Cancellation of Danville-Boyle football game puts rivalry series on hold

Published 5:45 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2024

There will be no showdown in Title Town this year.

The annual football game between Danville and Boyle County, a fixture on the local sports calendar for almost 60 years, is on hold for the foreseeable future after the 2024 game between the teams was canceled last week.

Boyle coach Justin Haddix said a Danville administrator visited Boyle on Friday to tell officials there that Danville had decided not to play this year’s game, which was scheduled for Sept. 6 at Rebel Stadium.

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The crosstown rivals had met annually since 1965, except for a two-year interruption during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their annual games became one of the largest annual gatherings in the community, and for a period of nearly a quarter-century in which both teams regularly competed for championships they were among the biggest high school football games in Kentucky.

The programs are in very different places today, however, as Boyle has solidified its position as one of the top programs in the state and Danville is in the early stages of a complete overhaul of its program.

The Rebels have won the last three meetings by a combined score of 156-7, and while the pendulum has swung back and forth between the two sides several times over the years, there is little evidence to indicate the current trend would change in the near future.

“This game is not as competitive as it needs to be at this time because of the new landscape of high school sports in Kentucky. It was mutually beneficial to push pause on this series to benefit both programs,” Danville principal Chad Luhman said in a statement. “It is the responsibility of the leaders of Danville High School to put our program in the best possible position to restore the excellence of old.”

It was widely believed that the series would be suspended in 2025. The 2024 game would have fulfilled a two-year contract between the schools.

KHSAA scheduling contracts are usually made for two years. If a game is not canceled by mutual consent, the canceling school must pay a “forfeit fee” agreed upon by the two schools. (The game typically is not recorded as a forfeit if it is canceled this far in advance.)

The cancellation leaves both teams with nine games on their 2024 schedules. Boyle immediately went to work to find an opponent to replace Danville, posting notices on social media saying it was looking for a game for Sept. 6 or 7.

“We’ll be alright,” Haddix said. “Hopefully we can find a game for our team to give us a 10-game schedule. Our team deserves to have a full season.”

Haddix said he knows it won’t be easy for Boyle to find a replacement game because most teams’ schedules are set and not everyone is willing to play a team at Boyle’s level. He said the Rebels are willing to play at home or on the road against either another team in Kentucky or one from another state.

Danville has not posted any notices seeking a new opponent.

Sixty games have been played in the city-county rivalry, which started with a scoreless tie in 1965. The rest of the state began taking notice of the series beginning in the mid-1990s, when Boyle joined Danville among the ranks of the very best teams in Kentucky.

The two schools have combined for 23 state championships, 11 of which came between 1994 and 2010, when their rivalry was at its peak and games between the Admirals and Rebels were regularly played before standing-room-only crowds.

The series, which Danville leads 35-24-1, has had its ebbs and flows. The Admirals won 19 consecutive games between the teams in the 1980s and ’90s, while the Rebels have won 11 of the last 14 meetings, including the past four games.

Boyle is the dominant program today with its run of four consecutive championship seasons, while Danville is attempting to rebuild from the ground up in the wake of a run of four losing seasons since its last championship in 2017, including an 0-11 campaign in 2023.

“I hate it that it’s come to this for the town and the community,” Haddix said.