Danville ekes out 6-0 win over Falkville
Paul Wilson, Enquirer Correspondent
A warm, muggy night greeted the Danville Hawks and the Falkville Blue Devils in their season opener last Thursday night at Danville's Smith-Owens Stadium.
The Hawks were looking to build upon last season's success while the Blue Devils were pointing to a new beginning with long-time assistant coach Neil Estes making his debut as Falkville's head coach.
In a game filled with turnovers and penalties, the Danville Hawks used a fourth-quarter 25-yard Casey Wilson to John Dalton touchdown pass on fourth-and-long to score the game's only touchdown as the Hawks defeated Falkville 6-0.
When asked about the game, Hawks coach Joey Burch said, "It may have not been pretty, but I'll take a shutout anytime."
Little did fans know at the time, but the first two plays of the game were a preview of things to come. Danville kicked to Falkville but a fumble on the opening kick was recovered by Hawk freshman Levi George giving Danville great field position at the Blue Devil 37.
Danville nearly turned the ball back over to Falkville as Wilson could not field the center's snap and had to fall on the ball two yards behind the line of scrimmage.
While the Hawks were able to pick up one first down, their drive ended when on third-and-11 from the Falkville 28 when Blue Devil linebacker Cory Shadden picked off Wilson's pass, giving Falkville a first down at its own 39.
The two teams traded punts giving Falkville the football at its own 5 following a 42-yard punt from Danville junior John Dalton. The Blue Devils quickly brought their fans to their feet on first down as senior running back Caleb Ashley ran 95 yards down the right sideline for an apparent touchdown. But a block in the back penalty was called, bringing the ball back to the Danville 40. The Blue Devil offense could not move the ball and on fourth-and-15 a bad snap gave Danville excellent field position at midfield.
Two runs by senior running back Jeremy Orr gained four yards but the Hawks gave their fans reason to cheer on third down as Wilson hit Dalton for a gain of 23 yards giving Danville a first down at the Blue Devil 23. The Hawks drove down to the Falkville six but came up empty as sophomore Corey Evans was wide right on a 23-yard field goal attempt leaving the score tied at 0 early in the second quarter.
Falkville then put together its best drive of the half going from their own 20 to the Danville 11. Key plays in the drive included a 12-yard run by senior quarterback Kevin Russell and a 46-yard run by senior Blake Jump. Jump's run gave the Blue Devils a first down on the Hawk 11, but Danville senior Justin Nelson recovered a Russell fumble to end the Falkville drive.
The rest of the half saw Danville lose two fumbles inside their own 15 but the Blue Devils could not take advantage as a fumble and several penalties kept Falkville from getting into the end zone.
Just as they did to open the quarter, the Hawk defense forced another Falkville punt after three plays giving Danville the ball at the Blue Devil 35.
"Our defense really stepped up the second half after giving up two long runs earlier," Burch said.
An incomplete pass, fumble and sack opened the final period for the Danville offense but on fourth-and-13 from the Blue Devil 25, Wilson had just enough time to find Dalton in the end zone for what would prove to be the game's only touchdown. Evans' extra point was no good but with 10:30 left in the fourth quarter Danville led 6-0.
Things went from bad to worse for Falkville as Danville senior Corey Gilmore recovered the kickoff to give Danville the ball at the Blue Devil 42.
An Orr run of 12 yards – his longest of the night – gave the Hawks a 1st down at the Falkville 28. The Hawks would get no closer as the Falkville defense stiffened, forcing Danville to turn the ball over on downs after a Cody Simpson sack of Wilson.
Falkville gave the ball back to Danville on the very next play as Randolph recovered a Jump fumble. Danville would drive to the Blue Devil 12 before once again turning the ball over on downs. Falkville would be unable to mount a serious threat and the game ended with Danville holding on for a 6-0 victory.
Danville and Falkville will each begin region play at home next week. The Hawks will entertain the Sulligent Blue Devils while Falkville will host Cleveland.