By BRUCE W. SINGLETON, CJ Correspondent
A Chinese General named Sun Tzu wrote a book called “The Art of War” about 2500 years ago. In it, he said, “Know your enemy and know yourself, and in a hundred battles, you will never be in peril.”
He got the first part right.
Football teams need to scout the other side well enough to know what they are likely to do. They also need to know their own skills and how they will counter their adversaries.
But this mere knowledge is not enough to assure victory, no matter what the ancient general suggests.
The more the Somerset Briar Jumpers know about the Danville Admirals, the more they ought to respect the force that is coming to the Briar Patch tonight.
Somerset (10-2) is the one seed in Region 4 of Class 2A. Eight teams will compete tonight for the final four spots as regional champions. Next week, that number will be down to the two teams that will meet on December 1 in Bowling Green to decide who will be the last team standing: the State Champion.
Danville (9-3) is the two seed. Their lone district loss came to Somerset this year on October 5: the night after the automobile crash in which two of Somerset’s players were seriously injured. The Admirals lost their opening game to 6A Simon Kenton and their last regular season game to 1A Frankfort. Both those schools have been cruising through their classes in the playoffs. Except for those three losses, Danville has had its way with its adversaries.
And when the Admirals come back to the Briar Patch, they bring reinforcements, a renovated game plan, and the desire for retribution. They have lost every game they have played against Somerset – 5 in all – since September 11, 2009. Their last game of the season took place at the Briar Patch on November 11, 2011, and they sincerely don’t want it to happen again.
The Briar Jumpers have had a different look in the past couple of games. Against Shelby Valley, they showed what was basically a 2-quarterback approach. Against Lexington Christian, those quarterbacks were sometimes in the same backfield together. Last week, seven Briar Jumpers each scored 6 points for the final score of 42. Lexington Christian did not score its 19 points until late in the game, when the score was well out of reach.
Danville, on the other hand, had to play comeback ball twice, then fend off a late rally from the powerful Prestonsburg offense. They fought hard.
Ironically, the people at the Briar Patch were rooting for Danville to win. We didn’t want to travel all the way to Prestonsburg for one thing. We didn’t want to play Prestonsburg for another.
So Danville comes here.
One may look at the schedules and suggest Somerset is on a good trend.
I can’t deny that winning games is a good thing.
Scoring high is a good thing.
But when you’re scoring high against the likes of Shelby Valley and the greatly-decimated Lexington Christian Academy, it’s not quite like scoring against Boyle County, who Danville beat 28-21.
Somerset head coach Robbie Lucas didn’t mince his words:
“We will have to play physical and near perfect for any chance at victory,” he said. “This is a quality team with a hall of fame coach looking for vindication.”
That’s not just one game worth of vindication, mind you. That’s 5 games in a row of vindication. Since 1998, only one team: Boyle County has come close to beating Danville that many times in a row. And their streak was stopped at 4 just a few weeks ago. For Somerset to score a sixth straight win against Danville would be unprecedented by any team in modern history.
And with Senior lineman JK Howard back into the ball game, Danville’s chances are greatly enhanced.
Can Somerset win?
It will surprise a lot of people.
It will surprise many people who know Danville football.
It will surprise many people who know Somerset football.
It will surprise many people who know the mindset a team can get into when it has repeatedly beaten another team.
Again, we look to the words of Robbie Lucas:
“Danville has gotten better by the return of the Howard kid. His play on the offensive and defensive lines jumps out at you immediately,” he said. “He is big and physical with a nasty streak and I mean that as a compliment. He will be a difference maker for them.”
And what about the Danville offense?
Last week against Prestonsburg, one man acted as a catalyst in the Danville win.
“Jaderious Brown (Danville Senior running back) has become a very good between the tackles runner,” Lucas noted. “He compliments the outstanding speed of (Sophomore running back Damani) Delrosario and (Freshman running back Troy) Grey. When you add in their big athletic quarterback (Senior Devonta Alcorn) Danville can hurt you in several ways.”
And don’t forget about Junior wide receiver Ace Ray. In naming threats Danville brings, Lucas just ran out of breath before he ran out of names.
Though Danville does not have the defensive reputation Somerset does, they have shut down a lot of offenses this year. Again, to look at Robbie Lucas’s analysis, “Defensively their team speed is unmatched. Many of the same players mentioned above play on the defensive side as well. This group held a very high powered prestonsburg offense to 14 points this past week.”
Are they lacking anywhere? Not on special teams, anyway.
“The kicking game is one of the best we face,” Lucas said. “The Karapandzik (Senior kicker Damir) kid has one of the strongest legs I have seen in quite a while.”
Think Wes Midden with a name that’s hard to spell.
Yes, but Somerset did such a good job last time. Doesn’t that make a difference?
“Danville had some alignment issues that allowed us to score, along with emotion of our group dealing with the wreck,” Lucas explained. “They will shore up any alignment issues and match or exceed our emotion.”
They probably already have.
Not to give any disrespect to Sun Tzu, after all, people are still talking about him after more than two millennia. But merely knowing ourselves and the adversary does not guarantee we will be the victors.
Indeed, the Somerset Briar Jumpers’ chances of being the last team standing will be in peril from the moment they take the field against a team that is here to take the championship rings right off their fingers.
Opponent: Danville High School Admirals
Venue: The Briar Patch, Somerset’s William Clark Field
Records: Somerset 10-2, Danville 9-3
Seeding: Somerset is #1; Danville is #2
Last Meeting: October 5, 2012. Somerset won 24-7
Last Game: Somerset won at home against LCA 42-19; Danville won at Prestonsburg 16-14
Series: Somerset has won the last 5 games the teams have played
Media Coverage: Radio play-by-play action from Jon Burlew and Gary Phelps on 102.3 FM. Updates from the game, as well as other games will be posted on the Commonwealth Journal’s Facebook page and on the Twitter handle @cjsportseditor.
Keys to Victory: Somerset remains highly ranked on points allowed even after giving up 19 points to LCA last week. The defense is still the Briar Jumper forte’, but increased offensive performance in recent weeks has taken pressure off that defense. Danville has had a tendency to give up the fumble and the interception this year. Somerset’s defenders must attempt to exploit that tendency.
Notable statistic: This will be Somerset’s 55th game in the past 4 years. That is second only to Trinity, which has been state champion umpteen times, and has a four-year record of 58 games up through tonight. The Briar Jumpers are attempting to win their fourth trip to the final four: their fourth regional championship in the four years since Robbie Lucas took over as head coach.