High School Football

'Mirror Bowl' between Bell, Boyle County

The showdown between host Bell County and Boyle County in the Class 4A semifinals Friday night could be called the Mirror Bowl.

These are two strikingly similar football teams.

Both are undefeated this season.

Both have been nearly unbeatable in recent years. Bell County has won 52 of 55 games since 2007. Boyle County is 41-1 since 2008.

Both have old-school coaches — Bell County's Dudley Hilton and Boyle County's Larry French — who put a premium on blocking and tackling.

Both prefer to run the ball but can throw it effectively.

Both boast defenses that'll rattle your molars.

"We've got very similar type kids who love to play," French said. "They really want to win. We really want to win, so I expect it to be one of those knock-down drag-outs."

This is the third year in a row the Rebels and Bobcats have met in the semifinals, and the two previous games were knock-down drag-outs.

Two years ago Bell County held on to win 17-15 on its way to an undefeated state title. Last year Boyle County won 13-10 on a last-second field goal on its way to an undefeated state title.

Log Mountain figures to be overflowing with amped-up fans Friday night, but Bell County Coach Dudley Hilton expects the teams to be more prepared than pumped-up.

"Both of us take every game seriously," Hilton said. "We don't pick out games we want to win more than others. We take them all the same. When you do that, the kids don't get over-hyped when a game like this comes along."

French concurred.

"We never change the way we prepare or practice," he said, "because I think being consistent helps you going into situations like this."

Boyle County has been a picture of consistency in winning 28 games in a row, the longest streak in the state.

The Rebels' runnning attack features Devon Cox (1,429 yards, 17 TDs) and Chris Cook (1,246 yards, 14 TDs). Devon Hale has passed for 1,278 yards and 16 TDs.

Boyle County linebacker Lamar Dawson, one of the top college prospects in the nation, leads the defense with 148 solo tackles.

Bell County's ground game is led by Cory Davenport, a cat-quick junior who has run for 1,536 yards and 26 touchdowns. Bobcats quarterback Ben Madon has thrown for 1,382 yards and 21 TDs.

Bell County's defense, which has given up only 98 points this year, is led by John Dudley Hilton, the coach's son, and Josh Brown.

If Bell County beats Boyle County, Dudley Hilton will become the winningest coach in state history.

The Bobcats' victory over Knox Central last week was No. 345 for Hilton, tying him with retired Newport Central Catholic Coach Bob Schneider.

Hilton said the record is "the furthest thing" from his mind, and he doesn't feel any pressure going for it.

"I'm not worried about it because I don't mind one bit me and Bob sharing it.

"I'm not hoggish. If I could wave a magic wand, I'd make Philip Haywood (of Belfry, who has 336 wins) be tied with us, too."

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