It’s been a long time since Sam Harp has had to worry about Prestonsburg.
Prestonsburg and Danville haven’t met in 18 years, and the possibility of the two teams meeting in the postseason has been remote for more than a decade. But that changes this week, as the Danville coach is preparing his team for a trip to Prestonsburg on Friday for the first round of the Class AA playoffs.
The Admirals and Blackcats have been in opposite halves of the state playoff brackets for years, but the latest realignment places them in the same region for the next four years.
The last time these two teams faced off, Prestonsburg looked nothing like this. The Blackcats (5-5) have developed a diverse offense team that has been putting up big numbers.
They have averaged 37.5 points per game over the last three seasons, scoring 48 or more in 15 of their 37 games.
They have put up impressive passing numbers in those three years — getting 61 percent of their offensive yardage through the air — but they also have a capable running game as well.
“They’ve got a really good mix offensively,” Harp said. “John DeRossett, their coach, does a great job with those kids, and they’re going to be well-prepared and coached up.”
Danville, meanwhile, has been on a roller-coaster ride over the last month, alternating wins and losses in its four October games. The Admirals (7-3) wrapped up their regular season with a 33-12 victory over Frankfort last week.
“I just hope it gets us back on track,” Harp said. “We’re at times like Jekyll and Hyde; it’s just which one of us is going to show up.”
Harp said the swings have been more extreme than usual of late, but he said the “good” Danville can still be a very dangerous team.
“I just know what our capabilities are,” he said. “You’re only guaranteed 48 minutes for the rest of the season. I know if that’s all I’m guaranteed for the rest of the season I’m going to play the best I can, and I think they will, too.”
The Admirals will face a potent passer in Prestonsburg junior Adam Crisp, who has thrown for 2,124 yards and 24 touchdowns this season after racking up 2,809 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2010.
“He’s got a cannon, and what impresses me about him is he’s pretty accurate at what he does,” Harp said.
Seven different receivers have caught more than 10 passes each for the Blackcats, led by Bryson Williams (41 catches, 723 yards, 11 TDs) and Jarredd Jarrell (38 catches, 490 yards, seven TDs).
Harp said Prestonsburg’s passing game is similar to the one used by Middlesboro, the only district foe Danville defeated.
“Except they’ve just got a better complement of players,” he said. “It’s similar to what we saw Rowan County do earlier in the year. They chuck it and move it around pretty good.”
Harp said the Blackcats utilize everything from double-tight end and double-wing sets to play-action and power-I plays. Their offensive plays are split nearly evenly between pass attempts (276) and runs (252).
Kain Collins leads the rushing attack with 523 yards and 10 touchdowns, followed by Williams (381 yards, five TDs) and Joseph Jamerson (234 yards, three TDs).
The Blackcats have averaged 32.3 points and 379 yards per game this season, but their defense has also allowed 30.0 points and 415 yards per game.
“They tend to crowd the line of scrimmage. They’ll play nine men within 5 yards, and sometimes all 11 within 5 yards. They’ll use inside pressure and outside pressure, and they’re going to mix it up,” Harp said.
Danville averages 30.4 points and 273 yards per game, and the Admirals are getting 216 yards per game on the ground behind a balanced rushing attack led by Max Ray (569 yards, nine TDs) and Tryston Ford (485 yards, 11 TDs).
Ford has split time at quarterback with Devonta Alcorn for the past four games.
On defense, the Admirals are allowing 19.4 points and 302 yards per game. They have surrendered more than 400 yards three times this season, but they are 2-1 in those games.
The last meeting between Danville and Prestonsburg was a significant one.
The Blackcats’ 16-15 win in a 1993 Class AA semifinal at Admiral Stadium snapped a 42-game Danville winning streak that remains tied for the third-longest run of consecutive wins in state history.