Boyle tops LexCath at home, 16-10

Published 1:55 pm Monday, October 11, 2021

Boyle County’s defense hasn’t always been dominant, but it has become dependable.

In the weeks since an early-season defeat in which that defense was a liability, the Rebels have worked to make that unit not just an asset but the strength of a team that has risen to the top of Class 4A.

Boyle showed its strength again Friday night in the long-running rivalry between two of the top 4A programs, not from start to finish but certainly when it mattered most, as it slammed the door on Lexington Catholic in a 16-10 victory at Rebel Stadium.

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On a night when the Boyle offense struggled to score, the Rebels kept the Knights’ offense in check often enough to extend their winning streak in this compelling and occasionally contentious series.

“That’s been our thing. The defense has got to be the constant always, and they did a good job tonight,” Boyle coach Justin Haddix said. “We didn’t play our best game on defense, but we ended up making some plays.”

That might not immediately be evident if you scan the numbers — Boyle surrendered the second-highest yardage total for an opponent this season — but it was obvious to those who saw the Rebels keep LexCath out of the end zone on its first six series.

It became the fourth consecutive game in which Boyle (6-1, 1-0 District 4A-5) has held its opponent to two touchdowns or less and the latest chapter in the story of a defense that continues to improve.

“I think we’re all coming together on defense and we’re really just playing as one, and we’re having that intensity that we need,” Boyle linebacker Dalton Stone said.

That allowed Boyle to win a game that was far different from the one many were expecting. The Rebels and Knights, ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the Class 4A RPI ratings, were averaging a combined 72 points per game and combined for 100 points in their last meeting in the 2020 postseason, but they found themselves in a low-scoring struggle despite combining for 751 yards.

“Usually you think this is going to be a high-scoring game. We made enough plays to win the game, though,” Haddix said.

The biggest of those might well have come late in the third quarter, when LexCath (5-2, 0-1) was trying to answer after Boyle scored the first touchdown of the game.

The Rebels led 16-3 after Avery Bodner’s 24-yard touchdown run midway through the period, but they saw the Knights drive from their own 20-yard line to the Boyle 4.

On third down, quarterback Jack Gohmann rolled out to his right and left his feet as Boyle’s Avery Bodner went low on a tackle attempt. He was met at the 1-yard line by the Rebels’ Cole Sims, whose helmet dislodged the ball. The ball went into and out of the end zone, resulting in a touchback.

“That was one of the biggest plays on defense,” Sims said. “If they score right there, then that’s a completely different ballgame. We already had two guys on him, and I just laid the finishing blow.”

Haddix said it was “a huge play” in a huge game. The winner of this game has gone on to win a district championship in each of the past 15 seasons.

“We talk about finish, we talk about making plays, and they’re driving it and you think about all the things that are going against you, and you’ve got to bow your neck up and make that play in the red zone, and we did a great job with them in the red zone,” he said.

LexCath crossed the goal line on its next possession, scoring with 5:08 remaining on a 3-yard pass from wide receiver Max DeGraff to Tanner Pedroche. But the Knights never got the ball back, as Boyle’s offense strung together four first downs to run out the clock.

Every other score came on a field goal. Jackson Smith knocked three through from 24, 27 and 21 yards, and DeGraff kicked a 22-yarder for LexCath’s only score of the first half.

The Rebels had a season-high 467 yards on offense but failed to score in four trips to the red zone.

“We had over 400 yards of offense and we scored 16 points. That’s hard to do,” Haddix said. “We didn’t execute, we turned the ball over, things that can’t happen, but we were able to go through that and finish and still win, and it’s a big deal.”

LexCath was less effective on offense with 284 yards and a conversion rate of just 25 percent on third downs.

“They had a really good offense and that quarterback is really good, and we did a really good job of making him move out of the pocket and stretching him out, and our linebacker corps and our DBs did a really good job tonight,” Sims said.

It started with stopping the run. LexCath ran for 63 yards, averaging just 2.6 yards per carry, and had 13 fewer offensive plays than the Rebels.

