Ross glad he's now part of Danville's tradition

December 01, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

If Darren Ross was still living in Virginia Beach, Va., he probably would have been through with football a few weeks ago.

"I would have been playing for a decent program, but I'm really glad I am at Danville now because this program is excellent and has so much tradition," said Ross, a sophomore starter for the Admirals.

Ross moved here two years ago when his father retired from the Navy. He had been to Danville games before when his family returned to Danville for a visit since his parents are both Danville natives.

"My dad used to talk to me about the football team. I knew a lot about it, but I really didn't know just how good the program was until I got here," Ross said.


Now he'll be trying to help the Admirals win their 11th state title, and second straight, when Danville plays Beechwood in the Class A championship game Friday. Kickoff is set for noon at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

Last year as a freshman, Ross started at nose guard in the state title game and more than held his own against Beechwood's bigger offensive line in Danville's 33-14 win.

Friday he'll be a starting linebacker and tight end.

"He has been so versatile for us," Danville coach Sam Harp said. "He lines up at inside linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive end, tight end, fullback and halfback.

"He's such an intelligent player and he's very team oriented. We are blessed to have him. He's become a more physical player since he played nose guard in the state game last year and we would not be where we are right now without him."

Exceptional in the playoffs

That's because he's been exceptional in Danville's four playoff wins. Last week against Mayfield, he had three quarterback sacks and three quarterback hurries among his 14 tackles. He also recovered a fumble.

He's had 39.5 tackles, three tackles for loss , 4.5 quarterback sacks and two fumble recoveries in the playoff games.

"I think last week was my best game," Ross said. "It was kind of unreal to be able to come in and make so many plays. I don't think Beechwood will let me do the same thing, but that should free someone else to make plays."

As long as Kelvin Turner stays healthy, Ross doesn't figure to run the ball often. He was moved to tight end earlier this season, but he has 388 yards and six touchdowns on 62 carries this season.

"If coach Harp needed me back at running back, I would give it my all. He knows I will do anything I can to help the team," Ross said. "But I don't think I will be needed."

Ross could play a much more prominent role in Danville's offense next year. That's why he's monitored the way seniors Turner and Ronnie Hawkins, Danville's best two offensive players, have handled this season.

"I watch over them and see what they do. When they are under pressure, I watch how they react," Ross said. "I want to see how they react to pressure. I have learned a lot from them.

"They have shown me how to play with heart and not worry about size or anything else. They have been a great inspiration for me."

Ross' friends in Virginia still have trouble believing he already has a state championship ring and is in position to add another one Friday.

"None of my friends back in Virginia have played on a state championship team," Ross said. "My dad talked to me about this possibility when we moved here. He showed me all the statistics from the state games Danville was in and told me this could happen for me, too."

Encouraged to lead with his play

Because Danville has a sophomore-dominated defense, Ross has been encouraged by Danville coaches to be a leader with his play.

"I just try to learn what I can and then go make plays," Ross said. "I know I will be nervous Friday. We are a new team. Beechwood has a different team from last year. It's a whole new game and last year means nothing."

However, Ross admits his freshman class would like to do something no other group at Danville has ever done.

"When I came in here all the freshmen talked about being the first to win four state championships in a row," Ross said. "That is something we have in mind.

"We know it will take a lot of work to do, but that motivates us a little extra going into this game because we can't dream of winning four in a row if we don't win Friday."

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