For three quarters Friday night, Boyle County and Corbin traded big play for big play, mistake for mistake and point for point.
But when it came down to the fourth quarter, only one of those teams had players who had been there and done that at the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Field.
And they showed why Boyle County is also called “Title Town” as the Rebels defeated Corbin 32-26 to claim the school’s third straight Class 4A state championship in the 2022 UK HealthCare Sports Medicine State Football Finals. It’s Boyle’s 11th state title overall, tying it with crosstown rival Danville.
“Having experience helps. You know, I think a lot of our guys are experienced at playing big games,” said Boyle County junior running back Avery Bodner, whose fourth-and-1 conversion with 1:51 remaining helped seal the victory. “I think we really came together as a team, and we all knew what we had to get done.”
Kentucky commit steps up
Tommy Ziesmer, a 6-2, 240-pound four-year defensive starter and Kentucky commit, delivered two of the biggest plays of the game. For the first, he lined up at tight end, cut toward the quarterback and took the handoff on a sweep to the left. Ziesmer fought off four tackles for the go-ahead score from 7 yards out to put Boyle up 32-26 with 9.34 to play in the fourth quarter.
How did it feel? “Oh, I was the man,” Ziesmer joked. “I felt like a big dog. It was just crazy.”
Moments later, Ziesmer got something he’s more known for — a sack of Corbin quarterback Kade Elam that put the Redhounds in a third-and-long situation they could not convert, which led to an empty possession they could not afford.
Though Corbin rebounded on its next defensive series with a Jacob Baker interception of Boyle County quarterback Sage Dawson at midfield, the Redhounds couldn’t sustain a potential go-ahead drive and turned it over on downs with 3:25 to play.
“I don’t know if there’s one play that I can say was the biggest play, but I know we had a kickoff return that was called back on the hold call that was pretty crucial,” said Corbin Coach Tom Greer, who has led the team since Justin Haddix left the Redhounds after the 2019 season to take the Boyle County job. He had been an assistant to Haddix at Corbin for a number of years. “We had opportunities when we had them in fourth down. Boyle County’s got a good football team just like we do, and they made a few more plays than we did.”
Boyle County’s playmakers
Boyle County championship MVP Bodner, who lined up at running back and quarterback Friday, rushed for 100 yards and a score and threw a 24-yard touchdown to starting QB Sage Dawson in the first half.
Dawson rushed for 109 yards and threw for 69 yards and an 11-yard TD to Cooper Brummett in the first quarter. Dawson scrambled out of the pocket for a number of large runs that helped sustain drives.
And Montavin Quisenberry, Boyle’s sensational sophomore, shrugged off having a touchdown erased by a holding penalty by converting a first-and-goal from the 21 for a touchdown run on the very next play to give Boyle County a 26-20 lead with 4:27 left in the third quarter.
“It’s definitely players over plays,” Boyle County Coach Haddix said about his team’s ability to make something out of nothing. “Get them the ball and let them go make things happen.”
For every score Boyle County put up, Corbin had an answer for a while. They even exchanged missed or blocked extra points to help keep the game even.
After Boyle’s first quarter TD catch by Brummett, Corbin’s Eli Pietrowski caught a 4-yard TD pass by Elam. After Elam scored on a 2-yard run to take a 13-7 lead in the second quarter, Boyle answered with the Bodner to Dawson TD pass play.
Boyle led 20-13 at halftime after Bodner’s 7-yard TD run late in the second quarter, but Boyle botched an onside-kick attempt to start the second half and got a late-hit penalty to virtually tee up Corbin’s tying score on a 1-yard run by Elam to make it 20-20 midway through the third quarter.
Corbin tried and failed at its own onside kick next, helping Boyle retake the lead moments later on short drive capped by Quisenberry’s TD.
Corbin immediately answered with a 56-yard TD pass from Elam to Brody Wells to tie the game again at 26 with 2:06 left in the third quarter.
“We just didn’t make some stops when we needed to make some stops,” Corbin’s Greer said. “We’re disappointed, but I can tell you I’ve got 80 football players that are champions.”
The new legacy at Boyle
Haddix has led Boyle County for three seasons and won state titles each year since succeeding Rebels coaching legend Chuck Smith, who led Boyle to six state championships in eight attempts, including three finals wins in a row from 2001 to 2003. Boyle won back-to-back titles under Larry French in 2009 and 2010.
“Our guys weren’t going to be denied,” Haddix said. “We talked in the locker room before we came out. (I said) ‘When you look in that mirror — There was a mirror there. I got lucky there was a mirror — I was pointing at it, and I said, ‘When you look in that mirror, you want to say that you emptied your tank for your brother.’”