Seniors leave program with 4 rings

Published 10:19 am Monday, December 4, 2023

By Mike Marsee

Contributing Writer

LEXINGTON – Justin Haddix’s first class at Boyle County will graduate with honors.

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Boyle County players who were freshmen when Haddix was hired as coach in 2020 will leave the school with state championships in each of their four years of high school.

That’s something that has happened only nine previous times in state history, including twice at Boyle – when the Rebels won their fourth consecutive title in 2002 and a fifth in 2003 – and it’s something this season’s seniors could dream about because they knew it had happened before.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid, growing up watching Boyle County Rebel football, growing up through the Boyle County program,” running back-linebacker Avery Bodner said. “It’s been a dream come true and to top it off with four, it’s just amazing.”

It’s meaningful for Haddix as well, who said he has a strong bond with this team and these seniors.

“It’s been an emotional week in practice and having them over at our house,” he said. “Some people talk about family, but it really is a family with these guys. We expect a lot out of them, and … we put too much into this not to go play our best and be remembered.

”It’s emotional when you think about it. I’m trying not to think about it right now. I just want to enjoy tonight and then go from there and start working toward the next one in January.”You never know how the direction of a program might change when a new coach comes in, but Boyle has gone in only one direction since Haddix arrived in January 2020: straight ahead.

The Rebels are 53-3 in four years under Haddix with two undefeated seasons and an active 20-game winning streak.

“I’m very blessed to be at this program, and I’m very blessed to be able to coach these guys,” Haddix said. “It’s about the players and them doing the things that they need to do. They work awful hard for this. They’ve earned this.”

Haddix, who has a career record of 133-41 in 14 seasons as a head coach, said he’ll remember this as one of the most fun seasons he has had.

“They’ve been fun to coach from beginning to end,” he said.

He said it’s also one of the closest teams he’s ever had.

“They were close, they believed in each other, they fought the outside people trying to break you apart,” Haddix said. “They trusted our circle and they executed at a high level.”

The reward for Boyle’s seniors was a fourth and final chance to savor an experience unlike any other they have known or will know in the future.

“It’s just an awesome feeling, being here with the guys, winning another state championship,” Bodner said. “There’s no other feeling like it.”

Eyes on the RPI: The result of this game supported the views of many Boyle fans that the Rebels were underrated in the KHSAA’s RPI standings that are used to determine seeding in the late rounds of the playoffs.

CovCath was ranked No. 1 in Class 4A, but many felt No. 3 Boyle and even No. 4 Corbin, which Boyle defeated in the quarterfinals, should have been ahead of CovCath.

The RPI results, which are based on regular-season play, led to the Boyle-Corbin quarterfinal that some viewed as a de facto championship game – although they would have met in the quarterfinals under the old region-based system as well – and sent the Rebels on the road for a semifinal at No. 2 Franklin County, but Haddix had no complaints in the aftermath of their win Friday.

“The RPI’s been good to me the past three years, so I’m not going to say a whole lot about the RPI,” he said. “You’ve got to beat good teams to win the state championship. If you can’t win the third-round game, you don’t deserve to be in the fifth-round game.”

Moving up: Boyle is now alone in sixth place on the list of schools with the most KHSAA football championships since state playoffs were first held in 1959. The Rebels trail only Trinity (28 titles), Highlands (23), Beechwood (17), Mayfield (13) and St. Xavier (13).

Massive margin: This was only the 14th time in 274 state finals games that a team has won by 40 points or more. It was the largest margin of victory in a finals game since 2019, when Pikeville defeated Paintsville 43-0 in the Class 1A game.

Honors: Sage Dawson and Justin Haddix were recognized as the Class 4A player and coach of the year by the Kentucky Football Coaches Association prior to Friday’s game.

Dawson completed 71 percent of his passes for 2,509 yards and 29 touchdowns, and he rushed for 385 yards and four TDs.

On Saturday, Thaddeus Mays and Craig Yeast of Mercer County were recognized as the District 3A-4 player and coach of the year.