Sophomores Lanter and Smith help Boyle County back to the top

Published 12:08 am Saturday, December 2, 2017

LEXINGTON – Not so very long ago, Reed Lanter and Reese Smith were just a couple of third-graders playing pitch-and-catch for Woodlawn Elementary School.

There must have been times Friday night when the game seemed just that simple to them again.

There was Lanter, lofting the ball downfield with the poise of a seasoned quarterback. And there was Smith, making catches all over the field. And there were two of the biggest reasons why Boyle County returned to the top of Kentucky high school football.

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Lanter threw five touchdown passes and Smith caught three of them – and scored four times in all – as Boyle rolled to its eighth state championship with a 40-21 victory over Corbin in the Class 3A title game at Kroger Field.

“We’ve been together since third grade, and it just feels like second nature to throw him the ball now,” Lanter said.

Lanter completed 16 of 24 passes – including seven of his first nine – for 223 yards, and he was named the game’s most valuable player. Smith caught five of those passes for 120 yards, and he picked off two passes thrown by Corbin’s Cameron Sizemore.

To say the two sophomores rose to the occasion on the biggest possible stage would be a gross understatement.

“They did, and both of them like that big stage,” Boyle coach Chuck Smith said.

The only thing better than making so many big plays in such a big game might have been celebrating the Rebels’ first championship since 2010 – the same year Lanter and Smith were in the third grade.

“This is by far the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” Lanter said. “I’ve been looking forward to this since third grade playing Woodlawn football, and to finally do it is a dream come true.”

Reese Smith said Chuck Smith tried to describe what it would feel like if Boyle were able to win, but even the description of a man who had led teams to victory seven times before didn’t match the reality.

“Coach Smith was saying all week there’s no better feeling to look around and be the best team in the state, and he’s right: no better feeling in the world,” Reese Smith said. “They tried telling us, but we didn’t know. There’s no comparison. You can’t describe it.”

It’s also difficult to describe just what Smith and Lanter and several other sophomores meant to Boyle’s success this season and in its win Friday.

Reiley Colwick reeled in a 35-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to salt the game away, and he also had an interception of his own. Landen Bartleson ran for 88 yards and caught a touchdown pass late in the first quarter that gave the Rebels a 21-7 lead. . And other second-year players filled key roles as well.

“We’re young, but we’re experienced now that we’ve made it this far,” Smith said.

Lanter said the sophomores were motivated in part by the seniors who had been trying to put Boyle back on top even longer than they had.

“It’s the accountability of the seniors. You don’t want to let them down,” he said. “After that, we’re all brothers.”

Lanter and Smith stepped up right away against Corbin, connecting on a deep ball for a 38-yard touchdown on Boyle’s fourth offensive play.

“I think when me and Reed connected on the first touchdown, I think they started playing the pass, and our big started pounding, pounding, pounding, and started opening up the run game and everything started clicking,” Smith said.

Just 36 seconds later, Smith picked off a pass that was tipped by Nathan Snyder and returned it 40 yards for what he said was his favorite play of the night.

“Defensive touchdowns are the best. There’s no better feeling,” he said.

Lanter and Smith hooked up for touchdown passes of 34 yards late in the second quarter and 34 yards midway through the third to give the Rebels a 33-14 cushion.

Smith went over 1,000 receiving yards Friday, finishing with 50 receptions for a team-best 1,037 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also finished with nine interceptions, including two pick-sixes, after getting his second of the game on the final play of the first half to quash a Corbin scoring threat.

“We’ve told him all year that great players make great plays in big games, and he sure did it,” Boyle offensive coordinator Chris Pardue said. “He’s faster than he looks, and he plays quick and he just has a knack for the ball – on both sides of the ball. He makes plays, and he understands … how to win.”

“It’s great to have him on my team. He’s a great football player,” Lanter added. “He’s just a freak athlete.”

Lanter ended his first season as a starter with a 68.8 percent completion rate, 2,597 yards and 28 touchdowns.

“He’s definitely grown,” Reese Smith said. “He’s matured a lot back there. I think he’s gained his confidence as we won, and he’s become a better quarterback overall.”

Lanter was named Boyle’s starter in early August, and Pardue said he has made tremendous strides since Boyle’s loss to Danville in week three.

“He’s come a million miles, especially since the Danville game,” Pardue said, referring to Boyle’s lone loss. “He struggled in that game, and he took it upon himself to make sure he got better each week. He really worked his game, and it paid off for him.”

Smith was already drawing notice, and Lanter certainly turned heads with his performance in the state finals. But now they are known quantities, and Pardue said they’ll have to continue to move forward to give Boyle a chance at more championships.

“They’ve got to continue to go, because everybody’s going to know about them now, and everybody’s going to gun for them. If they rest on their laurels now, people are going to catch up with them by outworking them,” Pardue said.

Chuck Smith said it will be important for all of Boyle’s sophomore skill players to become leaders as juniors.

“We lose all of our linemen, so they’ve got to carry more of the load until our linemen get experience,” the Boyle coach said. “They’ve got a lot of work ahead of them for us to be able to come back and try it again.”

Reese Smith said he’s ready for the challenge.

“We’re losing a lot of seniors, and we’re going to have to step up even more next year,” he said. “We know that, so we’re going to have a lot of pressure.”