Danville comes back from 14 points down to beat LCA

Published 1:47 pm Monday, October 23, 2017

LEXINGTON — Danville trailed the highest-scoring offense in the state by two scores early in Friday’s contest.

But no heads dropped on the Admirals’ sideline.

Danville knew it had big-play ability on its side and consistently used big plays to flip the game in the Admirals’ favor. Danville beat LCA 44-28 to take the top spot in 2A District 7 and an undefeated 10-0 record into the playoffs after a bye week next week.

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LCA led 21-7 early in the second quarter, but Danville head coach Clay Clevenger wasn’t worried. The Admirals have faced tough situations this season and he knew his playmakers would make plays.

“I think (our schedule) prepared us when we got down, because we’ve been down this year,” Clevenger said. “That was the message, we’ve just got to keep playing, keep being physical, keep flying to the football and just keep playing. That’s the message right there. They’re a great football team, they’ve got a lot of playmakers, and we do too. We were able to put points on the board quick, that’s the great thing about it. Once we started getting some stops, we were able to get some momentum offensively. It was big.”

LCA opted to receive the ball first and the Eagles took advantage, marching down the field while taking more than five minutes off of the clock. Dillon Wheatley scored from four yards out to give the hosts a 7-0 lead.

But big-play D’Mauriae VanCleave scored his first touchdown of the night on the Admirals’ first play from scrimmage: VanCleave moved in motion and quarterback Zach Thornton pump-faked to the flat and found a wide-open VanCleave in the middle of the field for a 67-yard touchdown to tie the game.

LCA scored on its next drive, a 29-yard pass from Logan Nieves to Dearious Smith, to take a 14-7 lead into the second quarter.

The Eagles were the team to strike first in the second frame, a one-yard sneak from Nieves.

With nine minutes left in the first half, Danville’s offense didn’t have much time with the ball and the defense was struggling to stop LCA’s quick-hitting offense.

“We knew that we had to come in prepared,” VanCleave said. “They’re a very good team, probably the best team that we’ve played all year. We knew that we had to go hard in practice and play every team coming up to this like it was LCA.”

Tanner Ford would intercept a pass on LCA’s next drive, ending the Eagles’ momentum for the half. Don Harris scored a 58-yard touchdown — on 4th down and 2 — to put Danville within one score.

The Danville defense would again stop LCA before halftime, and seconds were all that the Admirals’ offense needed. Zach Thornton hit VanCleave on a quick-hitter and VanCleave did the rest, running 58 yards for a touchdown, just 18 seconds before halftime.

“Their tempo, we know they play extremely, extremely fast, that kind of got us back on our heels there in the first quarter,” Clevenger said. “I think once we settled in, we did OK. Obviously we got some big plays there from our offense, kind of got our juice flowing. Being able to tie it up right there before halftime, I think that was really big.”

Danville had all the momentum at halftime: 14 unanswered points and the ball to start the second half.

The Admirals used all of that, scoring on the opening drive of the third quarter. Thornton tiptoed the Eagles’ sideline for a 28-yard score to give his team its first lead of the game, 28-21.

Wheatley would score to make the game 28-28, but the Admirals’ offense fed the intensity on the other side of the ball.

Clevenger said the work that his team put in off of the field showed in the second half.

“That’s what I told our kids at halftime. It’s 6 a.m. in January, it’s 6 a.m. in February, that’s what you’re building yourself for,” he said. “We put a lot of pride in our weight program and our conditioning program. We wanted to be there, be ready to go in the second half and I feel like we were. It’s one of those games, now we’re 0-0 at this point. The next games are our most important games of the year and we’ve got to come in and we’ve got to keep working.”

Jaleel Warren would take control for the next score: He had two stellar catches to extend the drive, a pass interference call that would’ve given him a touchdown and then received a touchdown pass from Thornton from 14 yards away. The Admirals had a 34-28 lead entering the fourth quarter.

“The whole week, we watched film on them to see where we could get through on their defense,” Danville lineman Christian Hill said. “Our main focus was to get out and find those open spots on the field to get our players space to score. That’s what we did.”

Hill and the front seven started to wreak havoc in the LCA backfield as the game progressed. Once Danville took the lead, LCA’s up-tempo offense started to misfire — in part due to Hill and his teammates. Big hits from Don Harris and Darrian Bell meant the middle of the field was out of the question for LCA’s short passing game.  

“Our coaches started giving us keys on their offensive line, that made it easier for us in the second half to split their O-Line and make plays in the backfield,” Hill said.

VanCleave and Thornton would pair up again — this time from 63 yards — to put the game away for the Admirals.

VanCleave finished with eight catches for 206 yards and three scores. Thornton was 14-for-21 with 279 passing yards and seven runs for 51 yards.

Nathan Hazlett would kick a 25-yard field goal with 2:22 remaining to get the Admirals to 44 points.

With the win, Danville will have home field advantage early in the playoffs — which includes a potential rematch with LCA.

“It’s great as long as you win. That’s the thing, at this point it’s sudden death,” Clevenger said. “Everybody’s 0-0. We’ve got to come in, we’ve got an open week and I’ve been sitting here all year wanting one. We’ve finally got it and I think it comes at a good time for us. As long as we don’t get too happy and feel like we’ve arrived, I feel like we can keep getting better.”

Hill said he and his teammates know that 10-0 doesn’t mean as much as 15-0.

“We’ve just got to keep pushing,” Hill said. “We’ve had a good run so far, we’ve just got to keep going and keep the pedal down.”

VanCleave agreed.

“We’re undefeated, at 10-0, but that doesn’t mean we have to sit back,” he said. “We have to keep pushing, just like we’re 0-0. It doesn’t really matter, we just have to keep going game by game and keep pushing.”


At Lexington

Danville    7    14    13    10 –     44

Lex. Christian    14    7    7    0 –     28

First Quarter

LCA – Dillon Wheatley 4 run (Tyler Dobbs kick), 6:40.

Danville – D’Mauriae VanCleave 67 pass from Zach Thornton (Nathan Hazlett kick),6:31.

LCA – Dearious Smith 29 pass from Logan Nieves (Dobbs kick), 2:09.

Second Quarter

LCA – Nieves 1 run (Dobbs kick),

Danville – Don Harris 58 run (Hazlett kick), 2:46.

Danville – VanCleave 58 pass from Thornton (Hazlett kick), :18.

Third Quarter

Danville – Thornton 28 run (Hazlett kick), 9:41.

LCA – Wheatley 5 run (Dobbs kick), 6:16.

Danville – Jaleel Warren 14 pass from Thornton (kick blocked), 1:05.

Fourth Quarter

Danville – VanCleave 63 pass from Thornton (Hazlett kick), 9:54.

Danville – Hazlett 25 FG, 2:22.

D    LCA

First downs    14    22

Rush-Yards    22-178        48-206

Passing Yds    279    270

Total Yards    457    476

Comp-Att-Int    14-21-0    24-35-1

Fumbles-Lost    0-0    1-0

Penalties-Yds    6-35    7-54

RUSHING – Danville, Don Harris 10-96, D’Mauriae VanCleave 5-31, Zach Thornton 7-51.  LCA, Dillion Wheatley 7-98, Logan Nieves 20-99, Drayden Burton 1-9.

PASSING – Danville, Thornton 14-21-0-279. LCA, Nieves 24-35-1-254.

RECEIVING – Danville, VanCleave 8-206, David Walker 2-25, Jaleel Warren 4-48, LCA, Drayden Burton 5-71, Caelin Lebryk 8-99 , Dearious Smith 3-49, Blane Hardin 4-41, Wheatley 3-10.