He scored on Danville’s first two series, but an uninspired defensive effort contributed to the Admirals trailing 21-20 at halftime.
“We were not mentally focused,” Brand said. “We just came out unfocused. They ran a lot of trick plays, but our defense should have been ready. Our coaches got on us at halftime and got us ready. We needed this win and played that way the second half.”
Brand had a 22-yard run to open the third quarter and added a 12-yard run on the scoring drive that put
Danville ahead to stay. Two series later he started a 45-yard drive with runs of 12 and 23 yards and ended it with a 1-yard scoring jaunt.
“I tried to hit the holes as hard as I could,” Brand said. “I knew we had to come out and score on that first drive, but I feel like we should score every drive. However, it was really important to score that first drive and show we meant business.”
Danville coach Sam Harp has seen Brand improve physically and mentally from last season.
“He is tougher. He is a year older, a year stronger,” Harp said. “He sees the field better. He has better awareness of where his blockers are and what they are doing. He’s got more confidence and overcomes adversity better.”
Brand has also learned that he doesn’t have to make a dynamic run every play.
“He’s learned that 3- and 4-yard runs are good plays sometimes,” Harp said. “At the beginning of the year, I am not even sure he understood that. If he’s running the outside zone and gets 3 or 4 yards, that’s not a bad play. He can’t always break big plays and he finally understands that.”
He’s also become a more reliable defensive player, one the Admirals sometimes match against a specific receiver to limit his effectiveness.
“He obviously has great range back there at safety,” Harp said. “He has very good speed, but he also does a good job tackling in the open field. He’s our best tackler in space, and that was not true last year.
“He has better awareness because he has more experience. It’s not all about raw talent for him or any player. Experience matters. Monroe had a lot of kids that had played in and won the last two regional championship games. We didn’t have. But playing and winning a game like this can really help a player like him (Brand).”
Brand was pleased Danville forced three turnovers and also stopped a fourth-down try in the third period, when the Admirals outscored Monroe 21-0 to take control of the game. He knows that’s not something previous Danville teams he’s been on could have done.
“The last two years we probably could not have done this,” Brand said. “But we want to show we are a different team, a better team.”
Danville (10-3) has now won seven straight games, and Brand hopes others now believe the Admirals are different.
“All we can do is play and win,” he said. “I don’t know if others think we can win state, but we do.”