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Harris rushes for 301 yards as Danville beats Somerset

With a record-setting quarterback and a trio of electric receivers, it could be easy to overlook Danville running back Donlevy Harris. As the junior proved Friday against Somerset, that’s a tremendous mistake.

The Briar Jumpers loaded up to stop the Admirals potent passing attack, and while they were successful with that, Harris crushed them in a 25-7 district win, running for 301 yards on 24 carries with a pair of touchdowns.

It’s the most yards gained by a Danville back in at least three years, and it comes one week after Harris punished Campbellsville for 131 yards and two scores. That brings Harris’ two week total to 432 yards and four TDs, averaging 12.71 yards every time he takes a handoff.

“That’s what has to happen, they were playing man coverage and two or three guys over the top,” Danville coach Clay Clevenger said. “They were giving us some inside running lanes, so so we have to make sure the running game is clicking and be patient with it, too. With our ability to make big plays, we’ve got to make sure we know that when he’s running it like he is, we have to keep feeding him the rock.”

The Ads (6-1, 1-0) definitely needed Harris as Somerset played man-to-man with a safety over the top to limit their long passing game. Zach Dampier completed 12-of-21 passes for 96 yards and one score, an 18-yarder to David Walker in the fourth quarter.

It’s the lowest amount of yards he’s thrown for since going for 91 yards in a win over Somerset in 2014. But the quarterback doesn’t mind.

“Sometimes you wish you could throw the big plays, but when you see your friends completely dominate the game like that, it’s a lot of fun,” Dampier said. “They picked me up this week.”

The entire running game had to be revamped from last year with new starters at running back and the entire offensive line.

“You know that they’re young so you have to give them time to work out the growing pains,” Dampier said. “I think they’ve really come into their own at a perfect time, just in time for districts. I really like what they’re doing, the line is picking up great.”

After Danville started the game with a feeble three-and-out on their first possession, it took Harris one handoff on the second possession to put the Ads up, rumbling 62 yards for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead.

Danville fumbled on its 1-yard line on its next possession and then drove to the one on its next series. It took all four downs from inside the 10, but Dmauriae VanCleave cashed in with a 2-yard sweep to the right and a 13-0 lead in the second quarter.

The score held up until the first series of the second half when Somerset running back Jordan Doan woke up. He rushed for 38 yards on the first play of the half and ended the drive with a 24-yard TD run to get the Jumpers within 13-7.

From there, though, the Ads defense smothered the Jumpers. Somerset’s next two series were both three-and-outs, gaining negative-18 yards.

“I love seeing them be able to get the big stops because defense is what brings the energy when you can’t get those big plays (on offense),” Dampier said. “If you can get a sack, that’s where people get real excited, you see the linemen jumping around. Whenever the defense can have a great night, that’s a great sign for us.”

The Ads allowed 139 total yards and an average of 2.7 yards per play. They sacked Somerset’s Mason Reese four times in the second half.

“We came off practice over fall break and came out strong,” Danville outside linebacker Ethan Downey said. “Every day, at 9 o’clock in the morning, we went out and went hard.

“This was a more physical team and we had to push through everything.”

Entering the game, Clevenger called Doan the best the Ads had seen yet this year and maybe the best they’ll see all season. The stats backed him up — 87 rushes for 847 yards (9.7 per carry) and 11 TDs.

If that’s the case, the Ads aced this test, holding Doan to 84 yards on 16 carries. He had two rushes of 38 and 24 yards on the Jumpers first possession of the second half; 11 of his rushes went for five yards or less and four times he was held to no yards or a loss.

“We came out and were able to get a good push up front, our defensive line was able to control the line of scrimmage for the most part,” Clevenger said. “The back was slippery, we knew that. He’s got an explosive gear. We missed a few tackles on that, things we can improve upon, but I thought all in all, we attacked the ball pretty well.”

The Ads held onto their narrow lead until the fourth quarter, when Dampier and Walker hooked up on their score for a 19-7 lead and Harris ran in from two yards out for the final cushion.

It was exactly the start Danville was hoping for in its district schedule. It’s just not exactly how anyone saw it coming.

Follow Jeremy Schneider on Twitter @jschneideramn