Haddix, Rebels ready for rivalries on the schedule
By MIKE MARSEE
Justin Haddix loves a good rivalry, and he can’t wait to get involved in Boyle County’s biggest rivalries.
He won’t have to wait much longer. Boyle County’s first-year coach is about to leave his mark on one of the best rivalries in central Kentucky for the first time Friday when the Rebels visit Lexington Catholic.
“We love rivalries, and … that’s going to be a big game for us,” Haddix said. “I know our kids are going to be excited, our coaches are excited. Those are the opponents you like to play.”
Boyle County’s schedule regularly includes two primary rivals, and while the Danville game has the history and familiarity and the attraction of two premier programs battling for bragging rights in the same small town, the LexCath game comes with championship implications that the crosstown rivalry no longer carries.
Boyle and LexCath have battled for district championships annually since 2007 and for 17 of the past 23 years. Their frequent battles — they have played in both the regular season and the postseason in 12 of those years — have developed into one of central Kentucky’s best rivalries.
This will be the first time Haddix, who previously coached at Corbin and Perry County Central, has coached against Lexington Catholic. He said he has been brought up to speed by Boyle’s players and assistant coaches about the importance and intensity of this game.
Of greatest significance is the fact that Friday’s game will be the first district game of the season for both teams. The Rebels and Knights are once again forecast to be the top two teams in District 4A-5, which also includes Anderson County and Bourbon County.
“All the previous games are just a warmup to get us prepared for district play,” Haddix said.
While Boyle won its first three games by a combined score of 153-35 before an open date last week, LexCath has split two games, beating Tates Creek 44-13 in its most recent game Sept. 25 after an opening loss to Lexington Christian.
The Knights returned eight offensive starters and seven defensive starters from a team that went 7-5 last year with two lopsided losses to Boyle, including a 54-7 defeat in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
LexCath’s playmakers include senior Jackson Corbett and junior Blake Busson, both of whom had more than 1,000 receiving yards last season. Junior Jack Monday also has emerged as a top target.
The Knights have thrown the ball on 54 of their 102 offensive plays and have amassed about 70 percent of their offensive yardage through the air in their two games. Junior Jack Gohmann has been the primary quarterback and has thrown for 392 yards and six touchdowns.
“They’ve got some athletes, and they do a great job of spreading the field and kind of put you in bad situations,” he said. “We’ve got to tackle in the open field and be ready for that.”
The LexCath defense has allowed an average of 295 yards in two games.
“They’re really aggressive, and we’re going to have to make plays,” Haddix said.
Boyle is averaging 243 passing yards and 144 passing yards through three games. The Rebels are allowing 183 yards per game.
Boyle has won five straight games in its series with LexCath, which dates to 1997. The Rebels lead the series 17-13 overall and 11-9 in regular-season games.
The same, only different: Boyle’s practices have taken on a different look in Haddix’s first year, but not vastly different than the practices led by his predecessor, Chuck Smith.
Travis Leffew, who was a player and assistant coach under Smith and who is serving as Haddix’s offensive coordinator, said the differences in the way the Rebels prepare are minimal.
“Practice has changed as far as the way we go through practices, but our emphasis and our key points have stayed the same,” Leffew said. “He’s brought his brand of football here, but at the same time, he understands that there’s a tradition here. The first thing he said is he’s not here to try to recreate the wheel. (He said) he’s going to follow what’s happened here in the past, and he’s done a great job of that.”
Haddix runs a high-tempo practice with as little wasted time as possible.
“We look to snap the ball every 15 seconds, so you’ve got to be ready to go,” Leffew said. “Our guys have done a great job understanding what we want to get to. There’s no down time.
“We’re a big staff, and we don’t just keep them out here to keep them out here, We want to focus on what we want to accomplish, and our guys do a great job with that.”
Leffew said Haddix also wants to make sure his players have input.
“He’s really player-led. He lets the players communicate with him, talk with him, and he lets the leaders do their thing on the field,” Leffew said.
Haddix said Boyle’s bye week practices were as productive as he hoped they would be.
“We’re always trying to get better. I don’t think you can ever be as good as you want to be,” he said. “We corrected a lot of mistakes that we had, and we started installing stuff for Lexington Catholic and for our district.”
Staying safe so far: While some schools have been forced to cancel games and practices due to COVID-19 outbreaks, Haddix said he is pleased that the steps taken so far to prevent the spread of the coronavirus within the program have been successful so far.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to keep our bunch safe,” he said.
That means wearing masks as much as possible, keeping critical surfaces sanitized and not using the locker room — players dress for practice before coming to the field — and filing required daily reports.
It means limiting the number of players getting varsity reps in practice as well as in games — a KHSAA rule limits teams to 60 players in uniform during the pandemic — and keeping players on the freshman and junior varsity teams separated from the varsity during practices.
It also means reminding players daily to make smart decisions when they are away from the team, such as on Friday night when there was no game and throughout the weekend.
“We tell them, ‘These are the people you practice with and hang around, these are the ones you need to be with now. Don’t be going out and meeting new people right now,” Haddix said.