STANFORD - Disappointed, but not discouraged.
That was an apt description of how Sam Harp felt Friday night following Danville’s season opener, and that was also the mood he tried to project to his players after the Admirals fell to Simon Kenton 12-7 in the PBK Bank Death Valley Bowl at Lincoln County.
For while the Danville coach wasn’t thrilled with some of the things the Admirals did and some of the things their opponents did to them, he said the way they played will serve them well in the weeks to come. Danville went toe to toe with the largest school it has played in four years, succumbing only after a string of turnovers snuffed out every one of the Admirals’ scoring chances in the second half.
“We had three turnovers to their one, so we’re minus-two in the turnover category. We had some mental errors, some usual first game-type stuff, but I’m proud of the fact our kids battled the whole way, they fought hard and our conditioning held up, honestly, better than I expected it to,” Harp said.
With a standing army of some 90 players in uniform, Simon Kenton outnumbered Danville by about 2-to-1 on the rosters. The Admirals appeared to show signs of fatigue in the second and third quarters, but they fought on to give themselves three chances to take the lead in the fourth period.
“They kept fighting the whole time, and even there at the end. We always try to get across you fight to the end no matter what ... and we still had a chance right there on that very last (play) at the end,” Harp said.
By then, however, the damage had been done. Simon Kenton intercepted two passes in the red zone and recovered a fumble just outside it to preserve its second straight Death Valley Bowl win. That win was all but sealed with the second interception of the night by the Pioneers’ Chase Wilson, who picked off a Devonta Alcorn third-down pass at the 15-yard line and returned it to near midfield with 48 seconds remaining.
Wilson, who was named Simon Kenton’s most valuable player, also intercepted a third-down pass at the Pioneers’ 16 to end Danville’s first possession of the second half and set the stage for the scoring drive that gave Simon Kenton the lead.
“He was a sophomore wideout last year for us, and it seemed like last year none of our secondary guys could catch, so we decided to buy into the two-platoon system, and that paid dividends for us tonight. And he still gets to catch the ball (on defense),” Simon Kenton coach Jeff Marksberry said.
Harp said the two interceptions were as much his fault as the quarterback’s.
“The first one was just thrown a little late, and to Devonta’s credit, when you’re running left and you’re right-handed, that didn’t put him in the greatest position to make that (throw). And I didn’t do a good job in some areas on our protection schemes with those outside blitzes that we were getting from them. We knew they were going to bring the blitz, but we just need to work that a little bit more,” Harp said.
Danville’s Ace Ray returned the second-half kickoff 39 yards to midfield, and the Admirals drove to the 34 before their first turnover. Simon Kenton took over at its own 26 and scored on a 10-play drive in which quarterback Brennan Kuntz went 5-for-5 and threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jared Bowling, who made a diving catch at the goal line, for the go-ahead score.
Kuntz was the biggest source of offense in this defensive game, going 13 for 24 for 166 yards and rushing a game-high 16 times for another 39 yards.
Olyjawan Ford fumbled and Bowling recovered on the second play of the fourth quarter to end Danville’s next series at the Simon Kenton 21. The Admirals got the ball back at their own 33 with 7:33 to play, narrowly converted on fourth down at the Pioneers’ 45 when Alcorn ran for a yard and a half and got as far as the 29 before the second interception.
Harp used his timeouts in an attempt to get the ball back, and the Admirals took possession at the Simon Kenton 36 with :01 on the clock after a short punt. Alcorn threw for the end zone, but Wilson knocked the ball down near the goal line.
Alcorn was 3-for-8 for 52 yards, and he rushed 15 times for 40 yards. Jawan Grey, the Danville MVP, ran 13 times for 100 yards and scored the Admirals’ only touchdown on a 39-yard run late in the second quarter, capping a nine-play, 98-yard drive.
Simon Kenton answered quickly, driving 80 yards in 1:59 to score on Andrew Sampson’s 2-yard run with 27 seconds left in the first half, but Danville maintained a one-point lead after the Pioneers missed the extra point.
Harp said the Admirals had the look of “a deer in a headlights” at times and played out of control at times.
“Playing as hard as our guys played, they also have to learn to play under control at times, and we had some guys playing not in control. They were playing extremely hard; we were just not in control,” he said.
But he said the mistakes are correctable, and the effort Danville displayed is a good sign.
“I think we’ve got a good football team. I think we’re going to get a lot better from here,” Harp said. “We played a good football team tonight.”
Simon Kenton 0 6 6 0 — 12
Danville 0 7 0 0 — 7
Danville — Jawan Grey 39 run (Damir Karapandzic kick), 2:26.
Simon Kenton — Andrew Sampson 2 run (kick failed), :27.
Simon Kenton — Jared Bowling 5 pass from Brennan Kuntz (pass failed), 4:39.
First downs 15 15
Rushes-yards 32-95 39-172
Passing 166 53
Total Net Yards 261 225
Comp-Att-Int 13-24-1 3-8-2
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 2-1
Penalties-Yards 8-55 10-61
RUSHING—Simon Kenton, Andrew Sampson 13-61, Brennan Kuntz 16-39, Jared Bowling 2-2, team 1-minus 5. Danville, Jawan Grey 13-100, Devonta Alcorn 15-40, Damani Del Rosario 3-15, Ray Bradshaw 3-14, Olyjawan Ford 5-3.
PASSING—Simon Kenton, Kuntz 13-24-1-166. Danville, Alcorn 3-8-2-53.
RECEIVING—Simon Kenton, Sampson 4-57, Lars McEntyre 4-53, Grant Wassom 4-51, Bowling 1-5. Danville, Ace Ray 2-33, Akeem Ray 1-20.