Danville making plans to improve on ‘taxing season’

Published 9:57 am Thursday, November 9, 2023

By Mike Marsee

Contributing Writer

There is nothing the Danville Admirals can do to alter the record, so they might as well learn from it.

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The results and statistics from a frustrating season will not change, but coach Frank Parks Jr. said he hopes the lessons from this season will change Danville’s football future for the better.

In the big picture in which youth sports are part of the educational experience, there is the lesson that can always be learned from persevering through difficult circumstances.

“It’s a great life lesson (about) dealing with adversity and hard times,” Parks said.

And when it comes to football, the Admirals also learned that they don’t ever want to endure a season like this one again.

Quarterback Braylon Guest, one of a host of Danville players who saw significant varsity playing time for the first time this season, said changing the outcome starts with changing attitudes.

“There’s a lot we can take into the offseason from this season,” Guest said. “We’ve got to work harder. … There’s got to be better mindsets coming into the season next year. There’s got to be a lot of work put in in the offseason: in the weight room, on the field and in the school building.”

It was clear from the start that this was going to be a different kind of season at Danville. The Admirals were led by their third coach in four seasons, and the turmoil surrounding the recent coaching took a toll on the roster, which was gutted by transfers and attrition.

That left Danville with a team that was too young, too small, too inexperienced to compete. Twenty-four of the 44 players on the preseason roster – there were nowhere near that many players in uniform on any Friday night – were underclassmen.

“We’ve had a bunch of young guys playing before they were ready. You’ve seen it on Friday nights: They just weren’t ready to play, and through no fault of their own they were put in that situation,” Parks said. “But they came to work, they took the coaching, gave us everything they had, so I’m just proud of the guys for sticking through it and taking their lumps.”

The schedule was already filled with the kind of quality opponents the Admirals typically play before Parks was hired in December.

Six of Danville’s seven non-district opponents came from higher enrollment classes, including two Class 5A schools. Three of those teams – Boyle County, Mercer County and Bardstown – won their districts, and the seven schools’ collective record was 48-22.

There were only three games that truly could have gone either way, and none of them went the Admirals’ way. They lost their season opener against West Jessamine by seven points and lost to Knox Central by 10 and to Leslie County by six.

They lost the remaining games, including the playoff game at Beechwood that left them at 0-11, by an average of 39.5 points.

“It’s been a long season,” Guest said.

Parks noted, however, that it was not without progress.

“They started to get some understanding of how to play the game of football,” he said. “They learned how to be better football players,” he said. “We’ve still got a long way to go with the X’s and O’s because of the youth.”

There is no quick fix, but Parks said there are things that can be done in the coming offseason to get the program turned back in the right direction.

He said one of the first things is to make sure players understand that Danville has won before and can win again.

“We’ve got to create a little different mindset, that’s first and foremost,” Parks said. “With such a storied program and 11 championships, I don’t think the mindset is what it used to be, the understanding that you come from a tradition-rich program.”

Guest said he thinks that’s absolutely true. Danville remains one of the best brand names in Kentucky football, but the Admirals are six years removed from their most recent state championship – this year’s freshmen were third-graders – and they have won only three postseason games since.

“I think right now we’re just young, and a lot of us don’t understand the history and what Danville holds as a team and a football program,” Guest said.

Tradition alone will not put the program back on track, so Parks has other plans as well.

“It starts with the mindset, and then we have to get stronger,” he said. “And then we’ve got to really work on our football IQ and understanding the game of football.

“And we’ve got to get some more guys back out in the building, get some older guys that can help and take some pressure off some of these young guys and create some competition (in practice).”

Parks said the players need a mental break as well as some physical rest, but he plans to have them in the weight room after Thanksgiving and working on football specifics come January.

He called this “a taxing season” for players and coaches alike, but he said it will also serve to make the Admirals a better team in 2024 and beyond.

“They’ve taken their lumps right now, but they’re going to be a whole lot better for it, and the next couple years they’re going to continue to get better,” Parks said.