Danville 10, Boyle County 7: Admirals’ kicker Nathan Hazlett hits game-winning field goal in 4th

Published 12:04 am Friday, September 1, 2017

Thursday night lights turned into Thursday night thrills at Admiral Stadium.

Danville beat Boyle County for the second-straight year in an epic 10-7 slugfest. Ads’ kicker Nathan Hazlett scored the game-winning field goal from 45 yards away with just 40 seconds left on the clock.

“It was a great football game,” Danville head coach Clay Clevenger said. “I thought both teams really competed, both defenses really did a number on the other offense. We were fortunate enough to make enough plays down the stretch to get the win.”

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Boyle County opened the scoring when Reed Lanter delivered a perfect strike to Reese Smith for a 28-yard score, four minutes into the second quarter.

The Rebels took a 7-0 lead into halftime.

Danville made its response in the third quarter, when Zach Thornton hit David Walker on a slant route. Walker broke tackles and weaved his way into the end zone from 37 yards out.

With the score tied at 7-7 entering the fourth quarter, it was Danville who made the plays at the end of the game to earn the win.

“It was a tough game, a well fought game,” Boyle head coach Chuck Smith said. “They found a way to win at the end. That’s the bottom line.”

Hazlett stepped up in a big-game situation, but it wasn’t the first time. Hazlett missed field-goal opportunities in the state championship last season.

“What was going through my head? State last year. Definitely,” Hazlett said. “I missed those field goals last year for my team. I thought I could turn it around last year but I wanted to really step up this year and I hit that one.”

Danville’s defense forced a fumble on the Rebels’ last drive of the game to ice it.

“I think our defense fought their butts off,” coach Smith said. “There at the end, we didn’t find a way to win. We had them on third and long on at least two or three occasions and they converted every time. They found a way to win and we didn’t at the end.”

The Admirals won the turnover battle, forcing three interceptions (two from David Walker) and the fumble at the end of the game. But Danville had turnover issues of its own, with running back Don Harris putting it on the deck three times for Boyle to recover.

“It’s funny, Jeffrey Guest, young man that’s in a wheelchair right now, he talked to our team yesterday,” Clevenger said. “He talked about his senior year, he fumbled four or five times, didn’t have a good game. Danville came down at the very end to bail him out. I think that is what these kids did for Don. Don is one of our emotional leaders. Obviously, he puts the ball on the ground a few times and we’ve got to fix that. But it’s a lot better that it didn’t cost us.”

Harris finished with 14 carries for 65 yards to lead Danville. D’Mauriae VanCleave had three rushes for 40 yards, and Thornton finished with 10 rushes for 42 yards.

Thornton was 13-of-26 through the air for 129 yards. Walker exploded for the first time this season, catching six catches for 66 yards and a score. He also had two interceptions. Jaleel Warren was next up with four catches for 38 yards.

Ads’ linebacker Ethan Downey helped slow Boyle’s momentum in the first half with a third-down interception on the Rebels’ post-scoring drive.

Clevenger said it was defense that carried on Thursday and defense will continue to carry the Ads this season.
“We’re going to have to hang our hat on defense, especially early in the year, till we get everything right,” the Ads’ coach said. “But I will say Zach Thornton made a lot of plays in the second half with his legs. We’re going to have to make the game ugly at times offensively and have broken plays, use our athletic ability to make plays.”

Neither offense could move the ball, and both offenses had turnovers on the goal line.

“We didn’t do very well at all on offense in my opinion,” coach Smith said. “We sputtered out, had a chance to score on the one or two yard line and didn’t get that done. You can’t do that in a championship-type game. I was a little disappointed in the production of the offense, but it is what it is.”

Coach Smith didn’t mince words when asked about this season compared to last. The scoreline may be an improvement, but he wants to see more from his team.

“We were a terrible team last year,” coach Smith said. “This year we’ve got guys who are playing hard, we just don’t know how to win. That’s the end of the day, the bottom line. We don’t know how to win, and we’ve got to learn how to do that because we’ve got some big games coming up. We’ve got Wayne County next week, they’re a top team in their class. Can’t feel sorry for yourself too long.”

Hazlett’s kick was the difference — and it could’ve been the difference earlier in the game. Danville missed a field goal in the first half while Hazlett was with the soccer team across town.

“He’s there at halftime, comes in and gets ready,” Clevenger said. “I was a little skeptical, but I thought we might as well give it a shot. I knew he had the leg, and he was able to come in there and bust it for us.”