If it hadn’t been for Jawan Grey’s big play, it might not have been Danville’s day.
If it hadn’t been for Ace Ray’s big play, Grey might never have gotten the chance to be the hero.
And if it hadn’t been for a myriad of little plays in between, those two big plays probably wouldn’t have mattered at all.
A game-winning touchdown run by Grey and what might have been a game-saving forced fumble by Ray will long be remembered as the biggest plays in Danville’s 28-21 victory over Boyle on Friday night at Rebel Stadium.
But so much happened in the 90 minutes or so between those plays to make the 52nd meeting between these rivals one of the series’ most memorable games — especially for the Admirals, none of whom had ever celebrated a win over Boyle.
“We had to get revenge on them,” Grey said. “They’ve been beating us, blowing us out, for the last four years, so we knew we had to get revenge on them.”
Grey’s 74-yard touchdown run with 1 minute, 4 seconds to play gave Danville (2-1) its first win over Boyle (1-2) in five seasons, but only after the Admirals erased a halftime deficit, built a 21-6 lead, then saw Boyle score twice in 61 seconds to tie the game with 1:26 remaining.
In a game of massive momentum swings, Danville coach Sam Harp said the Admirals won because they rolled with the changes rather than riding the waves of emotion as he said they have done against Boyle in recent years.
“We’ve been preaching to them for the longest time, all this year and especially this week, that we’ve got to learn to play on an even keel all the time and be business-like all the time,” Harp said. “You can’t play too high when things go well, and you can’t play low when things don’t go well. You can’t be on that emotional roller coaster. I think they stayed on track with what we wanted to do.”
Harp said the Danville coaches repeatedly reinforced their message with a simple gesture, the sign of a hand moving forward at a level plane.
“We kept doing that all throughout the game, I kept going like just this, ‘Stay right here, stay right here,’” Harp said, making the gesture, “and I saw them out on the field and over here on the sideline doing the same thing to each other. It makes you feel good that the message got across. Now, this win does not mean anything if we don’t build on it ... and that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Grey said the Admirals kept their heads even as Boyle was wiping out their 15-point lead, and they got the lead back only 22 seconds after the Rebels tied the game when he broke free on an option play, escaped one last defender near the 40-yard line and raced to the end zone.
“I just saw the hole, started sprinting, made a few cuts and it was off to the races,” said Grey, who ran for a game-high 115 yards and scored twice. “I really thought there was somebody on my tail the whole time, so I was just going to sprint out the whole way.”
It was a stunning turn of events for Boyle, which seemed to have all the momentum after its two quick scores.
“We executed well, and they come right out and run the option on us, and we don’t even attempt to tackle,” Boyle coach Larry French said.
That was only one of the things that rankled French about the way the Rebels played. Topping the list were turnovers (four to Danville’s one) and penalties (10, including seven in the second half).
“The difference in the ballgame was turnovers and penalties. You look at those two stats right there and you can tell who’s going to win the football game, and we had a bunch of them,” French said. “We stopped ourselves a lot of times by not blocking the right person or turning the ball over or getting stupid penalties.”
The biggest turnover might have been Boyle’s first, which came in the last 2 minutes of the first half. The Rebels led 6-0 and were in the red zone when Danville’s Ray stripped the ball from Boyle receiver Lloyd Hall at the Admirals’ 11-yard line, picked it up and returned it 53 yards to end the scoring threat.
“I could see the ball, so I grabbed it, just popped it out and just ran from there,” Ray said. “I did that and I think the momentum shifted back our way, and football’s a game of momentum, so that was a big play.”
The game changed in the third quarter when Danville started running the ball at will. Four players ran for 35 yards in a 10-play, 70-yard scoring drive capped by Devonta Alcorn’s 26-yard pass to Grey, and after Boyle went three-and-out, five players accounted for all of the yardage in a 10-play, 59-yard drive capped by Ray Bradshaw’s 11-yard touchdown run.
The Admirals had 183 of their 242 rushing yards in the second half.
“In the first half, we saw glimpses of being able to do that. I felt like what we were doing was there, we just had to keep coming back to it,” Harp said.
The Admirals added to their 14-6 lead four plays after Jadarious Brown recovered a fumble by Boyle quarterback Casey Whittle that bounced and was booted 21 yards behind the line of scrimmage to the Boyle 18, but they could not capitalize on Brown’s interception of a Whittle pass on the first play following Alcorn’s 2-yard touchdown run, and they went three-and-out on their next series.
Boyle took over at the Danville 47 with 3:34 to play, and Whittle completed five of seven passes to get the Rebels into the end zone, including a 1-yard scoring pass to Blake Mason with 2:27 left.
They got the ball right back when Zack Coffey recovered an onside kick at the Danville 45. Whittle and Hall hooked up on a 30-yard pass play, Hall scored two plays later on a 12-yard run and Whittle threw to Clint Hellyer for a two-point conversion that tied the game.
“We fought back, made some plays, and you can’t deny them that. We threw the ball well, caught the football in those two drives,” French said.
After Grey answered for Danville, Boyle got the ball back at its own 35 after a 25-yard kickoff return by Seph Burke, but Whittle’s next pass was intercepted by Damani Del Rosario, allowing the Admirals to run out the clock.
Whittle completed seven of 14 passes in the fourth quarter and finished 9 for 22 for 113 yards, and he also ran for Boyle’s first score. Hall ran for 78 yards and Burke had 74 for the Rebels.
Alcorn went 5 for 11 for 54 yards with one interception and rushed for 37 yards for Danville, which outgained Boyle by 8 yards. Bradshaw rushed for 40 yards.
Danville 0 0 14 14 — 28
Boyle County 6 0 0 15 — 21
Boyle — Casey Whittle 5 run (kick failed), 4:41.
Danville — Jawan Grey 26 pass from Devonta Alcorn (Damir Karapandzic kick), 6:30.
Danville — Ray Bradshaw 11 run (Karapandzic kick), :06.
Danville — Alcorn 2 run (Karapandzic kick), 8:34.
Boyle — Blake Mason 1 pass from Whittle (William Harris kick), 2:27.
Boyle — Lloyd Hall 12 run (Harris kick), 1:26.
Danville — Grey 74 run (Karapandzic kick), 1:04.
First downs 13 17
Rushes-yards 41-242 32-175
Passing 54 113
Total Net Yards 296 288
Comp-Att-Int 5-11-1 9-23-2
Fumbles-Lost 3-0 2-2
Penalties-Yards 12-79 10-89
RUSHING—Danville, Jawan Grey 12-115, Ray Bradshaw 9-40, Devonta Alcorn 12-37, Damani Del Rosario 2-30, Jadarious Brown 4-12, Tyquan Matthews 1-6, Olyjawan Ford 1-2. Boyle, Lloyd Hall 9-78, Seph Burke 14-74, Kyle Kephart 3-13, Aiden Hoskins 2-11, Austin Muntz 1-1, Blake Mason 1-0, Casey Whittle 2-minus 2.
PASSING—Danville, Alcorn 5-11-1-54. Boyle, Whittle 9-22-2-113, Josiah Robbins 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—Danville, Grey 2-28, Jacobie Harris 1-11, Nolan Spann 1-9, Ace Ray 1-6. Boyle, Hall 3-45, Mason 3-37, Clint Hellyer 3-31.