Danville, Beechwood are no strangers to state finals

December 02, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

They have won more state championships than any other high school football coach in Kentucky, so Sam Harp and Mike Yeagle know full well what to expect when they take their teams to Louisville.

Both the Danville and Beechwood coaches know they'll have all the challenge they can handle Friday when their teams meet for the Class A championship.

Friday's game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium is a rematch of last year's Class A final, in which Danville rolled to a 42-7 victory in the first meeting ever between two of the most tradition-rich programs in Kentucky.

"You can forget about last year. There'll be different kids on the field," Harp said.

Yeagle insists that those Beechwood players who return from last season haven't spent the last 364 days thinking about Danville.

"We haven't talked about it. They haven't talked about it," he said.

Harp said he thinks the subject of Danville has probably come up more than once in the past year.


"I'm sure they marked that spot on the calendar for the past year," he said. "What we've got to do is go in like we try to do every ballgame and be business-like."

Harp and Yeagle and their respective programs are in the business of winning.

Both coaches have seven state championships

The two coaches have won a combined 404 games, and both men have won seven state championships. No other coach, past or present, has more than five.

The two schools have 23 appearances in the state finals between them, 18 of them since 1989. Danville has won 10 championships, including three in the last four years; Beechwood has eight championships, seven of them in a nine-year span from 1991-99.

Danville enjoyed tremendous success with its ground game last year against Beechwood, rushing for 500 yards and attempting to pass only twice. The Admirals' efforts to duplicate that success depend heavily on the health of tailback Kelvin Turner, whose skills, if not his production, were limited last week by a strained hamstring.

"He was about 80 percent last week," Harp said. "You could tell it when he broke open. He couldn't turn on that extra gear he has when he gets in the open field.

"But he'll be ready to go. It's his last high school ballgame."

Turner has rushed for 2,579 yards and 36 touchdowns this season, averaging 9.6 yards per carry and breaking the state record for career touchdowns with 116.

"Turner's a man," Yeagle said. "The kid's an incredible football player, and they've got athletes everywhere else. Turner's got a great cast with him."

Yeagle expects Harp to make use of that supporting cast whether Turner is hurting or not.

"He's not going to go into a championship game with one bullet in his holster," Yeagle said.

The Admirals could turn to Ronnie Hawkins, the former starting quarterback who is their second-leading rusher (688 yards) and the leader in receiving yardage (13 catches, 337 yards). Backup running back Darren Ross (388 yards) and quarterback Jeffery Guest (304 yards) are also capable runners.

Menetrey has 2,197 yards

Beechwood senior Dustin Menetrey enters Friday's game with 2,197 yards, an average of 8.4 per carry, and 39 touchdowns.

"He's been a great player, and he played a lot last year for us," Yeagle said.

Junior quarterback Patrick Muth has completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,505 yards and 11 touchdowns. Muth is also the Tigers' kicker and punter.

Harp said Beechwood has good size on both its offensive and defensive lines, where the leader is 280-pound senior guard-defensive tackle Rob Janning.

"They're very big," Harp said. "I thought Louisville Holy Cross was as big a team as we'd faced in a long time, but Beechwood is bigger."

Danville's top tacklers are a trio of sophomore linebackers: Ross (110 tackles), Justin Hill (92) and l B.J. Strode (81).

"They've got good team speed, and we know they're going to come after us from every angle," Yeagle said of Danville's defense.

While Danville's defense is allowing just 13.1 points per game, Beechwood allows 12.1 and has given up one touchdown or less seven times this season, including each of its last two games.

An impressive defensive front

The size of Janning and 275-pound senior Jared Pike give the Tigers an impressive defensive front made better by the addition of Menetrey, who moved from cornerback to nose guard this season.

"He's quicker than a cat in there," Yeagle said. "You have to account for him."

Beechwood also has a good pair of defensive ends in senior Brandon Slusher and junior Evan Reilly, and junior linebacker Eric Sawyer has four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

The Tigers were hit hard by graduation last season, but they have 21 seniors on this year's team, and Harp said they haven't missed a beat.

"Last year they were a senior-dominated football team; this year they're a senior-dominated football team," Harp said. "Beechwood just reloads all the time, more so than what people think we do. They're like the St. X's and Trinitys, they've got people waiting in the wings ready to go."

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