Harp says Admirals won't underestimate Mayfield

November 26, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

The more Danville coach Sam Harp hears about how his team is favored to win at Mayfield, the more Harp wonders why everyone else is underestimating Mayfield.

"They are a good team," said Harp. "They lost to Hopkinsville on the last play of the game, and Hopkinsville almost beat Paducah Tilghman last week. They lost to Paducah Tilghman, who some people think is the best team in the state. They lost to Evansville (Ind.) North, a big school that would beat most teams in Kentucky.

"They are more than capable of beating us. They always have a good defensive team and they do again this year. They might not be quite as explosive on offense, but they just keep winning."

However, Mayfield coach Joe Morris worries that the winning will end in Friday's Class A semifinal showdown with visiting Danville.

"We hope the game is decided by defense. If not, we are in trouble because we don't have the offensive firepower Danville does," Morris said. "We know they've got the better team.


"It should be an advantage for us playing at home, but the visiting team has won the last two times we've played. Great teams win on the road, and Danville is a great team."

Mayfield (10-3) has one of the state's best players in lineman Micah Jones, who made a visit to Auburn last weekend for the Auburn-Alabama game. He's received offers from numerous schools, including Kentucky.

"On offense, we're normally going to run behind him," Morris said. "On defense, he's not as dominant, but most teams still double team him."

Harp says no one he's seen has blocked the 320-pound Jones.

"He's one of the best offensive linemen in the country and you don't see anybody move him out of the way on defense," Harp said.

Mayfield, which beat Metcalfe County 14-7 last week, averages 28 points per game and is led by quarterback Greg Cook, a three-year starter has thrown for 1,228 yards and 11 touchdowns while completing 66 of 133 passes. Mayfield's leading rusher is Isaac Benjamin, who has gained 861 yards and scored 15 touchdowns.

Mitchell Dumas is the team's power runner, while Channing Dismukes is the other back in Mayfield's Wishbone attack.

"Benjamin will juke and cut. So will Dismukes," Harp said. "The closer they get to the goal line, the more Dumas runs. He's strong as a bull."

"We have not always made big plays when we've had a chance," Morris said. "Our backs are not as quick or good this year. We struggle in the line other than Micah. We just have not been consistent offensively."

Harp expects Mayfield to try and run right at his defense much like Louisville Holy Cross did last week before losing 28-22.

"Why not do that? It worked for Holy Cross and Mayfield is even bigger and stronger," Harp said. "They killed us last year when they got in an unbalanced line and got a mismatch with Jones on our end. They've not shown that formation this year, but they hadn't showed it last year until they used it on us."

Danville (12-1) averages 47 points per game behind the running of Kelvin Turner and Charles Penix and the passing of Ronnie Hawkins. However, both Penix and receiver Phillip Dunn, who missed last week's game, are listed as doubtful for Friday by Harp because of injuries.

"They have two great running backs, and they are as good as anyone we've seen except maybe for Joe Casey (of Paducah Tilghman)," Morris said. "They are both explosive runners and they block well for each other. They can both make you miss tackles. They are probably the most complete backs we will have faced."

Hawkins doesn't throw often, but he's been effective. When Holy Cross stacked the line to stop the run last week, he had three touchdown passes, including the game-winner with 37 seconds to play.

"They use the run to set up the pass just like we do," Morris said. "You commit to the run, they fake a handoff and then they have a receiver running wide open. Hawkins doesn't always throw the prettiest ball, and he won't ever run a passing clinic, but he gets the ball where it needs to be."

Harp said Mayfield's 5-3 defense, which allows 12 points per game, is led by linebacker Jared Lester.

"They are going to try and stop our run, just like Holy Cross did," Harp said. "We just have to adjust to what they give us."

These teams are familiar playoff opponents. This will be the fourth straight year they've met in the state semifinals, and each previous time the winner has gone on to win the state title.

"What we've done best this year is find a way to win. But that's what Danville does, too," Morris said. "We were up 17-7 with 40 seconds left last year and I couldn't relax. You've got to play four good quarters to beat Danville.

"We're facing an uphill battle this week. We are not the team we were, but at least we are still playing."

Harp has noticed.

"Forget all that stuff you've heard about Mayfield not being that good," the Danville coach said. "Anybody left playing at Thanksgiving is good, and we know anything less than our best effort won't be good enough in this game."

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