Boyle County had Reese Smith.
That proved to be one of the biggest difference-makers for the Rebels in a 40-21 victory over the Redhounds in the Class 3A Russell Athletic/KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl championship Friday night at Kroger Field.
Smith scored four of Boyle County's six touchdowns — three on catches and one on a 40-yard interception return in the first quarter — to help propel the Rebels to their eighth state title and sixth under head coach Chuck Smith, who led Boyle County to its first five titles from 1999-2003 before Larry French guided the program to championships in 2009 and 2010.
Reese Smith finished with 120 yards on only five catches. The sophomore also picked off a another Corbin pass to close the second quarter as the Redhounds threatened to cut into what was then a 27-14 Boyle County lead.
“He’s been a great player all year long and he loves the big stage,” Chuck Smith said. “Of course, he had it today and he just went off. He’s a great player, he really is. He’s a future Mr. Football candidate.”
Reed Lanter was named MVP of the game. He finished 16 of 24 for 223 yards and five TD passe without an interception. His two other TDs went to Reiley Colwick and Landen Bartleson.
Corbin (13-2) pulled to within 33-21 on an 80-yard kickoff return by Jacob Steely with 7:21 left to play in the third quarter then forced a punt on Boyle County’s next offensive possession. The Redhounds drove down to the Boyle County 9-yard line but were unable to convert on fourth down and gave the ball back to the Rebels with 47 seconds left in the period; that drive was the last time Corbin got past midfield.
Boyle County’s only loss this season was to Danville, its crosstown rival that will play Mayfield for the Class 2A state title Saturday afternoon. Chuck Smith was asked if he’d like to have back that game, a 10-7 affair that was decided on a field goal inside the final minute.
“No. I tell ya what, if it wasn’t for the Danville game, we wouldn’t be here,” Chuck Smith said. “If we hadn’t lost to Danville, we would not have been here. I know we wouldn’t have. We thought we were something we weren’t, and that game woke us up and we were a different team after that.”
Tanner Crawford, a junior, led Boyle County with 92 yards on 17 carries. Bartleson, a sophomore who’s been offered by the University of Louisville, had 88 yards on 16 rushes. Corbin’s Chase Estep had 99 yards on 14 carries to lead all rushers.
The reported total attendance of 11,234 set a new record for the Class 3A championship finals, topping the previous mark of 10,057 set in 2003 when Boyle County defeated Highlands in Louisville.