When Danville played at Lexington Christian earlier this season, the Admirals went back to Boyle County with a convincing 41-7 win over their district rival. The two meet in Danville on Friday for a region finals bout. I spoke with Lexington Christian Coach Ethan Atchley late Thursday night ahead of the big game:
On playing smart against teams like Danville
“When you play a team like Danville that’s loaded in a lot of spots and play the game fundamentally sound, you’ve just gotta do what you can to control the ballgame in your favor. And that comes down to the turnover battle and trying to do what you can to limit their possessions. That sounds like coach speak but when you watch teams that stop offenses and put up a lot of points, they win the turnover battle most of the time and and get some timely stops. It may been the redzone to stymy a drive or it may be that you’re backed up and give your offense a short field to work with. It just really comes down to field position and that turnover battle and what you’re able to do with it on both sides of the ball.”
On LCA’s first meeting against Danville this season
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“That game was close, man. It was 13-nothing and we had gotten the ball and went three-and-out. Gave ’em a short field to work with. ... We blocked an extra point and that gave our kids some hope. Then we ran out and throw a pick the very first play. It was a tipped interception set up off a screen. Our o-line did a pretty good job and their kid just made a play. It’s just part of it. You don’t see speed like that very often and that’s the thing at the lower level. When you’ve got those kids that can just flat go, you take it for granted just how fast that speed can be when they’re breaking on the ball or tracking something down on an edge run or whatever it may be. It’s something that I’m glad we got to see and get another shot at, that’s for sure.”
On Dillon Wheatley, LCA’s first 2000-yard rusher since 2009
“It’s unbelievable solely due to the fact that he’s only a sophomore. Our o-line has played phenomenally. We’ve really done a good job executing scheme as well as attitude and effort. We’re just trying to make sure Dillon gets the ball for as many yards as possible and we can control the ball.”
Avenging last season’s playoff loss to Shelby Valley last week
“I think that last year we went up there with a pretty solid gameplan and Nick (Whitman) being out kinda hurt us. But at the end of the day our kids grinded through it. We did a lot of good things except turn the ball over in the redzone, which hurt us. If it wasn’t turnovers it was more or less just getting stops. At that point we really felt like we needed to score touchdowns against them and not just go for field goals and that didn’t help us either.
“Being able to go up there and take a three-hour bus trip and knowing that we had lost up there at the end of the season last year, I think our kids were motivated. It’s very similar to when we played Leslie County. We went up there my first year coaching and we had heard all these things about how great Leslie County was, and we had a mediocre record but were playing significantly well towards the end of the year.”
“It’s really just who’s hot and who’s playing well. I hate to say it that way but it really doesn’t matter what you did in the first four games. We went 4-0 (this season) but the reality is that doesn’t help you. At this point in the year it’s who’s able to execute, control the ball, play the field-position battle and then put points on the board.”
Traveling in the playoffs versus hosting
“Going distances, for any team, is really a challenge. You just don’t know what you’re going to get when you get off the bus. Fortunately for our kids, we’ve done a very, very good job this year I think playing on the road. I couldn’t be more happy about that knowing that we’ve gotta go on the road this week. We’d love to be at home but we’ve played well when we’ve had to go away. Danville’s a place last year where we played really well and just couldn’t come away with it unfortunately.
Thoughts on the rematch
“I’m excited about the opportunity. I know our kids are fired up and ready to go and they realize that we didn’t put our best foot forward in the first game and we hurt ourselves. That’s not to take away from Danville executing and doing some good things. It really boils down to, at this point in the year, you win and lose really truly based on the fact that you gotta contol what you can control. And hopefully tomorow night we can control us.”
Lexington Christian at Danville
What: Class 2A, Region 4 finals (state quarterfinals)
Where: Admiral Stadium, Danville
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Records: Lexington Christian 8-4, Danville 11-1.
Cantrall Ratings: Danville 75.3, Lexington Christian 52.3