Admirals, Rebels face off in Title Town showdown

Published 11:49 pm Thursday, September 5, 2019

All week, Danville and Boyle County have squared off in all of the fall sports. Starting with volleyball on Tuesday and a soccer doubleheader Thursday night. It’s all built up to the Friday night showdown pitting the Rebels and the Admirals against each other on the gridiron at Admiral Stadium at 7:30 p.m.

“It’s going to be one of those barn-burning type of games where both of us are getting out there and getting with it. I know the community gets into this game,” Boyle coach Chuck Smith said. “It draws attention across the state. It’s one of the better rivalries in the state. That just adds a little something special to it. I know the kids feel that on both teams — I know ours do. It’s just a great high school atmosphere.”

“Obviously, there’s bragging rights that go into it and all that. It’s a game that brings out the best in both programs,” Danville coach Clay Clevenger said about the game. “I’ve seen that the last three or four years. I’ve always said that if we played as good and as hard all throughout the season as you do in the Boyle game, we’d probably a few more wins over the last few years. Brings out the best in the kids and they go out and compete hard.”

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The teams: Boyle County (2-0) Danville (1-1)

Corydon Crawford of Danville (Photo Derek Brightwell)

The Rebels come in to Friday’s matchup off of two comfortable wins in which they got to a running clock in the first half. Between the two games, the starting unit hasn’t played four quarters of football yet. 

“We’ve been preaching all year long that we need to work on ourselves as far as getting better every single day at practice,” Smith said. “I think the kids have bought into that all year long. They did a great job against Iroquois, they did a great job against Bullitt Central. We’ve got to continue that week in-week out.”

The duo of Landen Bartleson and Reese Smith have combined for eight touchdowns despite only having seven carries and four catches, respectively. Quarterback Reed Lanter has completed 13 of his 16 attempts for four TDs and 322 yards.

“You’ve got three and four year starters and they’ve been playing together for a long time. They look like it,” Clevenger said about the Rebels offense. “They execute really fast. That’s the thing. They’re fast anyway, but when you play fast — and they do a good job with that. It’s going to be a big test for us… What I respect the most is that their offense holds all 11 guys on the field accountable.”

The defense has still not allowed a single score, with the only points the Rebels have allowed coming off of a pick six against Bullitt Central.

The Admirals are coming off a tough road loss at Bardstown after getting their own running clock victory in the opener against John Hardin.

“It’s always important, I think for you psyche and everything. When you’re dealing with a young team — seeing points on the board gives them energy,” Clevenger said. “We saw it in the first game and we saw it not happen in the second game.”

“Coach Clev — after the game — said ‘I’m glad that it hurt a little bit,’” Danville senior Darrian Bell said about the Bardstown game. “But it’s just the first loss. We can come back from it.”

Last year: Last year the Rebels won 34-17 in a matchup of defending state champions. The two previous years, however, the Admirals came out on top, including being Boyle County’s only loss in 2017 when Danville ran the table and both schools won state titles. 

“We played pretty good defensively last year,” Clevenger said. “We played 82 snaps, which is too many, but we gave up a touchdown in the punt game and we gave up a bad snap for basically a touchdown on special teams which killed us. It was a very good, intense game last year. Really for the last two.”

Nick Price-Hancock celebrates a big tackle in Danville’s home opening win over John Hardin. (Photo Mike Marsee)

The Danville seniors hold a 2-1 advantage over Boyle going into Friday. With a win, this group of Admiral seniors will be the first class in over 20 years to post a winning record against their rivals.

“Being 1-2 against them, it’s always left a sick taste in my mouth and I know it has the other guys, too,” Boyle senior Wilson Kelly said.

“We kind of got a chip on our shoulder. Gotta even it out,” Reiley Colwick added.

Clevenger dismisses the class record, saying that for his guys, it’s about Friday, not years past.

“It’s whoever won the last game. So they’re one-up on us right now from last year,” he said. “People don’t remember the last two or three years, they remember what happened in the last game. I’d say if you asked our seniors — they wouldn’t even know they have a winning record. I don’t know how much kids play into that stuff. It’s the next game on both of our schedules.”

The rivalry has been, as expected, tight and intense for the last few years, something both coaches are aware of and happy about.

“In my opinion — if you go back four or five years — I think they’ve outplayed us. They’ve started the game off strong,” Smith said. “We haven’t played well against them for the last four of five years. We’ve even won some of those games, but we’ve got to come out of the blocks playing better from the start.”

“When these guys were freshmen we kind of jumped out on them really quick and were clicking on all tunes,” Clevenger said. “That was three years ago. The last two years have been good, hard nosed football games.”

Landen Bartleson of Boyle County (Photo Derek Brightwell)

The rivalry: It is perhaps Kentucky’s greatest rivalry. The two schools have combined for 19 state championships. In multiple championship years, this game was the only loss for the team that would go on to bring home the title.

“It’s an awesome rivalry. You can name just a handful of rivalries that would parallel to this. You don’t go to many communities where it’s this small and both teams are winning state championships,” Smith said. “Any given year we can win the state.”

“I think it’s a good small-town high school football atmosphere,” Clevenger said about the game. “There’ll be a buzz in the air early. We’re honoring coach Harp who was here for 25 years and won a whole lot of games and championships. Hopefully we come out and our fans give him a lot of love that he deserves for what he did for this program. 

“There’s probably going to be a former Mr. Football from Danville that’s going to be at the game. Hopefully we’ll get to introduce him, Dmauriae (VanCleave). That’s the kind of stuff. Kids want to drive in from South Carolina on their open week for the Boyle game. It just means a lot to the community. And it means a lot to everybody involved.”

“I want to see the little kid’s heart. That’s from coach Clev. He talks about the little kid’s heart. He says we’ve been playing these kids since we were little,” Bell said about the approach to Friday’s game. “Yesterday, I wore a little jersey from back when I was in Tom Thumb. I just want to see them go out there and play. I don’t want to see any intimidation and just go out and have fun.”

“You don’t get any better football anywhere in the state than right here in Boyle County. I think that’s unique and I think that’s rare and I think that’s special,” Smith added.