Talented Boyle takes aim at fourth straight state title
Published 6:00 pm Friday, August 18, 2023
By MIKE MARSEE
You might have heard that there’s a pretty good collection of talent at Boyle County, but it isn’t enough.
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Well, it is and it isn’t. The Rebels certainly have enough good players in place to add to their collection of championships, but coach Justin Haddix said that alone won’t win them a fourth straight Class 4A title.
“It’s not the most talented team that wins the state championship every year. That doesn’t happen,” Haddix said. “It’s the best team, it’s the team that plays together, that loves each other and does what they’ve got to do.”
Boyle’s coaches work every day to drive that point home to their players, and the many players who have been part of past championship drives are leading the way as the Rebels prepare to open their season Saturday in Bowling Green against Gibson Southern (Ind.).
Boyle, which is ranked No. 1 in 4A in virtually every preseason ranking to be found, returns its quarterback, its top three rushers, three of its top four receivers and six of its top eight tacklers.
“We have guys who have played a lot of football in big games, and those are things that obviously help you and make sure you’re closer to where you need to be,” Haddix said.
Sage Dawson returns for his second season as Boyle’s quarterback after throwing for 1,704 yards and 24 touchdowns and running for 623 yards and five TDs last season, when the Rebels went 13-2. He committed to Air Force earlier this year.
“When he came back from being injured last year (in the playoffs), he seemed different, more confident. He played really well the last three games of the year, and I think he carried that into the offseason,” Haddix said. “And the leadership that he (shows), the kind of teammate that he is, he’s brought others along with him, which is what you need to see out of your quarterback.”
Two other returning skill players rank along with Dawson among the best players in the state. Haddix said senior running back-defensive back Avery Bodner (1,136 yards, 16 TDs in 2022) and junior wide receiver-defensive back Montavin Quisenberry (833 receiving yards, 1,009 rushing yards, 23 combined TDs) are noticeably better than last season.
“(Avery) looks different, in a good way, so I’m excited to see him play,” Haddix said. “(Montavin) looks different, also. He’s just so far ahead of where he was last year at this time.”
Others in Boyle’s deep stable of explosive skill players include junior wide receiver Demauriah Brown (1,971 rushing yards, 28 TDs at Danville), senior wide receiver Keenan Stewart (253 yards, 1 TD) and junior running back Geordon Brown and freshman tight end Maddox Hager, who are set to make their varsity debuts.
Quisenberry, Dawson, Demauriah Brown, Avery Bodner and junior Austin Bodner make up a talented secondary.
Junior Brock Driver turned heads with his play at linebacker last year, and junior Gage Feltner was also a force at linebacker in the postseason. Another junior, Jayce Crowe, is effective at any of several defensive positions. They are the Rebels’ top returning tacklers.
There were several openings on Boyle’s offensive and defensive lines, but Haddix said he likes what he has seen from those units.
“Once we’ve gotten the pads on, the line of scrimmage, our areas of concern where we had a lot of losses, has been playing good,” he said. “We’re going to see as we get going, but they’ve shown improvement in competition.”
Senior Austin Gorley will be a leader on the front line, junior Samuel Wade returns at center after filling in there for part of last season, the versatile Crowe can fill a number of positions and junior Paul McClure, a Danville transfer, will have an impact.
Senior Josh Bixler and junior Bryce Bullock, who transferred from Danville and Garrard County, will also play on the defensive line.
Juniors Andrew Carr and Jaxon Pool will handle kicking duties during the absence of junior Cole Andrews, whose recent quadricep injury required surgery, and Dawson and Avery Bodner will punt.
Boyle opens its season Saturday at Western Kentucky University against Gibson Southern (Ind.), which won Indiana’s Class 3A in 2021 and had an undefeated regular season last year before losing in the sectional semifinals.
The Titans are ranked No. 4 in 3A in the Indiana coaches association preseason poll, and they won 7-on-7 tournaments at Hopkinsville and Southern Illinois.
“They’re up tempo, they’re stout on defense with one of the better defensive lines in Indiana,” Haddix said. “It’ll be a big-time challenge for us early.”
Boyle won a major 7-on-7 tournament at Eastern Kentucky.
Gibson Southern, located near Fort Branch, Ind., about 25 miles north of Evansville, hasn’t had a losing season in 11 years under coach Nick Hart.
This is Boyle’s first out-of-state opponent since 2011 and its first appearance in the Rafferty’s Bowl since 2008. The Rebels will also play in the bowl next year.
BOYLE COUNTY SCHEDULE
Aug. 19 – x-Gibson Southern (Ind.), 6
Aug. 26 – LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN, 8
Sept. 1 – at Danville, 7:30
Sept. 8 – SCOTT COUNTY, 7:30
Sept. 15 – at Taylor County, 7:30
Sept. 22 – LEXINGTON CATHOLIC, 7:30
Oct. 6 – at Russell County, 8:30
Oct. 13 – LINCOLN COUNTY, 7:30
Oct. 20 – WAYNE COUNTY, 7:30
Oct. 27 – at Frederick Douglass, 7:30
x-at Western Kentucky University