Prep Football: Somerset provides a big challenge for Danville
Jawan Grey (8) and his Danville teammates will attempt to snap a five-game losing streak to Somerset on Friday when the Admirals play at Somerset in the Class AA, Region 4 championship game. (Clay Jackson / November 15, 2012)
The Danville coach readily acknowledges that the Admirals must play better than they did the first time they faced Somerset nearly six weeks ago. And he says they must correct and/or prevent the kinds of mistakes that nearly prevented this rematch.
But Harp said he believes those things will be within Danville’s control Friday when it faces Somerset in the Class AA, Region 4 final, and he doesn’t believe the Admirals have any kind of hang-up when it comes to playing the Briar Jumpers, a team no current Danville player has beaten.
“There shouldn’t be,” Harp said. “You don’t hear any of that discussion among any of our guys.”
A series with a history of more than a hundred years has been decidedly one-sided since the two rivals were placed in the same district in 2011.
Danville’s 2011 season ended with a second-round playoff loss at Somerset’s Clark Field, and the Jumpers have won all five meetings with the Admirals over the last four years, including this year’s regular-season game 24-7 at Admiral Stadium.
“When you’re at a small school, things seem to go in cycles. They’ve had a run of some pretty good athletes of late. Five years ago they wanted to drop us (from the schedule), but they’re back on track pretty good now,” Harp said. “We’ve just got to go down there and play.”
Somerset’s Oct. 5 win over Danville turned on a touchdown run early in the second quarter by quarterback Tanner Gadberry, who broke free for a 73-yard run on a quarterback sneak. Somerset kept the Admirals at bay by holding their offense to 126 yards, including just 25 rushing yards on 22 attempts.
“They’re solid, no question about it,” Harp said. “We’ve got to go out and play our game and stay off that roller-coaster.”
That game was the beginning of a six-game winning streak for Somerset, while Danville has won four of its subsequent five games, losing only to Frankfort in its regular-season finale.
The Admirals survived their second-round game at Prestonsburg last week despite a myriad of mistakes on offense. They overcame 12 penalties, three turnovers and zero pass completions in a 16-14 road win.
Harp said the Admirals can’t afford to make the same mistakes twice in as many weeks.
“We certainly can’t. Somerset’s too good a football team not to capitalize on our mistakes. We’ve got to take care of all the things we normally do when we play a good football team. The turnovers and mental errors are things we’ve got to eliminate.”
Somerset coasted through its second-round game, routing injury-riddled Lexington Christian 42-19 to reach its fourth consecutive regional final. The Jumpers rolled up 374 yards, and they had all 42 of their points on the board before LCA scored three times in the fourth quarter against reserves.
Somerset is averaging 290 yards and 25.5 points per game, while its defense is allowing 159 yards and just 11.2 points per game. No one has scored more than three touchdowns on the Jumpers this season, and they have held seven opponents to less than 10 points.
The Jumpers’ defensive leaders are defensive lineman Tevin Slaughter, who has a team-high 127 tackles and who played against LCA last week with a soft cast on his injured right hand, and linebacker Tyson Williams, who has 98 stops in his first year after transferring from McCreary Central.
Somerset continues to use two quarterbacks on offense. Gadberry has thrown for 835 yards, Castle Hatcher has thrown for 427 yards, and both have five touchdown passes. Leading receiver Cam Cheuvront has 43 catches — more than half of the team total — for 651 yards and six touchdowns, and Will Lange leads the Jumpers’ ground game with 784 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.
Danville’s offense is averaging 277 yards and 29.8 points, led by quarterback Devonta Alcorn with 934 passing yards and 546 rushing yards. Ace Ray has 22 receptions — just under half of the Admirals’ total — for 411 yards and five touchdowns, and leading rusher Jawan Grey has 561 yards and seven touchdowns.
Danville is largely healthy for Friday’s game, but the Admirals will be without one key player. Tight end-linebacker Jacobie Harris underwent an emergency appendectomy Tuesday that will force him to miss the game.
Harp said three players — Will Kirk, Nolan Spann and James Weaver — will replace Harris on offense, and he said his absence on defense leaves the Admirals with only four linebackers.
LCA’s Graham likes Admirals
Ray Graham acknowledges his bias toward Danville, but the Lexington Christian coach said he believes the Admirals’ string of losses to Somerset will end Friday.
Graham, a Danville graduate whose LCA team is in the same Class AA district as Danville and Somerset and was eliminated by the Briar Jumpers last week, said the Admirals must be convinced that they can win Friday’s Class AA, Region 4 final against a team that has beaten them five times over the last four seasons.
“It can be mental, but they’ve got to get past that. Danville has every reason in the world to believe they can go in there and win the game,” Graham said. “Number one, they have to be more proud of being a Danville Admiral than Somerset is of being a Briar Jumper,” Graham said. “You know who I have to pull for. I certainly want Danville to win the game. I think it’s Danville’s time.
He said Danville has an edge at running back and kicker and is sound at virtually every position, and he said Somerset’s line isn’t superior to Danville’s, even though it had the upper hand in their Oct. 5 meeting.
He said preventing Somerset’s offensive line from getting leverage and containing Castle Hatcher, the younger of the Jumpers’ two quarterbacks, are keys.
“On the two big plays he got against us (last week) he got outside our containment. He’s not tall, so you’ve got to pressure that pocket. You cannot let him outside,” Graham said. “And no quarterback sneaks. On the interior, you’ve got to make sure the gap is sound, and you can’t let them outleverage you when on defense.”