Boyle shuts out Bowling Green, 31-0

Published 7:46 am Monday, September 20, 2021

Boyle County’s offense spoke loudly at the start of the game, and the defense came through loud and clear all night long.

Together, they gave the Rebels a statement win in a clash of champions Friday night at Rebel Stadium.

The Boyle offense put Bowling Green in a hole early in the game, and the defense gave the Purples no chance to escape as the Rebels rolled to a 31-0 victory.

Boyle dominated the ball in the battle between the defending Class 4A and 5A state champions, closing the first half of the regular season with what is likely its most impressive win to date.

“Bowling Green’s always been a respected program, so we knew coming in here what they were going to bring and we knew what we had to do,” Boyle quarterback Jagger Gillis said. “We tried to take care of business by doing it the Boyle County way: being disciplined and doing the little things right.”

Gillis provided a pretty good illustration of what Boyle (4-1) was able to do on both sides of the ball in this matchup of two of the state’s best-known football brands, as he threw for a touchdown, ran for a touchdown and returned an interception for a touchdown.

Boyle and Bowling Green have 16 championships between them, all of them since 1995. The Purples had won the teams’ only previous meeting in 2007, but the Rebels had their way in the first meeting in Danville.

“It was a good win for us,” Boyle coach Justin Haddix said. “They’re a great football team, I felt like we wanted to come with attitude and make a statement on defense.”

The Rebels did exactly that, stopping Bowling Green cold on its first five possessions. The Purples’ first 15 plays netted minus-17 yards before they finally began moving the ball late in the first half.

“We always want to improve on defense, so five (three-and-outs) is not enough,” Gillis said. “They should never get a first down on us.”

By the time they did, Boyle had effectively broken their spirit with a pair of quick scoring drives. The Rebels drove 68 yards in 2:29 to score on their first series, then covered 63 yards in 1:27 to double their score.

“It just took their spirits down,” Boyle lineman Tommy Ziesmer said. “They came in here hype. Before the game, they were walking into the gym and they were looking at me, sizing me up, and we came out balling out.

“It shows in body language, in the way they’re talking to us. They’re already getting their heads down, so even then I’m like, ‘We need to keep going, jump on their throats and finish the game.”

Bowling Green (3-2) had brought one of the state’s stingiest defenses into the game, allowing an average of 9.5 points over its previous four games. But the Rebels, who were averaging 41.8 points per game, saw a way to solve that defense, not on the Purples’ game film but in their own locker room.

They bet on themselves, figuring they had the ability to move the ball against Bowling Green or anyone else when their offense worked as it should, and it proved to be a pretty good bet.

“With the weapons that we have, we feel like (we can score on) a lot of the teams that we play against,” Haddix said. “We’ve got some weapons to make plays with.”

Only one Bowling Green opponent — Trinity — had scored more than three touchdowns on the Purples in the past two seasons, but Gillis said Boyle was confident that its offense could advance the ball.

“Coach Haddix preached all week about doing our job. We see when everybody’s doing their job, 11 players doing their job every play, we see what we can do, and we just believe and trust in that,” Gillis said.

Gillis was 4 for 4 for 51 yards on the opening drive, which concluded with a 22-yard touchdown catch by Cole Lanter. He connected with Luke Imfeld for a 38-yard completion to start the second scoring drive, which ended in a Lanter TD run.

By the time Boyle scored its third touchdown less than four minutes into the second quarter on a 5-yard run by Gillis, the Rebels’ offense had compiled 223 yards — more than any of Bowling Green’s previous opponents had gotten in an entire game.

The Rebels couldn’t sustain that success, as they gained only 124 more yards and didn’t score another offensive touchdown after taking a 21-0 lead.

However, the defense continued to play at a high level. Bowling Green compiled 66 yards over the balance of the first half and finished with 168, but Boyle kept the Purples out of the end zone for its first shutout of the season.

“I felt like when they did get some momentum that we stopped them, and that was big, bowing our necks,” Haddix said. “They make a couple of plays, we’ve got to continue to play,” Haddix said. “You’re going to have those times where defense has to be the constant.”

