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Rebels rout Mercer in opener, 51-7

By MIKE MARSEE

Contributing Writer

It was important to the Boyle County Rebels simply to play, but it was also important to play well.

The Rebels did just that Friday night in the first game of the Justin Haddix era, giving their new coach the kind of start he could only hope for.

Their 51-7 victory over Mercer County at Rebel Stadium featured an offense with multiple weapons, a defense that didn’t give up the big play and a relatively low number of mistakes.

“I was very proud of our bunch. They made some big plays, and we’ve got to continue to just keep getting better,” Haddix said.

It was a long road to the start of this season, which saw Boyle take the field with only its third head coach in the past 29 years. The season was first jeopardized and ultimately delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Rebels had only about two weeks of practices in pads and limited contact prior to Friday’s game.

“It was an absolute blessing,” said Boyle running back Will McDaniel, who rushed for two touchdowns. “We trusted the process and felt like we were going to be out here all along.”

The game was played before an invitation-only crowd of less than 700 people, all of whom had their temperature checked and answered questions about whether they showed symptoms of COVID-19 prior to entering the stadium.

“It was a little quieter, but we’ll take what we can get,” McDaniel said. “We love football, and we’re glad to have it back.”

Boyle (1-0) started slowly, going three-and-out on an opening series that Haddix attributed to nerves. He said the Rebels got rolling as soon as the offensive line started throwing its weight around, and they went on to score on eight consecutive possessions.

“Up front, I feel like we dominated the game,” Haddix said. “They started getting some movement. … We were moving them up front, and that always gets you going.”

Boyle marched 66 yards in less than three minutes for its first score, then started its next four scoring drives and six of its next seven in Mercer territory thanks in large part to a defense that allowed only 130 yards and forced two turnovers.

The Rebels scored four touchdowns in 9 1/2 minutes during the second quarter to take a 41-0 halftime lead.

Jagger Gillis was both impressive and efficient in his debut as Boyle’s quarterback. Gillis, who transferred from Anderson County, was 10 for 14 for 179 yards. He executed everything from shovel passes to deep throws, completing touchdown passes of 3 and 37 yards to Coleman Clark, 6 yards to Cole Lanter and 30 yards to Luke Sheperson.

“That’s his job, to disperse the football and be a leader for us,” Haddix said. “We’ve got some things to clean up, he’ll tell you that, and some guys made some big plays for him.”

McDaniel led the Rebels in rushing with 10 carries for 63 yards and two TDs.

Boyle had no turnovers and only five penalties.

Jackson Peavler scored the lone touchdown for Mercer (0-1) with 4:32 remaining after Boyle had taken a 51-0 lead.

“We’ve got a whole lot of room for improvement, and I think we’ll do it,” Mercer coach David Buchanan said. “We always do. Our kids always keep fighting, we always come out of it. But we’re just not where we thought we were, and I’m disappointed. And give Boyle credit; they’ve got a good football team.”

Victory before kickoff: The outcome notwithstanding, Mercer’s Buchanan said players on his team and every other team that took the field Friday could claim a victory.

As president of the Kentucky Football Coaches Association, Buchanan was among those lobbying the KHSAA to allow football and other fall sports to play.

“If I had a nickel for every person that told me there was no way we’d play this fall I’d be a rich man,” he said. “I’m happy not just for our kids, but for kids across the state, that they all got to play.”

Crowd control: Boyle athletic director Kyle Wynn said there were no issues as school officials tried to manage their first game under admission and social distancing requirements necessitated by the pandemic.

Wynn said about 640 vouchers for free admission — 20 percent of Rebel Stadium’s capacity — were issued to family members of Boyle and Mercer players and Boyle cheerleaders and band members. No other fans were admitted, and workers who normally vacate the gates at halftime remained at their posts throughout the game.

Extra points: Boyle kicker Jackson Smith, who was 8 for 8 on field goal attempts last season, kicked a 43-yard field goal with considerable room to spare during the fourth quarter. He was also 6 for 6 on extra-point attempts. … The Rebels had only one penalty — a false start on their first play from scrimmage — before the second-team defense committed personal fouls on three consecutive plays in the fourth quarter during Mercer’s lone scoring drive. … Boyle has won five straight games over Mercer by a combined score of 243-30 since a loss to the Titans in the 2013 postseason. … The Rebels have won four straight season-opening games and seven of their last eight openers.

Game two: Boyle will hit the road next Friday for its second game of the season and its second game ever against Christian Academy of Louisville.

The Rebels posted their highest point total in seven years when it clobbered CAL 71-28 last season. CAL, which was one season removed from its second Class 2A championship in three years, went on to finish 7-5 in its first year under coach Hunter Cantwell.

The Centurions return 13 starters this season. Eight of them are on a defense that is expected to be the team’s strength, including the entire linebacking corps and most of the defensive line.

“I know they lost some offensive linemen that everybody talked about, but they’re going to be a good, quality football team, they’re going to be well-coached and we’re going to have to go up there and get after it,” Haddix said.

CAL opened its season with a 49-7 victory over Bullitt East.

“At least we’ll get to see some film on this one,” Haddix said. “Going into this game, we didn’t know what they were going to do.”

 

Mercer County 0 0 0 7 — 7

Boyle County 14 27 7 7 — 51

Scoring Summary

First Quarter

Boyle — Will McDaniel 9 run (Jackson Smith kick), 5:39.

Boyle — Coleman Clark 3 pass from Jagger Gillis (Smith kick), 3:05.

Second Quarter

Boyle — McDaniel 1 run (Smith kick), 11:55.

Boyle — Clark 37 pass from Gillis (Smith kick), 10:25.

Boyle — Cole Lanter 6 run (pass failed), 6:15.

Boyle — Lanter 39 pass from Gillis (Smith kick), 2:25.

Third Quarter

Boyle — Luke Sheperson 30 pass from Gillis (Smith kick), 6:55.

Fourth Quarter

Boyle — FG Smith 43, 11:02.

Mercer — Jackson Peavler 8 run (Noah Davis kick), 4:32.