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Heavy rains on Friday left the Washington County Commanders with a soggy field as they prepared to host the Danville Admirals later that night.
Danville, along with Mother Nature, was able to slow Washington County’s high-powered offense down enough to pick up a 42-21 win at Bennett R. Lewis Field, sending the Commanders’ record to 3-5 on the season.
The Admirals have thrown for most of their yardage this season, but were ground-bound due to the muddy weather. Still, the Admiral offense had a season-high 448 yards rushing on the night. Danville ran on 55 of its 62 plays, averaging 8.1 yards per carry.
Washington County quarterback Joe Joe Simms ran the ball 16 times for 31 yards — below his average of 82 yards per game — and completed 13 of 30 passes for 195 yards.
“Not to make excuses, but I think the mud does get your timing off between your quarterback and your receivers,” Commander coach Mark Perry said. “They (Danville) were able to drop back into a pass coverage defense, and we weren’t able to run the ball in that type of cover two look. That hurt us when we weren’t able to run the ball.”
Danville was concerned, even with the wet weather, about Washington County’s running game, and especially the ability of Joe Joe Simms to take over the game.
“I was more concerned about his running than I was his passing, to be honest,” Danville coach Sam Harp said. “For the conditions that we had, I think we did a pretty good job on him. We probably did as good a job keeping him contained as anybody he’s played against all year.”
Perry said preparing for the wet weather was something his team had done most of the week leading up to the game.
“You could see by Tuesday or Wednesday that it was going to be a mud game, and we pretty much knew what they were going to do in the mud, and what they did was what we epxected them to do,” Perry said. “We don’t have 250- or 275-pound horses to run ball down somebody’s throat. We can’t get into a triple I formation and just run the ball. That’s what a team would typically do in weather like that. We’re just not fortunate enough to have the size to do that with.”
Harp said the Admirals worked on running the ball more in practice last week in anticipation of a rainy day, and he said it became evident early in the game that the passing game wasn’t going to work as well with wet footballs.
“We had three plays in the first half when we were in our spread stuff that the ball was just going right through (the receivers’) hands,” the Danville coach said. “Those were drive-stoppers, and at that point I decided we were going to get in the I-bone until they stopped us. And they never did, so we just stayed with it.”
Washington County made some mistakes that hurt down the stretch, including four turnovers on the night. Perry said the mistakes were not from a lack of effort by his team, but simply things that didn’t go the Commanders’ way.
“The kids played hard, and it wasn’t a matter of a lack of effort,” Perry said. “We got down early and they outflanked us with the toss plays. We were outmanned on the outside, and they had three big plays on us. Those three touchdowns are on me. I take responsibility for those. We were trying to stop the iso inside, and they hadn’t shown the toss in any of the five game films we had seen on them, but they went to it on us. We adjusted in the second quarter and made more adjustments at the half, but we were just outmanned on the outside.”
After trailing 27-6 at the end of the third period, Washington County scored twice in the fourth quarter to pull within 34-21 with 5:12 remaining and got the ball back a minute later on a Danville fumble. But the Commanders could not overcome a fumble of their own on fourth-and-13 and Jamar Taylor recovered for Danville with 2:51 to play. The Admirals tacked on one more touchdown in the final minute to close things out and seal the 41-21 win.
Next week, the Commanders go back on the road, and they will be looking for a win over Elizabethtown, which is 7-2 on the season. The Commanders found success in their last visit to E-Town with a 15-0 win back in September of 2006. Mark Perry and his staff will look to do that again this year against a solid Panther squad.
“They’re a good team. It’s like looking in a mirror, because they do a lot of things similar to what we do,” Perry said. “They do it with a nice mix through the air and with their running game. This will be a good challenge for us, and it will be a chance for us to get back on track. We’ve gotta play with emotion and hope we peak at the right time.”
Kickoff for the Commanders’ game at E-Town is set for 7:30 p.m.
All the action can be heard on WYSB 102.7 FM with pre-game starting at 7 p.m. followed by the kickoff at 7:30 p.m.
Visit www.readthesun.com late Friday night for the score and tune into WYSB 102.7 FM at 10 a.m. every Saturday morning for the coach’s show, featuring game highlights and analysis by Coach Perry.
Mike Marsee of the Danville Advocate-Messenger contributed to this article.