Bowling Green advanced into the red zone only once, getting as far as the Boyle 3-yard line after a 71-yard reception by Will Vale midway through the third quarter. Vale might have made it to the end zone, but Lanter dragged him down at the 6. Four plays later,

Sage Dawson broke up a pass in the end zone on fourth-and-goal.

The Rebels also used two interceptions to extend their lead in the third quarter. Lanter went airborne to pick off a pass on the first play of the second half. Boyle was stopped on downs at the Bowling Green 8 but held the Purples and took advantage of good field position to get a 45-yard field goal by Jackson Smith minutes later.

Gillis got a pick-six in the closing seconds of the period, returning an interception 54 yards to make it 31-0.

Boyle defenders also had 11 tackles for loss, led by Ziesmer and Avery Bodner with four each.

“You play on a Boyle County defense, you’ve got to be nasty,” Gillis said. “That’s what we focused on defense, just having some swagger and being nasty. It worked out, and we showed it tonight.”

Giving less ground: Boyle has allowed an average of 227 yards per game since surrendering 468 yards in its loss to Lexington Christian, but that doesn’t fully measure how much the Rebels have improved on defense since that Aug. 28 game.

Personnel changes and plain old hard work have helped the Rebels do a better job of stopping their opponents.

“We improved a lot, got our keys down, we went over the little things,” Ziesmer said. “We practiced harder and harder every day just to correct those issues that we had in that game.”

Haddix said the difference is noticeable.

“We’ve come a long way,” he said. “It’s day by day, and I don’t think we’ve played our best yet. And that’s the good thing about it, we’re getting better, everybody’s kind of getting into what they need to do.”

Yellow alert: Boyle didn’t do many things wrong Friday, but penalties were once again a problem for the Rebels. Boyle was penalized a season-high 11 times for 70 yards,

The Rebels were flagged for false starts twice on their first three snaps and six times in all.

“We had some pre-snap penalties and other things that we’ve got to clean up on that you can’t have in big-time situations,” Haddix said.

Extra points: Gillis finished 13 for 20 for 198 yards, and Lanter caught eight passes for 99 yards for the Rebels. … Bodner led Boyle in rushing with 84 yards on 19 carries, and he also had a team-high eight tackles. … Dalton Stone recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter for the Rebels, who forced three turnovers and committed two. … Boyle has won its last three games against teams that won a state championship the previous season, defeating Central in 2019 and Danville in 2018 in addition to Bowling Green.

Week six: Boyle hits the road again this Friday to play North Hardin in its last game before district play begins.

North Hardin (1-4) comes off a 28-25 loss at Danville that was its third road defeat in as many weeks.

The Trojans had won 20 consecutive regular-season games before bowing to South Warren in their season opener, and they have since lost to duPont Manual and Apollo in addition to Danville.

A team that was 9-0 last season before falling to St. Xavier in a Class 6A regional final lost 22 seniors, including four Division I signees.

The Trojans’ offense is led by senior quarterback Manie Wimberly, a three-year starter who had thrown for 495 yards and four touchdowns prior to the Danville game, and features junior Trey Alexander, a 6-7, 325-pound lineman who has offers from Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky.

North Hardin is averaging 22.8 points and allowing 26.2 points per game.

“They’re going to play tough defensively. They’ve got some athletes out on the edge and they’ve got a really good quarterback and they’re big up front,” Haddix said. “It’s going to be another big challenge for us as we go into our off week and get ready for district play.”

Boyle last played North Hardin in 2018, losing 21-14 at home.

It’s a long trip, though at about 90 minutes only about half as long as the trip to Henderson County on Sept. 10, and Haddix said he doesn’t mind a few such trips during the season.

“I like those trips. You never know what you’re going to have to do later on (in the playoffs),” he said. “You have to be able to handle adversity … and traveling is an adversity sometimes.”

Scoring summary
Bowling Green  0   0   0  0 — 0
Boyle County   14   7   10 0 — 31

First Quarter
Boyle — Cole Lanter 22 pass from Jagger Gillis (Jackson Smith kick), 9:28.
Boyle — C. Lanter 8 run (Smith kick), 6:32.
Second Quarter
Boyle — Jagger Gillis 5 run (Smith kick), 8:16.
Third Quarter
Boyle — FG Smith 45, 6:03.
Boyle — Gillis 54 interception return (Smith kick), :19.