By Mark Ambrogi
For Danville Community High School football coach Jayme Comer, the biggest factor en route to the semistate has been his team holding itself to the highest expectations it can.
“We’re playing with great effort at all times and being very unselfish,” Comer said. “They see that team football is really winning football. The results have showcased that for our kids. We get excited when somebody else does something good. Then (the players) know our opportunity comes later because of that.”
The Class 3A No. 5 Warriors (10-0) will play at No. 4 Southridge (13-0) at 7:30 p.m. in the Class 3A semistate.
“The Raiders are well-coached,” Comer said. “They’re extremely physical and fast. They present a lot of different issues we haven’t seen this year. We will have to play extremely well to win the game. With only four teams in our class, it should be that way.”
The Raiders won the 2017 Class 2A state championship and are 80-22 in eight seasons under coach Scott Buening.
“They have tendencies that aren’t anything like what we’ve played this season,” receiver/safety Luke Wooten said. They are definitely run heavy so we’ve been going over what we need to stop that.”
Wooten said the team made a comfortable adjustment to Comer and several new coaching staff members. Comer, who played for his father, Brett Comer, at Brownsburg High School, was previously an assistant at Western Boone High School for seven seasons. He replaced former Danville player K.C. Woods, who left after last season for a job at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy.
“I’m very proud of our senior class and all of our kids the way they bought into our program and the things we’ve been trying to establish,” Comer said. “They’ve done a great job doing what we’ve asked them to do. It’s been different with COVID with the restrictions. They’ve been excellent from the start and I’m very proud of them. I’m happy for the success we’ve had.”
This is the Warriors’ seniors third semistate in four years, reaching it in 2017 and last year.
“That’s a heck of a feat and very uncommon thing for them to do,” Comer said. “Now that they’ve been in that big game, they want more. They want to play at Lucas Oil but they have to win Friday night first.”
Danville finished 8-6 last season.
“Last year we started a little rough and no one expected us to get as far as we did,” Wooten said.
However, Wooten said the team was motivated by the way the Warriors lost to Heritage Hills 33-17 in that semistate game.
“We all want it very bad,” Wooten said. “I think that’s helped in our success.”
The Warriors missed the second and third games due to COVID cases.
“We missed the Lebanon game because they were missing guys and then we missed the Mooresville game because we had guys out,” Wooten said. “Our coaches remind us every week to protect the program. We’re wearing masks, just try to keep the football players together. We’re really cautious.”
Warriors junior quarterback Kale Payne has completed 130 of 182 passes for 1,650 yards and 24 touchdowns with just seven interceptions.
“In my opinion, he’s one of the best junior quarterbacks in the state,” Comer said. “He’s taken more control of what we do on the field. He’s taken ownership. I think his best football is still ahead of him. He’s still growing and I expect him to play a great game (against Southridge). We’ve had wideouts that have done well, too. We have a lot of different weapons to get the ball to and they’ve done a great job adapting.”
Wooten leads the Warriors with 42 catches for 555 yards with six touchdowns. Junior Tyler Dostin is close behind with 39 receptions for 491 yards with nine TDs. Senior Matthew Brabec has 24 catches for 349 yards and three touchdowns. Dominick Wynn has 20 catches for 268 yards and six TDs.
Junior Matthew McGovern is the team’s top rusher with 806 yards, followed by senior Ethan Dutra with 511 yards. Dutra and McGovern each have seven touchdowns.
“We have a number of different guys that can carry the football we feel comfortable with,” Comer said. “We try to spread that around as much as we can. Our offensive line has played well, too. We’ve got a lot of seniors that are big kids. They move well. They’ve jelled well. We really feel that’s the strength of our team up front. We win games with our offensive and defensive lines.”
Dutra also is starting inside linebacker and is the captain of the defense.
“He makes a lot of great plays for us,” Comer said. “He’s probably our top defensive player top to bottom.”
Dutra leads the Warriors with 73 tackles, including 51 solos. Junior defensive lineman Trey Murrell and junior safety Brayton McMahon each have 47 tackles.