It has been a while since the Boyle County boys have raised a trophy, and the Rebels have grown weary of the wait.
A new group of leaders has taken the wheel, ready to drive Boyle back to the top of its district and beyond and confident that the Rebels have the ingredients necessary to get there. They say their team is technically better than it has been of late, but they also say it has one intangible that might have been missing recently: leadership, and plenty of it.
The roster is topped by 10 seniors, and there are even more players who stand ready to help Boyle capture its first district championship in five years.
“We’re the leaders now. It’s our time to take it, and we’re more hungry than anyone right now,” Boyle senior Tristen Morrow said.
This experienced team has no shortage of players who can and are willing to show the way when necessary. Not all of them are seniors, and not all will be captains, but all are welcome to do what they can to help guide the Rebels.
“Last year if you weren’t a captain, guys didn’t feel like they could lead, but even if we have captains this year, I feel like a lot of other players are still going to take charge and do what they need to do,” senior J.T. Stephens said.
The first goal for this team is to win its district, something it hasn’t done since Boyle’s final four season of 2008.
“We’ve come so close the past four years and we haven’t gotten it. I feel like this year we have a lot of heart for it, a lot of hatred for not winning before, and we’re going to have a lot of push,” Stephens said.
“Me and J.T. and a few of the seniors have been there when we’ve lost district, all the way from freshman year, and we’re ready for it this year,” Morrow added.
Morrow said he knows the Rebels have their doubters.
“It’s just proving people wrong, pretty much. People don’t think that we’re going to come out there, but we want to show them that we’re definitely the team to beat,” he said.
Junior Kyle Settle said the Rebels are anxious to put the recent past, which includes a loss to Lincoln County in the district semifinals that concluded a 6-11 season last year, behind them.
“Clean the slate,” Settle said.
Settle said the team’s expectations are high.
“I would set them high, proving to ourselves that we can combine as a team and score, that we can come together as a team,” he said.
There’s plenty of experience here. Boyle lost five seniors from last year’s team, but only two of them were starters.
“Most of us have been playing together for three years, just high school,” Settle said.
“And all the younger guys coming up have been playing varsity for a while, too, so we’re already meshed in with them,” Morrow said.
Stephens said the 10 seniors at the top of the roster are working well together.
“All of us are friends. We hang out off the field, on the field, we just have great chemistry. We’re all really close,” he said.
Morrow said that’s where the leadership starts.
“With as many seniors as we have coming back, we should be very vocal and we should have very good leadership,” he said.
“That wasn’t there last year,” Settle added. “They didn’t step up.”
Boyle will have different types of leaders on the field. Stephens, for example, knows his role as one of the team’s most vocal players.
“I feel like I’m the motivator, and I try to pump everyone up on the field, and tell that what they did wrong but also give them a compliment on what they did right, but also tell them what they can do to make it better,” he said. “Then I just pump them all up. You see heads down, you’ve got to lift them back up, tell them we’re still in this fight.”
Morrow uses his position on the field to help his teammates.
“Being the sweeper I can see the whole field. I’m everybody’s eyes. If they don’t see something, I can see the whole field and point things out to guys,” he said.
Settle is quieter but still capable of showing the way.
“Mostly just through my actions; not really through words,” he said. “Whenever we get tired, just try to work a little bit hard harder, and hopefully they would pick up after me.”
“Kyle’s the hard worker. I feel like his work ethic on the field pumps everyone else around him. He doesn’t quit,” Stephens said.
Behind the veterans, there is young talent on the rise as well.
“We have some freshmen and sophomores that are showing that they have really good talent,” Settle said.
The Rebels said they will be better in more measurable ways as well.
“Our passing and movement off the ball should be a lot better,” Morrow said.
“I think all around, our work ethic, too. I think everyone on the field is working hard, working their butts off,” Stephens added.
Players will have to work just to earn playing time or spots in the starting lineup, making for some fierce competition in practice.
“Everyone wants a starting position, especially some of those seniors that will get their chance,” Settle said.
There will also be competition among the many veterans for the few leadership positions defined by being voted a team captain.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of fighting for captains’ spots. There’s only three, and there’s 10 of us, and Kyle, too. Kyle could probably be a captain, too,” Morrow said. “A lot of people want to show what they can do.”