover, your defense is supposed to come out and put out the fire and keep them from getting into the end zone," the coach said. "And the worst they should do is a field goal, and that's what they did and I'm really proud of them.

Boyle led 6-3

Boyle finally led 6-3 on Brandon Smith's touchdown pass to Seth Tamme, but gave the ball back to Highlands at the Rebels' 49 on a punt with 19 seconds left in the first half.

Nick Sheffield made a leaping catch over the Boyle defense for a 34-yard gain, and Auton nailed another field goal to make it just 6-6 at the half, a score the Rebels were lucky to have.

"I thought defense played well enough to win. I just thought their defense dictated a lot of the situations," Chuck Smith said. "They were able to drop people back and cover everybody. We just didn't do a good job."

In the third quarter, Highlands got the ball on another interception at the Boyle 25. Again the Rebels' defense forced a missed field goal by Auton to keep it 6-6.

Highlands finally got a touchdown on James Hubbard's 1-yard leap to make it 12-6 with 4:48 left in the third.

Another turnover, Boyle's sixth of the game, gave Highlands the ball at the Rebels' 14. The Bluebirds had to settle for a field goal.

Brandon Smith and Andrew Bertram finished behind Commarford with six tackles apiece and Greg Peck had an interception.

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