CENTER- This D6 Final Four match up between the 11-2 Danville
Blue Devils and 12-1 Dola Hardin Northern Polar Bears promised
to be a head-on collision as both teams featured a power running
game. The field was well drained at the Olentagy Braves field
and the weather was cold and windy.
the opening kick and returned it to the 25-yard line. The Danville
attack looked good out of the gate getting 5 yards a crack and
earning two first downs before fumbling it away at the HN 40.
The Bears running attack was stifled on two plays leaving them
with 3rd and 8. The Hardin Northern QB #7 Justin Crossman dropped
back to pass and delivered a perfect pass downfield to #88 TE
Damien Plaugher who was taken down at the 7 yard line. #32 FB
Michael Ridgeway finished it from there with a touchdown run.
The PAT was good and the score was 7-0.
the kick to the 33 and a pass to #15 RB Steve Payne earned Danville
a first down. A penalty put Danville back to 1st and 15 and a
quick sack left them with 3rd and 20. Danville was forced to punt
and HN took over at their own 24. The Bears had little success
running up the middle, but ran off tackle time and time again.
They earned a 3-play first down, and then another 3-play first
down. They were moving the ball in small bites until the Hardin
Northern Quarterback scrambled for a nice gain before being brought
down by Danville’s Sr. LB #15 Steve Payne. Payne, the Danville
defensive captain and lynchpin blocker and runner on offense,
was injured on the play. This was a critical loss for the Blue
Devil team. Payne would not return in the first half and would
attempt to play defense only but was severely hobbled in the second
took immediate advantage by sending their big tight end out into
the linebacker’s coverage area and Crossman hit Plaugher
with another perfect toss. Plaugher powered his way to the 1-yard
line before being brought down. Michael Ridgeway finished from
there and the score was 14-0.
#33 Nathan Bartok returned the kickoff to the 40 and the Danville
offense looked to get back in the game. Another penalty set them
back immediately and an option play to the left was pitched, but
there was nobody there. Steve Payne would normally be the pitchman
there, but without him in the game the timing and spacing was
off and the ball was on the ground. Hardin Northern recovered
to take their second turnover on the Danville 32.
earned a first down running the ball before turning it over themselves
on the Danville 10. Danville ran the ball straight ahead with
#2 FB Kasey Doup and #33 Nathan Bartok to earn a first down. Then
they hit a pass to Bartok to get to midfield, but were forced
to punt after that.
defense shuffled personnel around placing Kasey Doup at inside
linebacker to confront the Bear running game. The Bears were forced
into a 3rd and 6, but Crossman’s hard count drew Danville
offsides. Then a couple plays later it was 3rd and short when
another hard count drew Danville off yet again. This self-destructive
defensive series finally caught a break when #5 Nick Miller picked
off a second down pass thrown by Crossman to get the ball back
for Danville with a few minutes remaining in the half.
Danville desperately needed some momentum. A sweep to the right
gained good yards, but a downfield pass on second down was dropped.
A third down pass was also dropped and Danville had to punt. The
chance to take back some momentum was there, but the Blue Devils
let it slip through their hands. Halftime score 14-0.
got the ball to start the second half and were quickly facing
3rd down. For the 3rd time in the game Danville was drawn offsides
by the hard count allowing the Bears easy 3rd down conversions.
They took advantage of the chance on their next 3rd down at midfield
when Crossman hit his wide receiver who slipped down the sideline
for a touchdown to make the score 21-0.
fighting on offense. After a 2nd down sack took them back 8 yards,
Kasey Doup ran for 15 to get a first down. Another sack put the
Devils in a hole again and then #3 QB Randy Clouse rolled out
to pass and was hit on the arm as he threw to force the punt.
HN took over on their own 27, but Danville forced a 3 and out.
With the wind at their back the Bears punted and it sailed over
the heads of the returners and went into the endzone for a 65-yard
opening the offense up a bit as their situation was becoming more
desperate. The passes were pressured and weren’t finding
their targets and Danville went 3 and out. The punt only went
out to the 50 where Hardin Northern went back to their small bites
offense and earned a 3-play first down. The 3rd quarter ended
as the Bears ground out another 3-play firstdown.
defense had Steve Payne back in the game, but his injury had robbed
him of his sideline-to-sideline range and his ability to drop
back in pass coverage. Now the defense suffered another critical
blow as #77 DL Ben White went down with a knee injury. Danville
had learned in week 8 how important White was to the run defense,
and with Payne hobbled and White out, the Blue Devil hopes were
came right at the weakened front and #45 RB Wyatt Thames took
it 25 yards for the touchdown making the score 28-0. Danville
was desperately trying to get something going but their only good
play was blown up by an uncalled pass interference.
The game wound
down with Danville desperately attempting to hit big plays and
the Bears adding another score after which all the Sophomores
and Freshman got to get in the game and experience playing in
a state semi-final. Final score Hardin Northern 35 Danville 0.
overall was one where the things that could go wrong for Danville
did go wrong. The Blue Devils never got any momentum and their
efforts were halted by turnovers, penalties, injuries and giving
up big plays. Hardin Northern had a reputation as a big, bruising,
run you over type team, but Danville was soundly beaten by passes
and their own mistakes. Hardin did a good job of controlling the
ball and consuming clock, but the real damage they inflicted was
from excellent passing from Jr. QB Justin Crossman. The Danville
rushing game looked good, but penalties put them in holes and
turnovers killed their best efforts. It just wasn’t their
season ends with an 11-3 record and their second state tournament
appearance. The senior class ends their careers after appearing
in an astounding 10 playoff games over the last 4 years.
Hardin Northern advances to the D6 State Title game to face Norwalk
St. Paul next Friday.