Prep Football: Unbeaten Russell County will be a tough test for Boyle County in Class AAAA playoffs
Boyle County celebrates a touchdown by Seph Burke (20) in the second quarter against Clay County last week. Boyle plays at Russell County on Friday in the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs. (Clay Jackson / November 8, 2012)
So Boyle County coach Larry French knows his squad has its work cut out for it Friday when the No. 7 Rebels travel to Russell Springs for a second-round playoff game.
“They’re a pretty good team. They could be one of the best team’s we’ve played all year long,”¿French said. “They definitely have one of the best running backs we’ll face all year.”
That would be Nick Britt, a 5-8, 165 pound senior who has rushed for 1,853 yards and 31 touchdowns and has 14 catches for 238 yards and a touchdown for Russell. Britt ran for 232 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries last week in the Lakers’ 52-0 playoff win over Marion County.
“He’s a game-breaker no doubt, and he can make big plays,” French said of Britt. “He’s got speed and agility, and he’s going to be an outstanding collegiate player.”
Russell (11-0)¿is putting up 49 points and 407 yards per game, and the defense is giving up just 13 points and 259 yards per game.
“This will be a tough game for us, no doubt about it,” French said. “They’re capable of beating us, and I think we’ve got to do a lot of things right in the game. They’re extremely quick and they’re very aggressive, and they’re a fundamentally sound team. I think their ability to score points makes them a really big threat.”
Russell complements Britt with a solid passing attack led by 6-4 senior quarterback Barton Mann, who is 80 of 139 for 1,436 yards and 10 touchdowns with two interceptions. He has also rushed for 258 yards and 10 more touchdowns.
“The quarterback is a good athlete,” French said. “He’s a big, tall young man that can throw the football and can lead the offense down the field.”
Mann’s top target has been Blake Ellis, a 6-1 junior who has caught 40 passes for 810 yards and eight touchdowns. On the ground, Evan Fletcher has 509 yards and eight touchdowns and has 10 total touchdowns.
And the Lakers’ defense has posted as eye-popping numbers as the offense. They had forced 31 turnovers, seven of which have been returned for touchdowns.
Ellis has four interceptions, and two of Fletcher’s three interceptions have been returned for touchdowns. Angel Deck and Nick Coffey have also returned interceptions for touchdowns. Lee Cox has two of Russell’s 13 fumble recoveries and returned one for a touchdown, and Fletcher and Nathan Stearns also have fumble returns for touchdowns.
“They seem like, with the teams we’ve watched them play, they punch the ball out quite a bit. The teams may get a good run on them, and then the ball comes loose and they either recover it or pick it up and run it back in,” French said. “They cause a lot of turnovers, so we’ve got to hang onto the football, and if we do we have a chance to go out and win the game. Turnovers and penalties are going to play a big part in this game.”
French said Boyle (7-4) is going to have to win all three phases of the game to win.
“The kicking game is going to play a role in this game. They’ve got an outstanding kicker (Lucas Williams has 61 extra points and six field goals) and punter, and they’ve got people that can put the ball in the end zone,”¿he said. “Our kicking game has been sound lately, but our kickoff return seems to give up a big play every now and then.”
Following the Rebels’ 72-20 win over Clay County last week, Boyle is averaging 42 points and 413 yards of offense and giving up 21 points per game.
“I think we’re peaking at the right times. We’ve got our offense on track and are putting points on the board,”¿French said. “And we’re doing it by going through the air and running the ball.
“Hopefully, our defense will come around and be solid and make open-field tackles. And if we can do that, we have a chance to win.”
The Rebels can throw their own 1-2 punch at running back and quarterback.
Quarterback Casey Whittle is 103 of 191 for 1,664 yards with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions. Running back Seph Burke has rushed for 1,245 yards and 17 touchdowns and averages 113 yards rushing per game.
Lloyd Hall has caught 33 passes for 547 yards and five touchdowns and has 493 rushing yards and five more touchdowns. Josiah Robbins has 22 catches for 478 yards and six touchdowns and has two rushing touchdowns, and Blake Mason has 20 receptions for 315 yards and four touchdowns.
Robbins also has a team-high four interceptions and Zack Coffey has three fumble recoveries as the Rebels have forced 27 turnovers.
As he has preached all season, French said he is more concerned is how his team plays, and how his team play will be as big of a factor in a win or loss.
“Our biggest key is just to go out and play the type of game we’re accustomed to playing and not turn the ball over,”¿he said.
And he knows the Rebels are going into a raucous atmosphere at Russell, which is 11-0 for the first time and is playing its biggest game in years.
“It will be a Super Bowl-type atmosphere,”¿he said. “But we’ve played in situations like that before, and hopefully that experience will help us.”