By BRUCE W. SINGLETON, CJ Correspondent
Considering all the circumstances, Somerset’s 24-7 victory over the Danville Admirals Friday night can only be described as an upset.
Somerset entered the game with a 4-2 record and ranked number 3 in the Associated Press Class 2A poll. Danville was a notch above Somerset on both counts, entering the game with a 5-1 record and ranked number 2.
Danville had also taken its bye week of the season last week, so they had two weeks to prepare. Somerset came off a disappointing 14-7 loss to Whitley County in the muddy bog of Somerset’s Briar Patch.
And then came the Thursday afternoon automobile crash less than the length of a football field from that same Briar Patch. Twenty six hours before kickoff, Jumpers Jacobi Gilmore and Will Hinton had been flown to Lexington for treatment of their injuries. Their seats on the bus to Danville had been empty. Their coaches and fellow players, many of whom had not slept since they got out of bed Thursday morning, could do nothing more to support them than to go to Danville and play a football game.
And play they did.
It was a night like no other.
Players throughout the state paid homage to their injured colleagues, but the Briar Jumpers were the ones who had to play the game.
They were so eager to play that kicker Chandler Dobbs set the ball then kicked off before the officials were even ready. They quickly blew their whistles, reset the ball, and insisted on being the ones in charge of the tempo of the game.
That was the last time of the night that anybody but the guys in purple and gold determined the pace at which the game would be played.
The opening drive of the ball game defined what the rest of the game would look like. Danville took the ball on its own 21 and immediately turned the running duties over to its experienced running backs. But first Sophomore Tyquan Matthews then Junior Jawan Grey then Senior QB Devonta Alcorn tried and failed to penetrate more than two yards against the fierce defensive effort Somerset was throwing up against them. So when, with 4th and 4 deep within its own territory, Danville sent out its punter. The Jumpers backed off to let him kick.
Danville’s Senior kicker’s name is Damir Karapandzic, but it might as well be Barishnikov. He danced, he faked, and he ran for the first down.
There is an ancient saying, “Fool me once, curse on you. Fool me twice, curse on me.”
Somerset was not going to let that little trick happen again.
On the new set of downs, the onslaught of the Jumper hordes led by Tevin Slaughter, Tyson Williams, Bricen McWilliams and Kagen Skidmore drove first Josh Singleton then Jawan Grey back four yards. The Admirals couldn’t even get out of their backfield, the flood was coming so fast.
The next time Karapandzik stood in the punting position, he had to kick it for real.
The Jumper drive, which started on their own 21, took five minutes and forty one seconds off the clock before Somerset Sophomore Quarterback Tanner Gadberry took it in from the 1. After the Dobbs Kick, Somerset was ahead with a lead that would last the rest of the game.
But Danville is a team that likes to come back in a big way. Head Coach Sam Harp has criticized his team lately for their complacency early in the game, and for their reliance upon the gametime adrenaline to come back and win. It is as if the Admirals are saying, “We’ll spot you a touchdown, just to make it fair.”
Somerset didn’t need the help.
After going three and out for the next series of plays, Danville’s talented punter put the ball all the way back to Somerset’s 18. Gadberry and Junior Running Back Will Lange then began the clinic. Two runs from Lange got the ball to the 28: yardage which logic would dictate should be gained by Lange.
Gadberry took the quarterback sneak untouched for 72 yards, and with most of the second quarter left to play, Somerset led by 14-0.
Somerset would score again on a Lange run and a 33 yard Dobbs field goal, but the true rest of the story of the night was the stifling defense the Jumpers put against the Admirals. Somerset held the powerful Danville offense to only 19 net yards on the ground on 21 plays. Danville’s solitary score came on a 53 yard Alcorn pass to Grey with 6:09 to go in the game, but it took that play to even bring their air attack up over 100 yards. Other than that pass, Alcorn could only manage to complete five passes for a net of 53 yards.
And that was without Somerset Senior Defensive Back Tyler Megargel on the field.
The game represented redemption for Gadberry, who completed four of six passes with no interceptions for 91 yards, and who scored two rushing touchdowns on his own.
The game was also redemption for a team that had been plagued by persistent unsportsmanlike conduct calls. Somerset was penalized only twice: both times for encroachment. That’s a penalty any coach will accept when his players have been as fast to get to the other guys’ backfield as Somerset was Friday night.
“I know the emotion carried us,” Briar Jumper Head Coach Robbie Lucas said after the game. “Usually emotion lasts only for about a half.”
“I told the team at half time,” he continued, “that this is the time for fundamentals. This is the time for run, block, and tackle, because when that emotion wears off, we knew we’d see the haymaker comeback from Danville.”
Somerset did see a comeback, and it was a haymaker in the form of a 53 yard touchdown strike from Alcorn to Grey, but it was too little and far too late after Will Lange tacked on the insurance touchdown for the Jumpers.
“They are a quality football team,” Lucas said. “They will be there in the end.”
“But our kids continued the emotion. They continued to play smart, and continued to play hard. And if this team will continue to do that, that’s a big ‘if’, it could be a special year.”
The very special year to follow the very special night.
A night like no other.
We’ll continue this thought in a column later this week, but first a look at next week’s game.
After Friday night’s game, Somerset, Danville, and Lexington Christian Academy have 5-2 season records. LCA, the 2009 State Champion in 1A will travel to the Briar Patch next Friday for the Jumpers’ second district game. LCA beat Middlesboro Friday night 42-14. Both Somerset and LCA are 1-0 in the district.
SHS 7 10 0 7 — 24
DHS 0 0 0 7 — 7
Somerset — Tanner Gadberry 1 run (Chandler Dobbs kick), 1:47
Somerset — Gadberry 73 run (Dobbs kick), 11:06
Somerset — Dobbs 33 field goal, 3.3
Danville — Jawan Grey 53 pass from Devonta Alcorn (Damir Karapandzic kick), 6:09
Somerset — Will Lange 36 run (Dobbs kick), 2:08
RUSHING—Somerset, Will Lange 28-115 (1 TD), Tanner Gadberry 9-81 (2TD), Castle Hatcher 2-4, Tevin Slaughter 1-34, Tyson Williams 1-0, B. Jones 1-1, Team 3-minus 3.
Danville, Jawan Grey 5-1, Devonta Alcorn 8-minus 3, Damani Delrosario 1-minus 5, Tyquan Matthews 2-7, Olyjawan Ford 2-7, Jadarius Brown 2-2, Ray Bradshaw 1-3, Damir Karapandzic 1-4.
PASSING—Somerset, Gadberry 4-6-94-0. Danville, Devonta Alcorn 6-14-101-0.
RECEIVING—Somerset, Cam Cheuvront 3-49, Lange 1-45. Danville, Ace Ray 2-13, Jacobie Harris 1-14, Grey 1-53, Akeem Ray 1-25, Josh Singleton 1-minus 4.
Somerset — Dobbs 33 field goal, 3.3