Jawan Grey saved Danville from an upset Friday night. The junior back broke a pair of long fourth-quarter touchdown runs as the Admirals came from behind to escape Middlesboro with a 28-18 win.
“There a very big team, very athletic team. We came out and fought hard, but at the same time we can’t give up those big plays when we’re up like that,” said Jacket coach Randy Frazier. “Those two touchdowns at the end killed us and you just can’t do that. I take the blame for that, I’m on the defensive side of the ball.”
For over three and a half quarters it looked like it just might be the Yellow Jackets’ night. Sophomore quarterback Major Edwards had two short touchdown runs, including a 1-yarder with 7:03 to play to give Middlesboro a 19-14 lead.
The Jacket momentum continued as Danville was called for an illegal block on the following kick return and started as their own 27.
After an incomplete pass, Grey took a pitch to the right and avoided a Middlesboro tackler in the backfield as he got to the sideline. From there it was a footrace to the end zone and Grey won it going away as his 73-yard touchdown run put the Admirals on top to stay. Devonta Alcorn passed to Akeem Ray for the conversion and a 22-19 lead with 6:35 to play.
Middlesboro was far from dead, especially after a facemask penalty against Danville on fake punt gave the Jackets a first down at the 44 yard line. Parker Uhl, who led the Jackets with 97 yards on 18 carries, scampered for a 12-yard gain and into Admiral territory as the clock wound down under 3:00. But two MHS runs were stopped for little gain and Danville forced a pair of incompletions with Olyjawan Ford breaking up the fourth down pass.
Grey broke a tackle on another pitch to the right and again went the distance on the Admirals’ next play. The 55-yard touchdown run set the final at 28-19.
“We just cannot give up big plays at the end of a ballgame, or at the beginning. Last week we gave up the big plays at the beginning of the game,” Frazier said.
Grey led Danville with 161 yards on six carries and also scored on a 28-yard pass from Alcorn in the third quarter. Alcorn ran for 41 yards on ten carries and completed 3-of-7 passes for 86 yards.
The Jackets ran nearly twice as many offensive plays as Danville and controlled the ball on the ground for most of the game. Middlesboro held an 18-11 advantage on first downs, and ran the ball 53 times for 222 yards. Danville managed 231 yards on 28 carries.
In addition to Uhl’s 97 yards, Seth Barton ran it 16 times for 69 yards. Edwards gained a net four yards on 15 rushes, but those stats are skewed by five sacks for a loss of 49 yards. Ryan Pittman had a 38-yard touchdown run and Jake Brock added 11 yards on two carries.
Edwards was 3-of-7 passing for 28 yards.
Middlesboro opened the game with a 12-play, 80 yard drive all on the ground. Uhl ran it seven times for 42 yards and Barton added three carries for 28 yards on the march and Edwards capped it with a 3-yard keeper and Cole Frazier’s kick made it 7-0 with 6:03 to play in the quarter.
The Jacket defense forced a three-and -out. Then Barton broke free for a 19-yard gain and Pittman followed with his 38-yard TD run to quickly make it 13-0.
“I think we came out and played hard. We drove it right down their throat and ran the ball on them. I was proud of the way we did that,” said Frazier. “These kids are very talented. When they decide to play hard that’s what they can do. But we’ve got to put four quarters together. Our effort was there, but it’s just those big plays that are killing us right now.”
The Admirals turned to a heavy dose of Alcorn keeping the ball on option reads. He gained 33 yards on four straight runs and Grey added a 20-yarder with a facemask tacked on for a first down at the Jacket seven. Ford ran it in from there on two tough carries up the middle, including the 3-yard TD. Ray Bradshaw ran in the conversion to cut the MHS lead to 13-8 with 13 seconds left in the quarter.
The teams traded long, but scoreless drives in the second quarter as the score remained 13-8 at the half.
Middlesboro opened the second half much like they did the first, forcing a three-and-out then driving from their own seven to the Danville nine on fifteen plays. The Jackets were helped out along the way by a roughing the punter penalty and another facemask — Danville was flagged 11 times for 84 yards in the game. But the Admiral defense stood up from there and forced four straight negative plays, including two sacks of Edwards that pushed the ball all the way out to the 42-yard line.
Three plays later Alcorn hit Grey on a wheel route deep down the left sideline for a 28-yard touchdown. The conversion run was stopped, but Danville had their first lead at 14-13 with 1.8 seconds to go in the third quarter.
A blocked punt set the Ads up in excellent field position at the Jacket 22. After driving to the 4-yard line, Danville fumbled in the backfield and Middlesboro junior Donnie Foister scooped it up and went 57 yards, all the way to the Admiral 35. Edwards went 34 yards on a quarterback draw to set up his own 1-yard sneak and Middlesboro led 19-13 with 7:03 to play.
Grey’s two big runs helped Danville pull out the win.
“I’m disappointed for the kids. They played hard enough to win this game, we’ve just got to learn to finish,” Frazier said. “Last week we learned that we could play with teams like this. It comes to a point now where we’ve got to get ready for the playoffs. We’ve got to finish games like this, when we’re up we’ve got to find a way to stop them.”
Middlesboro (3-5, 0-2) hosts Somerset next Friday while Danville (6-2, 1-1) hosts Lexington Christian.