Danville faces tough challenge in season finale
Published 7:27 pm Thursday, October 24, 2019
Coming off of a big district win last week against Washington County on senior night, Danville is looking to score a second district win and have a chance at a home playoff game in their last game of the year.
Standing in the way of that is the top ranked team in Class 2A in the state — Lexington Christian Academy.
“They’re a good football team and we always have trouble with them,” senior Eli Tibbles said. “They’re just a tough team.”
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LCA enters the week having dethroned the previous 2A top dog in Somerset, who got the better of Danville in their meeting two weeks ago. Their record of 7-1 is only blemished by a 39-20 loss to 3A No. 2 Belfry earlier in the year.
For the Eagles, the path to a victory starts on the offensive side of the ball their three-headed monster. Quarterback Jayden Barnhardt has thrown for just under 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns and has added 453 yards and eight scores with his legs. Sophomore running back Xavier Brown has gained 578 rushing yards and 371 receiving yards and 13 total touchdowns. Senior receiver Dearious Smith has been Barnhardt’s top target all year long and has accumulated 1,053 yards and 10 scores.
“They’re always one of the tougher offenses to prepare for because they like to do a lot of different things formationly but run a lot of the same plays out of it. It gives you a lot to prepare for,” Danville coach Clay Clevenger said. “The quarterback does a good job running the football. #20 is a young man who’s a good receiver and running back. They’ll move him around quite a bit. Throwing the football, #6 has over 1,000 yards receiving already this year. He’s a young man they obviously try to target and get the ball to.”
“They’re going to come out and throw a lot of window dressing at us — motion and stuff like that. They’ve got a lot of athletes,” senior linebacker Darrian Bell added. “They play one of the fastest offenses that we’re going to see. They’re a high tempo team.”
That tempo means that conditioning is key for the Admirals, especially for players — like Bell — who play both sides of the ball.
“It’s about taking conditioning serious. Flying around and practice and trying not to walk around. At least get a good jog everywhere,” Bell said. “You can’t get used to walking around because if you walk around during the game on Friday night, you’ll get caught not ready and that can result in a big play.”
2019 has been a tough year for the Admirals. Putting aside the 3-5 record, the season has been marred with injuries to key players. With the off week schedule for next week — the last of the season — Clevenger’s team didn’t have a week to heal and recover. However, Danville is finally starting to get those players back and have a bolstered offensive and defensive front.
“Dominique Ford is going to be back this week. He broke his wrist and hasn’t played since the Boyle County game,” Clevenger said. “He was probably our most disruptive defensive linemen for the first week or two. Our ‘mash list’ so to speak is down to three. And for a while it was up to seven or eight it seemed like. This will be the first game where Alex Jacobs — our starting center who plays some defense for us — and Dominique will play in the same game. It’s been a crazy year for us from an injury standpoint, especially with our linemen.”
That healthy offensive line showcased itself last week against Washington County — a game Clevenger said was the first time all year he’d had his best five offensive lineman available — when Caleb Burns exploded for 280 yards and two scores on the ground. Coach Clevenger said the plan for Burns is simple this week.
“It’ll be early and often. Our offensive line is starting to get a little bit of cohesion about them. They’re starting to play better — see things and get off the football,” he said. “We’ve got a definite and distinct size advantage up front. But they’ve got the quickness so we have to get on blocks and stay on blocks. And then hope that when we do that, Caleb’s able to find a couple of creases and seams.”
Like every week, Clevenger said that the biggest key to victory will be getting off to a fast start. Especially because LCA can “come out and jump on you quick.”
“Hopefully we don’t have any of those first quarter jitters that we’ve shown at times,” he added. “Give ourselves a chance to be in ballgame and grind it out.”
“When you look at the Somerset game — we didn’t get off to a huge start but then later we start playing like we should’ve and we could’ve beat Somerset if we played all four quarters,” Tibbles ageed. “When we do that — you saw it against Allen County and John Hardin — we can get the win. It’s just important to play a four quarter football game.”
But the fast start isn’t the only element of playing a four quarter game, and Danville has shown a tendency to relax with a lead — something Clevenger was quick to point out after the Washington County game last week.
Tibbles agreed with his coach.
“Whenever we get these leads — like against John Hardin, we got a lead and they came back and scored real quick. We just lose our focus when we get up a little bit,” he said. “That’s because we’re young and immature, but we have to realize that we can’t have that anymore.”
A win for Danville Friday night will give a young team some confidence. After winning the first game of the season, the Admirals went on a four game losing streak and haven’t had back-to-back wins all year. It will also be a big momentum swing heading into the bye week before the playoffs.
“Even though our record is whatever it is — LCA is one of the top teams and if we can come out and compete with them and play a good game, it’ll let people know that we can compete and will have a chance to make a run after this bye week,” Bell said.
TRUNK OR TREAT
Starting at 5:30 p.m. and going on until 7:00, Lexington Christian will host its annual Trunk or Treat event at its Rose Campus. It’s a free event to the public and children will be able to dress up in their costumes to receive candy before the game. Kickoff for the game is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.Danville faces tough challenge in season finale