After watching Somerset beat his team for a fifth straight time in dominating fashion, Danville coach Sam Harp chose his words carefully.
The Admirals lost 24-7 to the Briar Jumpers on Friday at Admiral Stadium in a one-sided battle between district rivals ranked second and third in Class AA.
“We are better than we showed, but now we have to prove it,” Harp said. “They made us look bad, but we also kind of aided that. We have a good football team when we play on all cylinders, which we didn’t do tonight. I’ll take the blame for that. Obviously I did not do a good job preparing our players.”
Somerset had an emotional on-field celebration after the game because two starters — Jacobi Gilmore and Will Hinton — were seriously injured Thursday in an automobile accident after practice. However, Harp noted that his team also had a tumultuous week, as two coaches lost family members, the parent of another staff member suffered two heart attacks and one player’s grandmother is seriously ill.
“We had a lot of adversity, but so did they,” Harp said. “It was just an emotional week for both teams and obviously they handled it better than we did.”
No. 3 Somerset (5-2, 1-0 Class AA, District 7) racked up 328 total yards and dominated the time of possession. No. 2 Danville (5-2, 0-1) had just 126 total yards, including only 25 yards on 22 rushing plays. Danville’s leading rusher had only seven yards in the game.
“Somerset controlled the line of scrimmage,” Harp said. “If you can’t win the wars up front, it’s tough to win the wars other places. I am not at the point where I want to pour salt in the wounds, but we know how we played and performed.”
Somerset’s dominance was apparent early. The Briar Jumpers drove 79 yards in 10 plays and used almost 6 minutes on their first series to score on quarterback Tanner Gadberry’s 1-yard run with 1 minute, 47 seconds left in period one.
The game’s key play, though, came early in the second quarter when Gadberry broke free for a 73-yard scoring run on a quarterback sneak. He came through the line untouched and easily outran Danville defenders to the end zone to give the Jumpers a 14-0 lead.
“That was shades of last year, when they scored their first touchdown the same way,” Harp said. “I was not that alarmed over their first touchdown because we have started slow and been behind most games this year. When I did get alarmed is when they scored on the quarterback sneak. But there’s no need for me to berate the kids. They feel bad enough.”
The Admirals got just two first downs in the first half and had only 12 yards of total offense. The defense also cracked again on Somerset’s final first-half possession, when it let the Jumpers drive 64 yards to set up a 33-yard field goal by Dobbs with just 3 seconds left in the second quarter.
Danville’s defense did make two stops deep in its own territory in the third quarter to keep the game close.
On fourth-and-24 from the 30, the Admirals gave up a 20-yard completion but got the ball at the 10-yard line. However, on the first play Ray Bradshaw had the ball stripped and Somerset took over at the 7-yard line. But a fourth-down tackle by linebacker Olyjawan Ford on Will Lange, who had 115 yards rushing, kept the Jumpers out of the end zone.
“We played a much better second half,” Harp said. “I thought Ford stepped up and started to play like a linebacker can. I thought Jacobie Harris gave everything he had. I thought (quarterback) Devonta Alcorn was courageous with his play. But the highlight was Damir Karapandzic’s punting and kicking. How many high school kickers have put 100 percent of their kickoffs from the 40(-yard line) in or out of the end zone?”
Danville finally scored when Alcorn, who was 6 for 14 passing for 101 yards, avoided a rush and hit a wide-open Grey over the middle and Grey outran the defense to score. But after a failed onside kick, Somerset countered with a seven-play, 49-yard drive capped by Lange’s 36-yard scoring jaunt around the end, where he avoided one tackle and then sprinted to the end zone.
The Admirals lost the battle that might well decide the district title, but Harp said there are battles left to fight.
“This does not mean our season is over,” Harp said. “It’s a tough loss. We had a chance to control our destiny in the playoffs and have home-field advantage as long as we were playing. What we have to do is learn from this loss. We have to correct our mistakes and figure out some things to do against them a lot better.
“If we take care of business, we could get another chance to play them in the playoffs. They are a very good team. Give them credit. They could win the state championship with the talent and players they have. But we are still a good team, and I am not giving up on the season, and I don’t want our players giving up.”
Somerset 7 10 0 7 — 24
Danville 0 0 0 7 — 7
Somerset — Tanner Gadberry 1 run (Chandler Dobbs kick), 1:47
Somerset — Gadberry 73 run (Dobbs kick), 11:06
Somerset — Dobbs 33 field goal, 3.3
Danville — Jawan Grey 53 pass from Devonta Alcorn (Damir Karapandzic kick), 6:09
Somerset — Will Lange 36 run (Dobbs kick), 2:08
First downs 14 5
Rushes-yards 44-234 22-25
Passing 94 101
Total Net Yards 328 126
Comp-Att-Int 4-6-0 6-14-0
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 1-1
Penalties-Yards 2-10 4-31
RUSHING—Somserset, Will Lange 31-115, Tanner Gadberry 7-87, Castle Hatcher 1-2, Tevin Slaughter 1-33, Tyson Williams 1-0, Team 3-mnus 3. Danville, Jawan Grey 4-0, Devonta Alcorn 9-7, Damani Delrosario 1-minus 5, Tyquan Matthews 2-7, Olyjawan Ford 2-7, Jadarius Brown 2-2, Ray Bradshaw 1-3, Damir Karapandzic 1-4.
PASSING—Somerset, Gadberry 4-6-94-0. Danville, Devonta Alcorn 6-14-101-0.
RECEIVING—Somerset, Cam Cheuvront 3-49, Lange 1-45. Danville, Ace Ray 2-13, Jacobie Harris 1-14, Grey 1-53, Akeem Ray 1-25, Josh Singleton 1-minus 4.