Boyle and Bell actually met in a preseason 7-on-7 passing league. Maybe French already knew then that it would be wise to let his skilled players get a feel for what a trip to Bell what would be like in preparation for this early December game that will decide the state title.
"They really have some big mountain boys," said Boyle senior center Nick Camic. "We will have to bring our 'A' game to beat them and it will probably be a battle to the end just like this game was."
Actually, this game didn't have to be so close. Several costly penalties hurt the Rebels and Boyle seemed to have the game well in hand when it took a 23-9 lead with 1 minute, 15 seconds left in the third quarter and then had MacShara pick off a pass deep in Catholic territory a few plays later.
But the Rebels wasted the scoring chance, allowed Catholic to drive for a score with just over four minutes remaining and then failed to cover an onside kick.
"We couldn't handle prosperity," French said.
True, but the Rebels also couldn't stand the thought of letting this victory slip away.
They held Catholic without a first down after the onside recovery, ran out most of the clock and then didn't give the Knights a chance at any last-minute heroics.
"We just knew we had to stop them, and we did," sophomore linebacker Lamar Dawson, who had 12 tackles for the Rebels along with senior linebacker Ben Slone, said. "We just didn't want to give up any big plays. We let them score a couple of times -- and we shouldn't have done that -- but when we had to make big defensive plays, we did it."
And why did Boyle do that?
"Because (assistant) coach (Jeff) Hester makes sure we all swarm to the ball on every play," Dawson said.
Boyle did that especially well in the second half after allowing Catholic to score on a seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter and put together a 19-play, 78-yard drive that ended with a field goal. In the second half, though, the Knights managed just 93 yards total.
French admitted he got a little unexpected advice that helped adjust his defense. He asked current Henderson County head coach Clay Clevenger, who worked two years with French at Lincoln County, what adjustments might help. Clevenger made a suggestion, and French said it worked.
"I guess I have to give Clay an assist for that," French said.
However, also give offensive coordinator Chris Mason an assist for his creativity. The Rebels needed only one yard for a first down midway of period three when Boyle hustled to the line and lined MacShara up behind the tight end. Quarterback Phillip Mason quickly pitched the ball to him and MacShara went 68 yards to set up a field goal.
On Boyle's next series, Phillip Mason threw a short pass that Bret Marshall went high in the air to catch and then pitched the ball back to MacShara. No Catholic defender could catch MacShara as he raced the final 30 yards to complete the 38-yard scoring play.
"We had been working on both plays in practice," Chris Mason said. "We used to run that quick play where we pitch it out back in 1995 or 1996. We had to pull it out of our bag of tricks."
And the hook-and-ladder pitch from Marshall to MacShara?
"It was third and short and we knew they were probably expecting short pass," the Boyle offensive coordinator said. "Brett made a heck of catch and a perfect pitch."
The Rebels actually had the play called earlier in the third quarter when a high snap to Phillip Mason negated any chance to try it. "We were just lucky that see didn't see Rees coming out of the backfield on the play then," Chris Mason said.
Winners make their own luck, and that's what the Rebels are doing.
It's also why no matter what some fans in Lexington might think, the real No. 1 this year is Boyle County.