DANVILLE — In a top-10 showdown that lived up to its hype, unbeaten Boyle County beat defending state champion Bell County 13-10 on Phillip Barsotti's 29-yard field goal as time expired Friday night.
As Barsotti's kick sailed through the uprights, Boyle County fans swarmed the field to celebrate the school's biggest victory in five years.
"This is the greatest moment I can imagine," Barsotti said. "I never thought I'd kick a game-winning field goal to get us to state. It's pretty amazing."
Boyle County is back in the state finals for the first time since it was runner-up in 2004. It won five consecutive state titles before that.
Boyle County (14-0) will play Lone Oak for the 4A championship Friday afternoon in Bowling Green.
It will be the second trip to the finals for Rebels Coach Larry French, who led Meade County to a runner-up finish in 1991. That Meade County team lost to Dudley Hilton-coached Bell County.
Hilton's Bobcats also beat French and Boyle County 17-15 in last year's semifinals, so it was finally French's turn to smile last night.
It didn't look good for the fifth-ranked Rebels early in the semifinal rematch, which drew an overflow crowd.
Boyle fumbled away the opening kickoff, and Bell County cashed in with John Dudley Hilton's 22-yard field goal.
Sixth-ranked Bell County added to its lead when it put together a 13-play, time-consuming drive that ended with Cory Davenport's 1-yard TD run on the first play of the second quarter.
Down 10-0, Boyle County needed a break.
It got one when Bell County was whistled for a late hit on an incomplete pass on third down. The 15-yard penalty kept the Rebels alive, and Rees MacShara eventually scored on a 1-yard run.
"We had 'em on the ropes," Hilton said. "But that call gave them the touchdown. It was a big turning point."
Bell County had a chance to add to its lead early in the second half. A 53-yard pass from Ben Madon to Cody Davenport gave the Bobcats the ball inside the Rebels' 15.
But Boyle County's defense forced a fourth-and-nine. Instead of going for a field goal, Bell County went for the first down and failed.
"That was probably our worst series all night," Hilton said. "We probably should've kicked a field goal."
Boyle County responded with an 87-yard, 17-play drive that Barsotti capped with a 31-yard field goal.
Bell County got into Rebels' territory one more time thanks to a 37-yard pass from Madon to Keith Lowe. But once again Boyle County rose to the challenge.
"Our defense kept stepping up all night," French said.
Bell County star tailback Cory Davenport was limited to 49 yards on 23 carries.
Boyle County's running game took a while to get in gear. MacShara, who rushed for 2,684 yards in the first 13 games, had just 43 in the first half.
But he found more holes in the second half, and finished the night with 194 yards on 31 attempts, including eight straight on the game-winning drive.
MacShara paid tribute to Bell County, which had won 25 games in a row against Kentucky competition.
"They were by far the toughest team we played all year," he said.
Bell County 3 7 0 0—10
Boyle County 0 7 3 3—13
Bell—John Dudley Hilton 22 field goal. Bell—Cory Davenport 1 run (Hilton kick). Boyle—Rees MacShara 1 run (Phillip Barsotti kick). Boyle—Barsotti 31 field goal. Boyle-Barsotti 29 field goal.
Records—Bell County 12-2; Boyle County 14-0.