Hawks stop region foe Sulligent, 21-7
Paul Wilson, Enquirer Correspondent
The Danville Hawks used a strong second half of play to whip Sulligent 21-7 in the 3A, Region 7 opener for both schools.
Wet field conditions had contributed to three lost fumbles in the first half for Danville. The Hawks trailed at halftime by just one point, 7-6. However, the second half belonged to the Hawks as Danville's Jeremy Orr scored twice and the Hawk defense kept Sulligent out of the end zone. Danville's first score was set up by a punt return by Tyree Murphy. Murphy fielded the ball at the Sulligent 47 and returned the punt 25 yards giving Danville a first-and-10 at the Blue Devil 22. Two running plays gained only three yards but on third-and-seven Hawk's Orr ran 19 yards for a Danville touchdown. Craig Poole's point-after was no good but with 5:40 left in the first quarter the Hawks led 6-0.
A failed onside kick gave Sulligent the ball in excellent field position at the Danville 47. The Blue Devils took advantage driving 47 yards in 12 plays to tie the game on a three-yard run by Travis Smith. Robert Duckworth's extra point was good and Sulligent led 7-6 with 14 seconds left in the opening period.
The second half started with a play, which defies the laws of physics. Danville kicked off to start the third quarter but the ball was somehow kicked backwards and Sulligent started their drive at the Danville 37.
Despite the good field position, the Sulligent offense could not move the ball against the Hawk defense. On fourth-and-one Hawk DE Patrick Pinchon hit Travis Smith in the backfield for a one-yard loss and Danville took over at their own 29.
Three runs gave Danville a first-and-10 at the Hawk 39. Senior Lee Waddell drove up the middle for 17 yards but 10 yards of the run was wiped out by a penalty for an illegal block. The next play saw freshman tailback Donte Orr run 54 yards for what appeared to be the go-ahead touchdown but once again Danville was called for an illegal block and the ball was brought back to the Sulligent 30. It was here that the Blue Devil defense stiffened, forcing Danville to turn the ball over on downs at the Sulligent 28.
Two plays later the Danville defense came up with the turning point of the game. On second-and-nine at their own 29, Sulligent QB Zach Evans went back to pass. Evans fumbled and Hawk's Lee Waddell recovered the ball at the Sulligent 23. This time penalties would not keep the Danville offense out of the end zone.
On the final play of the third quarter Orr began to atone for his first half play as he ran into the end zone from two yards out to give Danville the lead once again. Orr also ran in the two-point conversion and Danville led 14-7 heading into the fourth quarter.
Danville's kicking problems continued as the kick off went out of bounds giving Sulligent the ball at their own 42. Two Travis Smith runs of six yards each gave the Blue Devils a first-and-10 at the Hawk 46. Sulligent would get no closer to the Danville end zone as on third-and-nine from the Hawk 45 senior DE Logan Asherbranner sacked Zach Evans for a loss of 11 yards. After the punt, Danville had the ball on their own 20.
An illegal procedure penalty pushed the Hawks back to the 15 but it was here that the Danville offensive line began to open gaping holes in the Sulligent defense. The Hawks went 80 yards in 11 plays for the final points of the game with Jeremy Orr scoring his third touchdown of the evening on a three-yard run. Poole's point-after was good and with 2:25 left in the game Hawk fans could finally exhale as Danville led 21-7. Orr was unstoppable as he gained 79 yards on eight carries with runs of 22, 17, 10 and 17 yards included in the drive.
Following the kickoff, Sulligent took over at its 39. A Travis Smith run of 12 yards gave the Blue Devils a first down near midfield but on third-and-seven Danville's Murphy intercepted a Sulligent pass and the Hawks ran out the clock to get the victory.
Orr led all rushers with 147 yards on 21 carries. Smith led Sulligent with 82 yards on 21 attempts. The Danville defense turned in another fine performance holding Sulligent to just 78 yards of total offense for the game. Logan Asherbranner (one sack) and Waddell (one fumble recovery) led the Hawks with 10 tackles each. Michael Potter (one sack, one fumble recovery) and Thomas Garner each had nine.
With the win Danville moves to 2-0 (1-0 in 3A, Region 7) for the first time since 1992. This week the Hawks will attempt to get their second region win of the year as they travel to Cullman County to do battle with the Good Hope Raiders (0-2, 0-1). Game time is 7 pm.