COVINGTON It's been 12 years and seven days since Boyd County's football players felt this good.
The Lions had not won a Class 4A playoff game since taking out McCreary Central on Nov. 14, 2008 – that's 4,390 days of gridiron grief. Saturday, however – the infamy emphatically ended thanks to a 55-14 running-clock first-round win over Holmes at Tom Ellis Field.
“That was the best game you played in a long, long time,” Boyd County coach Evan Ferguson told his team in the postgame huddle.
Boyd County's players and fans summarized their joy with a Ric Flair-ish word – “Wooo!“
“That's kind of a word we like to (use),” senior running back Jacob Kelley said. “It keeps us going; lots of celebrating, lots of wooo-ing.”
Another w-word – wow – worked as well because the Lions (4-4): gained 356 yards, all but seven on the ground; averaged 6.8 yards per carry; allowed Holmes only 176 yards; and recovered two of four Bulldog fumbles.
A couple of Boyd County individual numbers might make you say “whoa.” Carter Stephens ran for 169 yards and three touchdowns, and Kelley added another 89 yards and three scores.
“When the season's over just like that, it's tough to swallow,” Holmes coach Benjamin Nevels said. “I hate to see the pain on our kids' faces.”
Holmes beat Boyd County, 26-15, Oct. 9 in Cannonsburg. Stephens had a theory about running so freely on the Bulldogs' turf.
“I think it's because we had … three weeks off,” Stephens said. “We were at practice every single week, and we put the work in.”
Boyd County's strategy was as obvious – and successful – as taking a road grader through a condemned house. The Lions pretty much ran around either end and up the middle.
Starting with the first series. After Aaron Weis took the opening kickoff to the Holmes 48, Boyd County needed nine plays to cover the rest of the field, the final seven on Stephens' run.
The next possession, Stephens' two carries for 15 yards and Kelley's one for 13 set up a Logan Staten one-yard dive with 3:05 left in the quarter. Kelley's four-yarder gave the Lions a 20-0 lead a little more than two minutes into the second stanza.
The one thing Boyd County didn't do as well was contain Holmes (7-3) quarterback Quantez Calloway. He carried twice for 61 yards and finished with a one-yard run.
After Stephens gave the Lions a 27-6 lead midway through the third quarter, Holmes' David Commodore bobbled the ensuing kickoff and ran 85 yards for the Bulldogs' final score.
From there, everything Boyd County did worked: Kelley, a 10-yard scoring run; Brandon Kitchen recovering a Tayquan Calloway fumble; Stephens' 13-yard touchdown run; Kelley's three carries for 24 yards and a score; and Jacob Meade's 1-yard TD.
Next for Boyd County is a scheduled second-round game next Friday at Rowan County. (COVID-19 protocols prevented a Nov. 6 game in Morehead.) Ferguson pleaded with his team to do things you wish grown-ups would do – wash their hands, wear a face covering, stay six feet away from each other.
“You're on the brink,” Ferguson said, “of something really special.”