Unbeaten Holy Cross worries Danville coach

November 20, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

The more he sees of Holy Cross, the more Danville coach Sam Harp sees why the Cougars are unbeaten.

"They are 12-0 for a reason," said Harp. "They are a very good football team. They average 45 points a game and give up nine. No one has really played them close all year."

Going into Friday's Class A, Region 2 championship game in Louisville, Holy Cross has scored 50 or more points six times this season. Its closest wins have been 20-7 over Shelby County and 35-16 over Iroquois to start the season.

Danville's offense has been just as good. The Admirals (11-1) are averaging 48 points and 409 yards of total offense per game. Running backs Charles Penix and Kelvin Turner both have scored 24 touchdowns and combined for 2,776 yards rushing.


Harp knows Holy Cross has been looking forward to this game since losing to the Admirals 35-7 in the 2001 regional title game.

"They are big and experienced and they have been gunning for this game for two years," the Danville coach said. "They are not going to beat themselves. They are really going to test us."

The offense is led by senior quarterback Nick Nail. He's completed 51 percent of his passes. Even though he averages less than nine passes per game, he's thrown for almost 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns.

"They run more than they throw, but they do a good job when they do throw," Harp said. "They are a lot like us in that aspect. They don't throw often, but when they do they are very effective. They want to control the ball, but they aren't afraid to pass."

Nail's top target is senior Matt Mitchell, who has 10 touchdown catches.

Crumbacker is top scorer and rusher

The team's top scorer and rusher is 205-pound senior Todd Crumbacker, who averages 87 yards rushing per game. Eric Titus, a junior, averages 83 yards per game and is third on the team in scoring. Marell Booker adds about 60 yards per game rushing.

"They will move Booker around to get him the ball because he has good speed," Harp said.

Harp says a big, experienced offensive line makes it easy for Holy Cross to operate its offense.

"They are solid at every position," Harp said. "They are not going to finesse you. They are going to line up and try to knock you off the line of scrimmage. They'll use a one-back set with two wingbacks and some motion, but it is still basically a three-back power alignment."

Defensively, Holy Cross uses a 5-3 alignment. Sophomore middle linebacker Wes McDermott broke the state record with eight fumble recoveries this season. Booker plays one outside linebacker, Crumbacker plays defensive end and Harp says several offensive linemen rotate into the defensive front.

"They will give us a few different looks from what we've seen this year," Harp said.

Harp hopes he'll have senior receiver-cornerback Phillip Dunn available Friday. He sprained his ankle in last week's win over Carroll County and was scheduled to practice for the first time Wednesday.

"We need him because he does so many things for us," Harp said.

He knows junior receiver-defensive back Ryan Harper will be out after breaking his leg last week.

Danville has experimented with personnel in the secondary in practice in case Dunn can't play and to offset Harper's absence.

Harp also is getting freshman Chase Overstreet ready to play more at receiver at needed if Dunn is not full speed as well as getting Davis Teater readjusted to playing wide receiver after he's been at tight end for most of the season. Michael Peters could also see more playing time at receiver.

"We can't save anybody," Harp said. "We've got to suck it up and play. We'll find out about our manhood because we are more beat up than we've been all season. But Holy Cross is not going to feel sorry for us.

"Mayfield had to play without three defensive starters last week and had up to seven starters out of practice because of a flu outbreak. They found a way to win and get the job done. That's the same thing we have to do no matter who plays or doesn't play. There's no looking ahead now."

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