Wilson Kelly anchors Boyle in trenches, wins Lineman of the Year

Published 8:00 am Friday, November 23, 2018

Boyle County’s biggest question entering this season was in the trenches.

Could the Rebels replace key senior starters on the offensive and defensive lines?

The answer, so far, has been yes.

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Wilson Kelly has played an important role on both sides of the ball for the Rebels, and his impact was noted by area coaches. He’s the Advocate-Messenger All-Area Lineman of the Year.

“About midseason, we started playing him both ways because he’s such a good football player,” head coach Chuck Smith said. “He’s extremely strong, and he’s a guy that’s just eat up with it. He can’t get enough of it. He studies the game, he’s very technique-sound. He’s got a little mean streak in him and that separates him. He’s a really good football player.”

Kelly’s primary position has been nose tackle on the defensive line, and that’s where the stats reflect his impact: He’s second on the Boyle County team with 97 tackles this season and leads the Rebels with 23 tackles for loss. He’s even got an interception this season.

His style is aggressive, and he said that’s why he likes playing directly over the center.

“I’m right over the center and I can get off of the ball quick,” Kelly said. “I’d say that’s probably my favorite. You come off the ball, we have an attack and react philosophy. After we attack our key, we just find the ball from there and just attack.”

The junior said that his transition to the offensive line took time, but the transition has made him a better player on both sides of the ball.

“It was a pretty big transition because I was used to just going one way, I had to build myself up into some shape a little bit,” Kelly said. “I started playing both ways and ever since then, I feel like I’ve improved my game as an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman and helped the team out a lot.”

Smith said he’s seen his line — on both sides of the ball — grow throughout the season.

“The offensive line has come a long way, I think they’re showing a lot of progress,” the head coach said. “The third quarter against Belfry, our offensive line really started coming off of the football and we looked like a completely different football team.

“I think you can say the same for our defensive line, we’ve had some injuries in there with Caleb Holderman. We had to bring in Zach Mason, a freshman, into the starting lineup. We’ve alternated Ned Stephens in there some. Isaac Hardwick has come a long ways from the beginning of the year till now. Aaron Hatter has just been a steady, strong player for two years now.”

Kelly has been at the center of the Rebels’ defensive line and has taken that skill and aggression to the offensive line. He said that the two units feed off of each other.

“Our defensive line had a little more experience than the offensive line, we kind of build on that,” Kelly said. “The defensive line I think inspired the offensive line and really helped us come together, that’s been the biggest part of our offensive line’s success. We’re not where we need to be yet, but if we keep working we can get there. I think that’s our big thing this year, keep building each week and get better and better.”

Kelly said he’s seen some big improvements from the inexperienced players on the line. Then there’s seniors Stephens and Hatter who have been rock-solid on the offensive and defensive lines, respectively.

“Sam Bischoff, our center, he’s come a long way,” Kelly said. “He works harder than everyone else. Jackson Lakes and Caleb Edmiston, they’ve came a long way. None of them started before this year. Ned, he started last year and he’s been the leader of that offensive line. I’m very thankful for that, they work hard.

“Me and Aaron were back from last year, then we’ve got Isaac and Zach. Zach really stepped up in the middle of the season, Caleb Holderman went down with an injury and he’s been practicing hard trying to improve his game each week. He’s come a long way.”

It’s the offensive and defensive lines as a unit that has helped Kelly succeed this season, and he said he wants to keep that momentum rolling this week against Corbin.

“This week is our biggest test, last week was a big test but it’ll mean nothing if we don’t win this week,” Kelly said. “We’re just trying to take it one day at a time, get better each day and practice with preparation for Friday.”