DANVILLE – Danville and Crawfordsville entered their opening Sagamore Conference game with both seeking a much-needed victory.
It was Danville that used big running plays to make up for four first-half interceptions, as the Warriors built a 20-point halftime lead and rolled to a 32-6 victory Friday night.
Both teams had major mistakes in the first half, but Danville (1-2 overall, 1-0 in Sagamore) overcame its errors much better, thanks largely to the elusive rushing of quarterback/running back Ben Jones. Meanwhile, the Warriors’ defensive front took control of the line of scrimmage and held the Crawfordsville offense to just 81 total yards.
Danville coach Russell Sumner considered the win a starting point for his squad.
“Defensively, we definitely played better tonight,” Sumner said. “Offensively, we got Ben Jones back tonight, and he made a difference and we made a few plays. But, we still need to make a few more adjustments to get better.”
The first half had a flurry of turnovers, four for each team. Both teams also had a touchdown wiped away on consecutive plays in the first quarter.
The swing from losing a TD affected Crawfordsville more. A holding penalty erased an 87-yard scoring pass from Travis Harris to P. J. Schafer, and took away the only opportunity the Athenians had to lead the contest.
“That (penalty) killed us,” Crawfordsville coach Mike Hammons said. “We just had mental mistakes and never capitalized on turnovers we created.”
One play after Schafer’s catch was nullified, Danville seemingly scored on a pick-six interception by Austen Scammerhorn, but gave the ball back on a pass interference call.
Fortunately for the Warriors, they had Jones’ legs to carry them offensively. Opening at quarterback, Jones turned the tide with a breakaway 43-yard run, setting up Trevor Schubert for a 6-yard touchdown run.
Jones added scoring runs of 36 and 12 yards on the way to 153 yards before halftime. He moved to running back after the break and tacked on two more scores (10 and 2 yards), and finished with 202 yards for the night.
Crawfordsville (0-3, 0-1) made Danville pay when the hosts tried to gain via the throw. Trent Johnson picked Jones twice for interceptions and grabbed a third off Christian Schabel.
However, with Danville owning the defensive line of scrimmage, Crawfordsville ended with minus-eight yards rushing. The Athenians also had trouble on passes, but Harris had a 15-yard touchdown connection with Garrett Phelps in the fourth quarter to avoid a shutout. Phelps’ catch was highlight-worthy as he made it fully stretched at the top of his jump and held on.
But that catch could not make up for the physical difference that Danville held up front.
“Danville stepped up,” Hammons said. “With their two-platoon and fast-paced offense and defense, we got tired, and it showed later (in the game).”
To Sumner, his defense earned the victory.
“Our defense picked up the slack,” Sumner said. “The defensive line neutralized their offensive line, and that energized us.”