Road-tested Boyle ready to ride into Boyd

Published 3:38 pm Thursday, November 10, 2022


Contributing writer

It’s back on the bus for Boyle County, and the Rebels are ready to ride.

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Never mind that they haven’t had a playoff game on the road in four years, and never mind that their game Friday at Boyd County is 2 1/2 hours from home.

Regular road trips to far-flung locales have left Boyle well prepared for this scenario in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.

In Justin Haddix’s three seasons as Boyle’s coach, he has taken teams to Highlands, Henderson County and Bowling Green, all at least two hours away.

“That’s why we do those things,” Haddix said. “I think it’s a great experience for our kids to see different places, and our kids have been experiencing a lot of that.”

Of course, the experience of travel isn’t the top priority for Boyle (9-2). The goal is to get past a fired-up opponent in an unfamiliar position and get back home for a regional championship game and maybe more.

Boyd (8-3) missed the playoffs in six of the previous seven seasons, but this year the Lions have achieved their highest win total since 2002, and last week they scored only their second playoff win since 2009.

“They’ve definitely got some weapons,” Haddix said.

Boyd played only one close game as it went 4-0 in District 4A-6, and it opened the playoffs with a 41-14 victory over Anderson County.

The Lions have one of the top 10 rushers in Class 4A in Malichi Wheeler (1,242 yards, eight TDs) and two big receivers in Trey Holbrook (577 yards, 6 TDs) and Josh Thornton (457 yards, 5 TDs). The offense is led by sophomore quarterback Rhett Holbrook (1,402 yards, 15 TDs).

Their defense averages only 15.1 points allowed per game and hasn’t allowed more than 14 in their past five games.

“They fly around to the ball, and they’re really well coached,” Haddix said.

Boyd is settling into a new facility — the $5 million Lions Stadium opened in 2020 — and settling in under coach Evan Ferguson, who left his alma mater across the Ohio River in Coal Grove, Ohio, to come to Cannonsburg in 2019.

Boyle hasn’t had a playoff game on the road since 2019, when it won a third-round game at Belfry and lost a semifinal at Corbin, and this is perhaps the Rebels’ first trip ever to northeast Kentucky.

The Rebels are coming off a 49-0 rout of Rowan County in their first-round game last week. Haddix said they were sharp in that game, putting the game away early with solid play in all phases.

“We were physical up front, physical on the edge, we didn’t make any silly mistakes. We played like a good team should,” Haddix said.

The mercy rule kicked in late in the first quarter, and a host of young players got more varsity playing time than they had all season.

“Our young guys have gotten a lot better, and we trust those guys to come in and do a good job,” Haddix said.

Avery Bodner will make his second straight start at quarterback for Boyle in place of injured Sage Dawson, who hopes to return if the Rebels are in the later rounds of the playoffs.

A Boyle win Friday would allow the Rebels to host a third-round game and a potential semifinal.