Boyle defense delivers memorable performance

Published 10:37 am Monday, December 4, 2023

By Mike Marsee

Contributing Writer

LEXINGTON – When you remember this Boyle County championship season, the Rebels hope you’ll remember their defense as well as their offense.

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Covington Catholic certainly will.

Boyle shut down CovCath to win its fourth consecutive state championship and the 12th in school history Friday, shifting the spotlight to a unit that hasn’t gotten as much attention as an offense packed with playmakers.

“Everybody talked about our offense, and our defense, they took that personally, and what a job they did,” Boyle coach Justin Haddix said.

The Rebels allowed only 64 yards in a 41-0 victory over a CovCath team that came to Kroger Field averaging 41.6 points and 380 yards per game.

Boyle put up gaudy numbers on offense as well, which led some to undervalue what the Rebels can do on defense. Many of the same playmakers line up on both sides of the ball, and they did not fail to notice those slights.

“I think we took it personally when everybody said our defense wasn’t that good,” said linebacker Avery Bodner, who had two of Boyle’s four sacks and a team-high 5 1/2 tackles Friday. “I think we took that to heart and we came out here and made a statement.”

Boyle allowed CovCath’s offense to cross midfield only once, and then the Colonels only got as far as the Boyle 47-yard line.

CovCath had only six first downs, and it was 0 for 9 on third down and 0 for 4 on fourth down. The Colonels averaged a mere 1.6 yards per play and had no gain longer than 14 yards.

On the front lines, Boyle’s defensive linemen kept CovCath’s running game contained, allowing just 1.2 yards per rushing attempt.

“It was giving everything we’ve got, working as a team and not letting them get the edge,” defensive tackle Austin Gorley said. “Just no air, stopping everything.”

On the back end, the Rebels kept the Colonels’ receivers covered. CovCath quarterback Evan Pitzer, who averaged 183 passing yards per game, to 36 yards on 7-of-17 passing and frequently forced him into draw plays instead of throwing the ball.

“All week in practice we just worked a lot on our man, just locked on and stayed on. No easy passes,” said safety Demauriah Brown, who had four tackles and two pass break-ups.

Linebackers Brock Driver and Josh Bixler each had a sack for Boyle, and Austin Bodner had an interception.

“We had a great game plan, but it was up to us,” Avery Bodner said. “I feel like we played together the best we have all year, and trusted each other, that was the main thing.”

It was only the third shutout of the season for Boyle, but it was the Rebels’ ninth running-clock victory in 15 games, and the defense had a great deal to do with all those lopsided wins.

The Rebels had to replace five defensive starters from last year’s championship team, and this season they allowed 74 fewer points.

“I feel like as a unit we’ve progressed over the season,” Avery Bodner said. “I feel like we’ve gotten multitudes better since the first of the season and that’s what you’ve got to do, get better every game.”

Even if the rest of the state isn’t paying attention.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Driver said when asked whether the defense got its due this season. “I just know we’ve always been playing and our offense has trust in us,” he said.

Gorley said the defenders trusted in each other and in their ability to lock down CovCath in the biggest game of the season, and they were ready when the time came.

“We just had trust in each other,” he said. “We came out here, just full of piss and vinegar, ready to smack them in the mouth, run them down, hit them, run faster than them, just give it to them, man.”