Prep Football: Danville coach hopes open date helps Admirals in showdown with Somerset
Ray Bradshaw (32) of Danville carries the ball during a game against Corbin last month. The Admirals host Somerset in their district opener Friday. (Clay Jackson / October 4, 2012)
The Admirals are just over halfway through their regular-season schedule and facing their biggest game to date Friday against Somerset, and their coach said he thinks they could benefit from the down time they had last week.
While Somerset was slogging through the mud toward a loss last week, Danville was taking advantage of the one and only empty space on its schedule to rest and retool in advance of this critical district game at Admiral Stadium.
“Sometimes having a week off, I think, can work against you. I’ve felt like it has probably done that to us before, but this year we really needed this week off to try to heal up as much as we can,” Harp said.
Harp said the Admirals (5-1) need all the healthy bodies they can muster to battle the Briar Jumpers (4-2), who have won three straight district titles, including the first in the current configuration of Class AA, District 7 last season.
“We’re going to face a very strong opponent this week, and hopefully we’re going to be ready to handle it,” he said.
Harp said the Admirals have not always played their best games after open dates, but he has said since the preseason that this team’s focus is sharper, and he hopes the players will prove him right Friday at Admiral Stadium.
“You can kind of somewhat lose your momentum, and that’s what you’ve got to battle,” he said. “Our focus has been good in practice the first two days this week, and I think our kids have approached it that way.
“But we also know Somerset is a very good football team, they’ve got a good coaching staff, and they’ll be well-prepared when they come in here to play.”
This is the district opener for both teams, and it pairs the teams that finished 1-2 last season and that have stood out in non-district play this season. Danville is ranked No. 2 in Class AA; Somerset, which beat the Admirals in both the regular season and playoffs last year, is No. 3. (A third team from the district, Lexington Christian, is No. 6.)
The Jumpers have lost two of their last three games to larger schools, Breathitt County and Whitley County. They gave up a combined 38 points in those two games, but they have allowed only 55 all season.
“Defensively, it’s going to be the best football team that we’ve seen, bar none,” Harp said.
The Somerset defense features several stars, starting with senior Tevin Slaughter, a 6-2, 235-pound defensive tackle whom Harp said could play anywhere from nose guard to defensive end to linebacker.
“He’s a tough, very strong, physical football player,” Harp said.
Harp also has unpleaseant memories of nose guard Bridge Smith (6-2, 235) from last season.
“He was a terror last year, and his motor doesn’t quit,” Harp said.
Other standouts include senior linebacker-tight end Tyson Williams (6-5, 240), a transfer from McCreary Central, junior linebacker Bryson Jones (6-0, 170) and junior defensive tackle Kagen Skidmore (6-2, 250).
Danville’s defense is allowing just 15.7 points per game, and Harp said he expects a low-scoring game.
“I anticipate it to be that way. In this kind of game, the team that makes the fewest mistakes has the best opportunity to come out on top,” he said.
Playing on a sloppy field, Somerset managed only 132 yards last week in their 14-7 loss to Whitley, and the Jumpers have scored more than 20 points only once this season. But Harp said they have weapons, including one who didn’t play last week.
Junior tailback Will Lange sat out after suffering a concussion, but Harp said he expects Lange to return Friday.
Slaughter also frequently carries the ball from the fullback position, and junior quarterback Tanner Gadberry is a threat to run as well.
“He’s done a good job directing their offense. He throws the ball well and he also runs well, and the quarterback runs a lot in their offense,” Harp said.
Harp said the Jumpers also have a go-to wide receiver in junior Cam Cheuvront, who has assumed the playmaking role Storm Wilson filled for the last two years.
While Somerset is averaging 20.8 points per game, Danville is averaging 31.2 behind quarterback Devonta Alcorn, who has thrown for 570 yards and six touchdowns and run for a team-high 406 yards and seven TDs.
Danville won’t have one of its top linemen, senior J.K. Howard, this week or in the weeks to come. Howard was hurt two weeks ago in their game at Green County, injuring the same left hand he broke in the preseason, and Harp said he thinks Howard will miss about four weeks and hopes to have him back for the postseason.
Harp said another injured player, tight end Akeem Ray, is recovering from a knee injury but could play Friday, and he said the other Admirals who have been banged up will be on the field.
Somerset has its share of banged-up players as well, but Harp said he expects them to be much closer to their best this week.
“They had some other guys banged up, too, and I think they didn’t play them for fear of not having them ready to go this week,” he said. “And it wouldn’t surprise me if they weren’t looking ahead anyway.”