Boyle County is back on top.
The Rebels (14-1) capped a dominant 2017 season with a 40-21 win over Corbin on Friday evening in the Class 3A Russell Athletic/KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl championship -- their first title since claiming the Class 4A crown in 2010 -- in front of 11,234 rowdy fans at the University of Kentucky's Kroger Field.
"I just wanted it so bad for these kids to win a state championship because they've worked so hard for it," Boyle County coach Chuck Smith, the father of South Warren coach Brandon Smith, said. "They put in so much time -- it's unbelievable how much time they put in -- and it's unbelievable how hard they practice."MORE COVERAGE
Boyle County fought from start to finish to beat a talented Corbin team. It outgained the Redhounds (13-2) 460-206 on the day and were effective in the red-zone with a 2-for-3 showing. The Rebels' athletic offensive duo of quarterback Reed Lanter and wide receiver Reese Smith both produced big outings.
Lanter completed 16-of-24 passes for 223 yards and 5 touchdowns while Smith caught five passes for 120 yards and three TDs. Running backs Tanner Crawford and Landen Bartleson also produced effectively for Boyle County, rushing for 92 and 88 yards, respectively.
"When I was a little kid -- I was like in 4th grade when (Chuck Smith) was coaching up here at UK -- I would come to the camps wearing a Boyle County shirt," Reese Smith said. "He knew who I was. Then, when he came back to Boyle County, it was kind of cool because he knew who I was and I knew what he had done there (in his first stint at BCHS from 1999-2004), winning five in a row.
"I knew he would get us back on track."
After Corbin punted on its opening possession, Boyle County quickly put its offense to work.
Covering 57 yards on just five plays, the Rebels recorded the game's first score on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Lanter to Smith to take a 7-0 lead at the 8:56 mark of the first quarter. Lanter completed both of his passes on the series and tallied 46 yards in the process.
Smith showed his defensive abilities on the Redhounds' second drive, intercepting a tipped pass and returning it 40 yards for another Boyle County touchdown. With another score just a little over a minute after its previous, the Rebels held a 14-0 advantage.
"Coach Smith said all week that it would be the fest feeling in the world to come out here to be the best team in 3A and look around," said Reese Smith. "I think everybody was a little stunned, but we went through walkthrough and started calming down. Especially when we scored the first two, everything started clicking and coming together."
Corbin responded with a 17-yard TD pass from Cameron Sizemore to Christian Gosselin to record its first score of the evening. On the third play of the series -- which lasted just 1:21 -- Sizemore found his receiver open on the right sideline and Gosselin made the catch and ran it in for six points, making it 14-7 at the 6:06 mark.
Lanter's second TD toss -- this one a six-yard strike to Bartleson -- put Boyle up 21-7 after one.
The Redhounds got back to within seven with 4:16 remaining in the first half, scoring on Sizemore's 17-yard toss to Ethan Wine. Wine made an incredible catch in the end zone, outjumping a Rebel defender to tally his first TD of the contest and make it 21-14.
Shortly after Corbin's score, Boyle County retook its double-digit advantage. After Lanter threw to Nick Walker for a gain of 15 yards to move the chains for a first down, the offensive pilot then unloaded and threw a 34-yard bullet to Smith, who reeled in the pass and sprinted untouched across the pylon. Lanter's third TD -- and Smith's second - gave the Rebels a 27-14 lead at the break.
Both sides battled throughout the second half.
"Through the wall, baby, threw the wall. We went through the wall tonight," said Chuck Smith. "Proud of 'em -- proud of 'em. This group gets it, and they knocked the wall down tonight and they are state champions."
Boyle County struck first in the third, scoring on Lanter's 5-yard pass to Smith before Corbin responded with an 80-yard kickoff return touchdown by Jacob Steely. At that point, the Rebels held a 33-21 lead advantage over the Redhounds -- and they took that lead into the final period.
Lanter's fifth TD pass of the game -- a 35-yarder to Reiley Colwick with 8:40 left -- sealed it.
"It's good for the community and good for everybody," Reese Smith said. "Everybody loves football in this community and everybody is behind us."Senior writer Tyler Mansfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @_TylerMansfield.