By KYLE HOBSTETTER
After three tough losses against Russell, Johnson Central and Ashland, Boyd County is in need of a win.
At least that’s how Lions coach Ray Brooks feels.
“We need a win desperately and we need a win now,” Brooks said. “Our coaching staff and our players know how much we need this win.”
Boyd County will travel to Rowan County in a Class 4A, District 8 game with huge playoff implications.
Last week the Vikings defeated Greenup County 24-10 to pick up their first district win of the season.
The Lions have yet to pick up that elusive first district win.
“We need all the district wins we can get,” Brooks said. “Where the program is at and where we want to go, we need to start winning ball games.”
To pick up the win, Boyd County has been focusing this week in practice on Rowan County sophomore quarterback Justin Graham.
Brooks said his team has had an athlete in the dummy offense to help prepare for Graham, who is his team’s top ballcarrier — Graham has a staggering 99 carries for 425 yards, and he brings with it good leadership skills on offense.
“He’s a good quarterback, because he’s an athlete and he can throw the ball well,” Brooks said of Graham. “During practice, we’re trying to simulate having an athlete back there at quarterback. We’re just going to have to run to the football and play good defense."
Rowan County coach Kyle Singleton said his quarterback hasn’t yet played to his potential, and he's been playing through an ankle injury.
After having stepped in for longtime starter Adam Wing, Graham has handled the pressures of being a first-year varsity quarterback well.
“He’s done an extremely good job competing each week,” Singleton said. “We just have to make sure he’s developing consistency and how to handle what defenses have thrown at him. A lot has been thrown at him this year and he’s handled it in stride and never seems to gets to rattled. That’s all you can ask for from him."
Along with Graham, Rowan County will look to hand the ball to leading rusher Keontae Moore, who has 607 yards and six touchdowns on the season.
And while Boyd County has a bit of an idea who to prepare for, Rowan County is having to dissect film of the Lions’ running back-by-committee situation.
Dylan Harris (365 yards), Reid Dearfield (320), Jacob Barnwell (265) and Gaje Ayres (236) all have seen significant time carrying the ball.
And with so many different attackers, that’s how Brooks like to see the yards distributed.
“Obviously if someone has the hot hand we’ll feed it to them,” he said. “But we like to balance out the attack and the way the offense is set up that’s how it should be.”
Last week, Rowan County was introduced to the style of offense that Boyd County likes to run.
Greenup County, which has been running the spread a lot this season, switched to a belly option type of offense similar to Boyd County's scheme.
“The biggest thing is read the keys and read option offense as well,” Singleton said. “We have some things we need to fix up, but the main thing is to stay fundamentally sound and tackle.”
It's possible that the loser of this game could meet five-time defending state champions Highlands in the first round of the playoffs.
Boyd County was the recipient of the No. 4 seed in the district and a road meeting with Highlands a season ago.
“When I first got the job I went and watched film from the past years and, luck of the draw, the first tape I watched was the Highlands game,” Brooks said. “And to say they’re impressive is an understatement. They are pretty daggone good.”
In Rowan County, the Vikings know if they want to reach their ultimate goals, they have to go through teams like Highlands.
“We’re not really too concerned with it,” Singleton said. "We went to Covington Catholic last year, and they are pretty doggone good too. We’re just matched up with a tough district, that’s the way it is. If you’re going to win a state championship you have to beat the good teams.”
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658.