Danville, Beechwood are no strangers to Class A title game

December 04, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

Two coaches who know something about winning state championships are convinced the team they will be playing Friday is more than capable of winning another state title.

Beechwood (13-1) has played in 10 of the last 13 Class A title games, including last year when it lost to Mayfield, and has won eight state titles.

Danville (13-1) won Class A state crowns in 2000 and 2001 by beating Newport Catholic, which eliminated Beechwood both years in the third round. The Admirals have won nine state crowns overall in three different classes.

The two teams will meet for the first time Friday at noon when they square off in the Class A state championship game in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.


"They are extremely good. That's why they are here," said Danville coach Sam Harp. "They are real close to Holy Cross, just better."

Danville beat Holy Cross 28-22 two weeks ago to keep its title quest alive.

"They are the best team we've ever faced in the state finals," Beechwood coach Mike Yeagle said. "Their team speed is unbelievable and they have some great backs. They also play great defense. All that is why they are here. They know what it takes to get to Louisville.

"We know we've got our hands full. We've played some great teams in the finals, but overall they are the best. I can't find a weakness. Their only loss probably came to the best team (Boyle County) in the state. They won at Highlands and we know how hard that is to do."

However, Harp knows Beechwood has the ability to win anywhere, too. The Tigers' only loss was a 33-29 defeat to Newport Catholic when several starters were suspended. Beechwood avenged that loss with a 33-22 playoff victory.

Senior quarterback Jeff Wera completed 11 of 21 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns and ran 16 times for 45 yards and one score in the playoff win over Newport Catholic. Adam Peach ran for 110 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown and had two scoring catches in that game and came back with 243 yards and three touchdowns in last week's 45-12 win over Lynn Camp.

Peach averages 11 yards per carry and has rushed for 1,462 yards and 17 touchdowns this year. Dustin Menetrey averages 9.4 yards per run and has gained 946 yards.

Wera has completed 111 of 193 passes for 2,070 yards and 24 scores. Tight end Andrew Daniels has 37 catches for 727 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Beechwood averages 43 points and 422 yards of offense per game. Danville is giving up 10.8 points and 212 yards per game.

"They are capable of either overpowering you with their running game or throwing the ball," Harp said. "They are a lot like us. They can run right at you, but they are just as apt to spread the field and throw the ball.

"Wera is an outstanding quarterback. He makes them go. He has good size and is a good runner. He's hard to bring down. Both their tailbacks (Peach and Menetrey) are good runners with good speed. Daniels is also a very good receiver. They just have a complete offense and they will give you a lot of looks, especially early in the game, to see how you adjust."

Danville will be missing one of its key defensive players. Junior tackle Jacob Moore tore a knee ligament in last week's 25-3 win at Mayfield. Senior Bryan Williams, a starting offensive tackle, will fill Moore's spot against Beechwood and Ryan Hundley and Peter Thomas, two other offensive linemen, will also play more in the defensive front.

"We've got to all play well on defense. We've got to gang tackle, use our quickness and make sure we get lined up right against all their formations. They are not real fancy, but they don't make mistakes," Harp said. "Bryan has played on defense, but he's never had to play full time."

Yeagle is worried about Danville's offense, which averages 45 points and 401 yards per game.

"I wish we could load up 15 people to stop their run," Yeagle said. "The key to winning is being able to run and then throw when you want. They can do that."

Danville junior Kelvin Turner has rushed for 1,941 yards and 23 touchdowns on 171 carries. That's an average of 11.2 yards per carry. Teammate Charles Penix, a senior, has rushed for 1,308 yards and 18 scores. He averages 8.2 yards per run.

Ronnie Hawkins has thrown for 1,177 yards and 22 touchdowns by completing 51 of 105 throws. His top targets have been Phillip Dunn (13 catches for 360 yards) and Mario Berry (12 catches for 236 yards).

"They are very good defensively. They use a 5-3 or 4-4 look but they are aggressive and their linebackers are very active," Harp said. "We expect them to load up to stop our run like most teams have. I'm sure they are confident in what they do defensively and they should be. Everyone has trouble moving the ball on them."

Beechwood has given up 11.2 points and only 190 yards per game. The Tigers have allowed 20 or more points in only three games this year.

"We would not be here if we were not playing good defense," Yeagle said.

Still, the veteran coach knows just how good the opponent will be Friday.

"It's an honor for us to be mentioned with Danville," Yeagle said. "Our programs mirror each other. They play with class and it's an honor to even play them. We're coming to win, but we know we've never had to beat a team this good to win a title."

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