Danville rolls to 7-1 after 43-0 win over Athens
DANVILLE – Leading 43-0 early in the fourth quarter and with the clock running due to the mercy rule, Danville’s defense faced a 4th-and-goal by the Athens offense on the Danville 4-yard line, with the Wildcats looking to at least get on the scoreboard with the outcome already decided.
The Ironmen stopped the Wildcats at the 1, and although the play didn’t matter in terms of the outcome, it illustrated just how dominating the Ironmen were in Saturday afternoon’s District 4 Class 3A semifinal. The Ironmen held Athens scoreless and to just 138 yards, including only 50 in the first half, as Danville advanced to next week’s district championship game at Montoursville with a 43-0 win over the Wildcats.
“Our defense has been getting better and better, and this is the time of year that the defense really has to play. They’re working very hard on that side of the ball and it was nice for them to get another shutout,” said Danville coach Mike Brennan. “All the stuff we preach every day like running to the football, playing gap control, play responsibility, know your job and do it well, be a ball hawk in the secondary, they did a nice job with today.”
As it turned out, Danville would get all of the points it would need less than :20 in to the game. On the Ironmen’s first play from scrimmage after receiving the opening kickoff, KJ Riley found a wide open Carson Persing on a crossing route, and Persing turned it into a 61-yard touchdown reception to give the Ironmen a 6-0 lead just :19 into the game.
“We really didn’t have any answers. We wanted to come in and mix up some coverages but we had two breakdowns in coverage on their first two touchdowns and when that happens it puts you on your heels and gives you a little doubt in your mind and takes away your confidence and it’s all uphill from there,” said Athens coach Jack Young. “We knew it was important for us to start well and first play of the game giving up a touchdown on a coverage breakdown, it put us in a bad place and it was a tough day.”
That was just the beginning for Danville as Riley tossed five touchdowns in the first half alone en route to a 219-yard performance on 12-of-19 passing, with all 219 yards coming in the first half. The Ironmen scored on their first six possessions to take a 37-0 lead at halftime, which could have been even more, as they took that lead at the 9:28 mark of the second quarter when Riley tossed his fifth touchdown to Ian Persing from eight yards. But Danville then turned it over on downs and lost a fumble on their last two drives of the first half.
“We had the week off and did things to prepare so we came out quickly and got out of the blocks fast but then we sputtered a bit, didn’t finish in the red zone a few times, but it was a good sound win and I’m proud of our kids,” said Brennan. “It was good to have the opportunity to play a home playoff game and get a win and we’re excited about the opportunity to play next week.”
The sputtering would be of no consequence, however, at least to the outcome of the game. On Athens’ first play of the game following Danville’s initial touchdown, quarterback Mason Lister fumbled and Danville took over at the Athens’ 16-yard line. Although Danville was held to a 31-yard Riley field goal on that drive, that was about the only thing that didn’t go right for Danville early on.
The Ironmen defense forced Athens to punt on four of their next five drives, and on the other drive, got an interception by Zach Gordon, who returned it 30 yards, which set up Riley’s touchdown pass to Ian Persing that made it 43-0.
In between that and Riley’s field goal that put Danville up 9-0 at the 10:43 mark of the first quarter, Riley tossed three more touchdowns, one each to Carson Persing, Jagger Dressler and Hayden Winn, on successive drives. The latter, to Winn, capped Danville’s longest drive of the game – seven plays, 87 yards – that was highlighted by a 34-yard reception by Carson Persing on the first play of the drive after it started at the Danville 13. Carson Persing finished the afternoon with 125 receiving yards on just four catches, along with his two touchdown grabs.
“It was nothing that we didn’t see on film. They did the same thing to their previous opponents that they did to us today and when you don’t put pressure on the quarterback and contain him, it’s a struggle,” said Young. “That’s a really good football team and it’s a different time of the year when you get to the playoffs.”
With the running clock in the second half, Athens controlled the ball for the most of the half, running 26 plays to just eight for Danville’s, but in addition to being stopped on downs at the Danville 1 midway through the fourth quarter, the Wildcats had a couple of special teams miscues as Danville blocked two punts in the third quarter, the second of which was picked up and returned 10 yards for a touchdown by CJ Outt for the only points of the second half.
While the loss ends the abbreviated season for the Wildcats, as Athens will not be looking to add any more games, Young considered just getting to this point a victory.
“We weren’t supposed to be here. A lot of people didn’t think we’d even play a season this year, nevermind playoffs, so for our kids to get better each week and finish 5-1 and come play a really good football team, it was a special time for us,” said Young. We didn’t want to end like it did today, but I’m super proud of these kids for working hard and we only have seven seniors, so the future is bright for us.”
Danville 43, Athens 0
Athens (5-2) 0 0 0 0 – 0
Danville (7-1) 23 14 6 0 – 43
11:41 – (D) Carson Persing 61-yard pass from KJ Riley (kick blocked), 1-61, :09
10:43 – (D) KJ Riley 31-yard field goal, 3-2, :54
7:00 – (D) Carson Persing 20-yard pass from KJ Riley (Riley kick), 5-62, 2:28
3:49 – (D) Jagger Dressler 5-yard pass from KJ RIley (Riley kick), 5-50, 2:06
10:30 – (D) Hayden Winn 5-yard pass from KJ Riley (Riley kick), 7-87, 2:25
9:28 – (D) Ian Persing 8-yard pass from KJ RIley (Riley kick), 2-15, :14
2:09 – (D) CJ Outt 10-yard blocked punt return (kick blocked)
First downs 8 16
Rushes-net yards 36-105 21-140
Passing yardage 33 219
Passing 7-15-0-1 12-19-5-0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-2
Penalties-yards 5-54 7-54
RUSHING: Athens: Shayne Reid (15-40), Caleb Nichols (8-45), Mason Lister (6-(-11)), Tanner Dildine (3-0), Christopher Bathgate (2-24), Josiah Stringham (1-5), Karter Rude (1-2); Danville: Aaron Johnson (9-57), Zach Gordon (6-39), Ian Persing (3-14), KJ Riley (2-32), TEAM (1-(-2))
PASSING: Athens: Mason Lister (7-15-33-0-1); Danville: KJ Riley (12-19-219-5-0)
RECEIVING: Athens: Karter Rude (4-32), Tanner Dildine (1-1), JJ Babcock (1-1), Shayne Reid (1-(-1)) ; Danville: Jagger Dressler (5-71-1), Carson Persing (4-125-2), Aaron Johnson (1-10), Ian Persing (1-8-1), Hayden Winn (1-5-1)
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