DANVILLE — The Danville Blue Devils and the Highland Scots are slated to meet this Friday in the first week of Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference action and the start of conference play is not lost on either team.
“If we want to finish well in the conference, we have to start well,” Highland coach Chad Carpenter said. “Now we can settle into our league. It’s just a fun time and a great atmosphere.”
Danville coach Ed Honabarger shared the same ideas about Friday’s conference opener.
“Every team’s goal is to win the league and go into the playoffs,” Honabarger said. “The start of the conference schedule is the first step to one of those goals.”
Highland is coming into the week on a hot streak, winning their last two contests. After falling in Week 1 to Bloom-Carroll (44-22), the Scots rebounded to beat Ontario (47-16) and River Valley (41-8).
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“I think we’ve grown a lot as a team over the past couple of weeks,” Carpenter said. “We are starting to settle into our niche with what we are good at. … I think the strength of our team is playing physical. We have to control the line of scrimmage and let our backs run well.”
The rushing attack for the Scots has proven to be a strength, thanks to several capable backs. Tate Tobin is the top rusher so far, with 269 yards in three weeks with a 9.6-yard average. Brody Matthews has 228 yards on the ground and Brock Veley has kicked in another 194 rushing yards this fall. As signal caller, Ian Taylor has gone 12 of 32 this fall for 185 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. Isaiah Stoneburner has been his favorite target to date, with five catches for 106 yards.
Danville is coming into the matchup searching for its first win. The Blue Devils were on the road in a Week 1 22-0 loss to Lucas. The team also fell to Tiffin-Calvert 39-21. A week ago, Danville scored with 15 seconds left on the clock to tie the game against Garaway and send it to overtime, but fell by one point in overtime, 29-28.
“Garaway is a good team. If anything, it gave our kids some confidence,” Honabarger said. “They know how we can play and what we are capable of.”
The Blue Devils have been pretty mixed on offense this fall. QB Dalton David has gone 31 of 59 for 330 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in 2018. His favorite target is Corbin Hazen, who has hauled in 15 receptions for 180 yards. Alex Holt also has eight receptions for 65 yards on the year. Coming out of the backfield, Chris Greenawalt is the team’s top rusher with 225 yards on 48 carries.
Honabarger said the key to Friday’s contest for the Blue Devils is their ability to control both the clock and Highland’s big-play ability.
“Offensively, we need to eat up the clock,” Honabarger said. “Defensively, we have to limit their big plays. We need to make them earn their yards.”
Although Highland is coming in at 2-1 and Danville is 0-3, this matchup of perennial KMAC powerhouses could go either way. Neither the Scots nor the Blue Devils are looking past each other.
“They’re record doesn’t justify their team,” Carpenter said. “They have played some tough competition. Defensively, they are physical and they run the ball well. They’re going to be a handful.”
Honabarger shared a similar sentiment.
“Obviously it’s a big game,” he said. “They’re probably the preseason favorites in the KMAC, so we have our work cut out for us.”