Admirals adapt but fall just short at Tates Creek
By JOE MATHIS
LEXINGTON — With 7:13 to play in the first half in their game against Tates Creek Friday, the Danville coaches faced a dilemma.
Danville quarterback Zach Thornton had just been taken out of the game due to an injury and the Admirals faced a third down and six from the Tates Creek 11 yard line.
Trailing 10-6 and needing a touchdown to take the lead, freshman quarterback Brady Morse entered the game to lead the Admirals’ offense.
“Looking back at it in retrospect, I think we were probably more nervous as coaches than Brady was as a player,” Danville offensive coordinator Kyle Singleton said.
Singleton kept the play call simple: A jet sweep to Danville wide receiver Brennen McGuire. Morse took the snap, tossed it up to McGuire, who found room on the left side of the offensive line and scampered in for a touchdown.
Morse’s first high school pass was also his first high school touchdown pass.
From that point forward, Danville’s game plan became simpler.
“Obviously (Thornton’s injury) changes things for you,” Danville head coach Clay Clevenger said. “It’s one of those situations where you just got to go with what you feel like your strengths are and that changes at that point. But you just have to adapt and go.”
The Admirals adapted.
The following drive after Morse’s touchdown toss, Tates Creek responded with a five play, 73 yard drive to retake the lead 17-12.
That’s when Danville marched down the field on an eight play, 66 yard drive that included two passes and six runs to get Danville into field goal range.
Nathan Hazlett’s 21-yard field goal, despite being blocked by a charging Commodore defender, sailed through the uprights to cut the Tates Creek lead to 17-15 at the half.
It was more offense answering offense in the second half.
Tates Creek began the second half with an eight play, 79 yard drive as quarterback Luke Duby found MiKaleb Coffey in the endzone for a touchdown, then one play later, hit Keshawn Herron for a two-point conversion to make it 25-15 Tates Creek.
But, again, with their starting quarterback out, the Admirals remained methodical on offense.
“You’ve just got to stay patient,” Singleton said. “I think with our group of skill set this year we are probably a little better off being patient, taking the four or five yard gain and sticking with the run game and just trying to grind out the football game a little bit more than we have in the past.”
Danville did just that on its next drive.
After a McGuire kick return was taken to the Tates Creek 46 yard line, Danville faced a first and 15 after a false start penalty backed them up five yards.
Morse and the Admirals, however, didn’t panic.
Isaiah Miller side-stepped Commodore defenders then cut down the left side to the endzone to, again, answer a Tates Creek touchdown after a methodical drive.
“We can improve but I thought the offensive line did a goob job opening holes for Brennen (McGuire), Warren (Griffin) and Isaiah Miller,” Clevenger said. “They we’re blitzing heavy, especially when Zach (Thornton) went down and they caught us some and got us behind the chains but staying with the gameplan, running the ball and then when we had the opportunities to throw it.”
In the theme of the game, Tates Creek would answer back with a Duby quarterback sneak from one yard out — his third of the night — and the Commodores took a 32-22 lead going into the fourth quarter.
After playing a game of field position, McGuire fielded a punt at the 40 and took it 39 yards before being pushed out of bounds at the one-yard line.
“He’s been making plays for us. He has good speed and so he gives us that ability,” Clevenger said. “If he gets a step he’s going to have a big play.”
Unfortunately, Danville lost four yards on three plays, settling for another short Hazlett field goal to make it 32-25 with 5:43 left.
Tates Creek left the door open for Danville, though. The Commodores drove down the field on the ensuing possession but with just over 1:30 left, missed a short field goal to give Danville the ball at the 20 yard line with no timeouts, down 32-25.
The Ads called on Miller for a five yard gain, then a four yard catch to make it third and one. Miller took another handoff on third and one to just cross the chains for a Danville first down and momentarily stop the clock with 50.7 seconds left.
That’s when Morse heaved a pass to the far side that was batted up in the air by two Commodore defenders and caught by Damon Jackson, who took it down to the Tates Creek 42 yard line for a 28 yard gain.
“We threw the ball up there and got a good bounce,” Clevenger said.
The freshman Morse would then hurry his team back to the line of scrimmage, snap the ball, then find Jackson again, who ran underneath the deep Tates Creek coverage for 15 more yards to take the ball to the Commodore 27 yard line.
A Danville false start would back the ball up to the 33 yard line and with just over five seconds left, the Ads had one more heave to the endzone.
Morse took the snap and fired it into the right corner of the end zone, where the ball was batted in the air by a Tates Creek defender and hit the ground just out of reach of a Danville receiver, ending the game with a 32-25 Tates Creek victory.
“I thought we executed about as well as you can with a freshman quarterback who’s never done a two minute drill, really even in practice,” Clevenger said. “He came up there, took the snap, clocked it for us. Just a lot of little things like that that he hadn’t got a lot of work doing. You gave yourself a chance at a play in the endzone and a play that we have our hands on the ball with a chance to catch it.”
Clevenger’s offensive coordinator agrees.
“To step in and do the things we asked him to do, executing the little things, doing the fundamentals, those type of things,” Singleton said. “He did all the things a quarterback’s got to do to be great and he showed all those things. He showed a lot of moxie as a freshman to step up and do that.”
Danville finishes the non-district part of their schedule with a 3-4 record but now attention turns to the most important three games of the regular season starting with district rival Somerset.
Clevenger says as long as the Admirals focus on themselves, they’ll be fine.
“I think we just have to play our game. I don’t think we’ve really played good football the last few weeks,” Clevenger said. “I don’t know if I have a finger on why but we just have to get back to playing fast and playing physical and playing with a little bit on confidence. We’ll see how it goes.”
Danville and Somerset kick off Friday at 7:30 at Admiral Stadium.
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