Boyle among state’s top tacklers

Published 8:51 am Tuesday, November 24, 2015

While quarterback Chris Reynolds and receivers Ben Ellis and Cooper Wall tore up the record book, threw it out the window and started writing new pages, a development was sometimes overshadowed on the defensive side of the ball. Junior James Boyle is the absolute real deal at linebacker.

Boyle piled up countless highlight-reel moments on his way to 160 tackles, which ranked third in the state in all classifications when Davie’s season ended with a 44-36 first-round loss at Scotland County on Nov. 13. The 160 ranks seventh on Davie’s single-season list, behind D.J. Rice’s 181 in ‘04, Patrick Lowery’s 174 in ‘01, Christian Launius’ 168 in ‘14, Billy Riddle’s 165 in ‘03, Logan Buchanan’s 165 in ‘05 and Lowery’s 163 in ‘00.

Boyle racked up 28 tackles for loss, the most in nine years (Chantz Grannaman had 36 in ‘06). Through the first round of the playoffs, Boyle was ninth among all classes in that category. Should he stay healthy next year, Boyle should easily crack the top five in career tackles. He stands at 291.

It’s difficult to overstate what Boyle meant to the ‘15 team that peaked late to finish 5-7.

“Incredible,” coach Devore Holman said. “It’s incredible what he does day in and day out leading that defense and getting himself to the ball play after play after play. Whenever you put up (160) tackles, that reminds me of people like Patrick Lowery, Logan Buchanan, D.J. Rice and Jared Barber – those type of guys. He’s special to our team.”

The 6-1, 215-pounder was first or second in tackles in all 12 games, including first nine times.

“He’s a student of the game,” Holman said. “He’s a film junkie. He studies film all the time. He doesn’t just know what his position is supposed to do, he knows what we do on the back end and he knows what we do on the front end. So he’s a field general.”

Holman said Georgia Southern, Navy and Charlotte have expressed interest so far.

“I’ve had a few coaches talk to me about him, and I’ve sent film here, there and everywhere,” he said. “He’s just got to continue to do what he does and when those times come for him, he will have an opportunity (in college).”

Sophomore Cody Hendrix shined, too, at linebacker. When Davie gave Scotland all it wanted, Boyle amassed 20 tackles and 14 solo stops. Remarkably, he wasn’t the No. 1 tackler. Hendrix had 22, including 15 solo.

Hendrix was first or second in tackles 11 times. He blocked three extra points. He put up 130 tackles even though he’s only 175 pounds.

“He got better each week,” Holman said. “Gosh, he’s improved. He’s always hawking the ball. He’s a smart guy, too. He’s got good football smarts and he really works hard to understand what’s happening. He’s one of those guys that’s going to get you on the ground. If he can get his hands on you, he’s going to get you on the ground.”

Hendrix has a calm demeanor. Put it this way: He does infinitely more than he says he’s going to do.   

“That philosophy of speak softly and carry a big stick, that’s Cody,” Holman said. “He doesn’t have a whole lot to say. He lets his pads do the talking.”

Boyle and Hendrix combined for 290 tackles, the most by a duo in 11 years (Rice and Buchanan teamed up for 300 in 2004).

Sophomore linebacker Kinston Whitener’s numbers jumped considerably at Scotland. He had 11 tackles and seven solo. Before that, his high for tackles was six, which he had against Hopewell and Parkland.

Also at Scotland, junior tackle Spencer Wilson  had six tackles and two team-high tackles for loss. Sophomore linebacker Broc Barnette and junior outside linebacker Jack Little had five tackles each. Sophomore lineman Jalen Redmond, senior safety Avery Williford, senior safety Caleb Wallace, senior cornerback Anthony Hunckler and senior linebacker Michael Rauen had four each. Junior cornerback Angel Perez and senior lineman Jarrell Farmer had three apiece.

Looking ahead to ‘16, things couldn’t be sunnier at linebacker. Boyle will be a senior, while Hendrix, Barnette and Whitener will be juniors.

“Kinston is another one of those great athletes that coach (Dave) Hunt has at linebacker,” Holman said. “He was able to step in and play with confidence.

“Thank goodness, we’ve got all those guys back. We’re fortunate to have a nucleus at linebacker spots where you don’t have to worry much about depth because you’ve got people that you can move in and out and know they’re capable of doing their assignments and getting people on the ground.”