The Knights had four drives of 50 yards or more, but they also had three three-and-outs with a net total of 2 yards, including their first two series of the second half.

“They definitely adjusted and did some misdirection stuff to get us off our game. We just played our fundamentals, did what (defensive coordinator Travis) Burns has taught us to do and we just went out and played ball,” said Stone, Boyle’s leading tackler with eight stops.

Like Stone, Smith, who also plays linebacker, said the Rebels’ defense has gotten stronger in recent weeks.

“Early this year we were kind of all over the place, but we’re starting to become a family and play as one,” Smith said.

The result on Friday was a win that Boyle could build on.

“This was the best thing that could happen to us, this game,” Sims said. “We’ve still got to play up to Boyle County’s level, but that was just a big gut-check for us.”

Higher standards: Boyle quarterback Jagger Gillis threw for a season-high 227 yards, completing 16 of 24 passes. Bodner led the Rebels’ ground game with a season-high 103 rushing yards on 12 attempts.

Boyle’s previous high offensive output this season was 433 yards in its Sept. 3 win over Pulaski County.

Field goal frenzy: Smith had kicked only two field goals in Boyle’s first six games this season, but he bested that total by one Friday.

He said it was the first time in his high school career that he has had three field goals in one game, and he was as surprised as anyone that he did so in this game.

“The last one was in the state championship in eighth grade,” he said.

The beat goes on: Boyle won its eighth consecutive meeting with LexCath over the past five seasons and took a 20-13 lead in a series in which the teams have met in both the regular season and the postseason 21 times since they first met in 1997.

There has been a playoff rematch in each of the past two seasons, and Smith expects to have a second meeting for a third straight year.

“For sure,” he said. “We’ll see them again in the playoffs. They’re a second half team, they’re a really good team, and we’ve got to watch out for them.”

On the air: Boyle students who produce BCSN livestreams of Boyle athletic events got the chance to participate in a live telecast produced by WTVQ-DT2, which aired Friday’s game as its game of the week.

WTVQ sports anchor Austin Miller reached out to Boyle athletic director Kyle Wynn to invite the students to be part of the production. Students Jack Little and Hagan Webb had on-air roles, and Max Germann, Samuel Harless and Zane Goode worked on the telecast from the press box.

“Having an opportunity for our BCSN production crew to be part of the broadcast is tremendous for our students,” said Michelle Feistritzer, a Boyle teacher who is the BCSN coordinator.

Week eight: The most anticipated district game of the season is behind Boyle, but two others remain in its quest for a fifth consecutive district championship, including this Friday’s game at Anderson County.

Anderson (2-5, 0-1) is rebuilding in its second season under coach Mark Palmer. The Bearcats were 0-9 last year, and their 34-24 win over Breckinridge County on Sept. 10 snapped a 14-game losing streak.

They lost to Bourbon County 43-14 in their district opener Friday, and they haven’t won a district game since joining District 4A-5 in 2019. Boyle has beaten Anderson three times over the past two seasons by a combined score of 170-21.

This game and the following game against Bourbon lack the luster of the matchup with LexCath, but Haddix said it’s important that Boyle play well over the next two weeks.

“Those are two big games we’ve got to finish with, and hopefully we’ll see what happens in the playoffs,” he said.

He said he will once again stress to his players the importance of not taking a game off.

“We try to bring up to them all the time that you only get so many opportunities to play high school football,” Haddix said. “Don’t waste an opportunity. The game’s supposed to be played a certain way, and play it to that level, play it to our level, how we’re able to play.”

Scoring summary
Lexington Catholic 0 3 0 7 — 10
Boyle County 0 6 10 0 — 16

Second Quarter
Boyle — FG Jackson Smith 24, 11:20.
LexCath — FG Max DeGraff 22, 1:59.
Boyle — FG Smith 27, :00.
Third Quarter
Boyle — FG Smith 21, 7:53.
Boyle — Avery Bodner 24 run (Smith kick), 6:08.
Fourth Quarter
LexCath — Tanner Pedroche 3 pass from DeGraff (DeGraff kick), 5:08.