Prep Football: Highlands contest should be 'a fun game' for Boyle County in opener
Devon Cox (44) and Boyle County will put the team's 30-game winning streak on the line in Friday's opener with 20-time state champion Highlands at Rebel Stadium. (Clay Jackson)
But Boyle coach Larry French knows his two-time defending Class AAAA champions will need an extraordinary effort to knock off the 20-time state champion Bluebirds at Rebel Stadium on Friday in the season-opening game for both teams.
“It’s going to be a challenging game that’s for sure. They coming in rated number one in 4A and rated one of the top two teams un the state probably,”¿French said. “And they’ve got a lot of people back from their 5A title team.”
Highlands was 14-1 last year and won four-straight Class AAAAA titles before moving to AAAA this year.
Boyle is putting its 30-game win streak on the line, and French said his players know this isn’t just an ordinary regular season contest.
“I think the kids are excited about playing this game. It’s going to be a playoff atmosphere. There will be a big crowd here and it will be a fun game. It’s going to be a fast-paced game,”¿French said.
Kentucky commitment Patrick Towles returns at quarterback to lead a Highlands offense which averaged 40.2 points a game and beat Christian County 50-0 in last year’s state final. Towles, a 6-5, 230 pounder, was 122 of 239 passing for 2,471 yards and 21 touchdowns with 11 interceptions last year. He was also the Bluebirds’ top rusher with 880 yards and 18 more touchdowns, including five in the state title game.
“They’ve got all kinds of speed at the receiver position, and he throws the ball a country mile,”¿French said. “He’s accurate with the ball and he’s a big, tall quarterback to go along with that 230-pound frame. He’s tough to bring down and he’s tough on defenses because he makes you defend the whole field.”
Austin Sheehan, who will be preferred walk-on at Kentucky next year, is the top returning receiver after hauling in 29 passes for 666 yards and four touchdowns. Jack True is the second-leading returning rusher, going for 384 yards and eight scores last season.
Despite losing most of their skill position players, French knows the Bluebirds will just fill in with athletes as talented as the ones they’ll be replacing.
“They’ve got a lot of depth. They seem to run over 100 kids out there. They’ve got about 50 or 60 freshman out. They seem to graduate someone and then they’ve got people to replace them. They’ve got a machine going,”¿he said. “Towles will be a major factor offensively, but his receiving corps is probably as good as I’ve seen. They’ve got outstanding speed and all the running backs run the ball extremely hard.”
Highlands is just as potent on defense after allowing 13.6 points per game last season.
Defensive back Drake Bruns, a Cincinnati commitment, had five interceptions and returned three of those for touchdowns. Carter New also had five picks.
“I saw (Bruns) play against Trinity (in a scrimmage) and he’s definitely a horse back there,”¿French said. “And (defensive lineman Devin Bruns) is one we’re going to have to block. He’s all over the field. He gets off the ball mad and loves contact. He’s a force to be reckoned with.”
French said the Rebels have to keep the ball away from Towles and all of his weapons. Casey Whittle won the battle to be Boyle’s starting quarterback and is bolstered by the running game of Devin¿Cox and a deep receiving corps.
“We’ve got to control the tempo of the game and make sure they don’t wear us down,”¿he said. “We’ve got to be able to put points on the board, and that will be tough to do. We’ve go tot get our offense clicking and make sure our offensive line doesn’t make mental mistakes and block the right people. If we do that, we’ve got a chance.”
The schools have not met since playing for the Class AAA titles in 2003 and 2004. Boyle win 44-10 in 2003, and Highlands won 22-6 in 2004 in Chuck Smith’s last game at Boyle.
French knows this could be the biggest regular-season game at Rebel Stadium in quite a while, and the biggest in his tenure at Boyle.
“Any time you can bring in a quality team like Highlands, you get a lot of excitement in the air,” he said.
And even though the teams could meet again in the state semifinals in November, French likes the fact his team gets an early look at its biggest challenger to a third straight state title.
“I think it’s good for us to find out what we have to do to be competitive and have a chance for a state title run,”¿he said. “This is one of those measuring stick games you like to get early in the season.”