By STEVE CORNELIUS, CJ Sports Editor
For nearly a century, the Somerset-Danville football game has become one of the biggest and most famous rivalries in this part of the state. And every season leading up to that big game, all the talk was about the game.
On a pleasant autumn Friday night another rendition of this historic, and sometimes heated, rivalry game was played out.
But last night’s game had nothing to do with the Briar Jumpers nor the Admirals. Tonight’s game was more about the young men who played the game and the grown men who coached them.
On the eve of the devastating car wreck involving Somerset players Wil Hinton and Jacobi Gilmore, the game played on with heavy hearts on both sides of the field.
“I know Danville and Somerset have a history as rivals and not all of it is very friendly, but (Danville) Coach (Sam) Harp talked to me at length (on Thursday night),” Somerset head football coach Robbie Lucas said. “I think the two programs have mutual respect for each other. Coach Harp told me a couple of his coaches lost close families members within hours of each other over the past week.”
“There is nothing in the coaches’ book about this kind of thing,” a noticeably shaken Lucas commented. “The other coaches didn’t get it, and I didn’t get it. They understand what it is like if something happens to one of your kids, because they are your kids.”
“I have two girls of my own and no boys, so these players on the team are my boys,” Lucas explained. “When things like this happen, it really shakes you to the core.”
After both Hinton and Gilmore were flown to UK Medical Center in Lexington in critical condition, their improvement over a 24-hour period has been encouraging to both their coaches and teammates.
“It is hard to believe that things are not as more serious as they are,” Lucas said. “But if they were, we might have ask to move the (Danville) game or simply forfeit the game.”
“But with both young men showing great progress over a 24-hour period, we felt like we should go ahead and play the game,” Lucas continued. Playing the game is probably not what a lot of people would think you should do, but kids are pretty resilient and they want to play the game.”
“I talked to both kids (Thursday) night,” Lucas said. “Jacobi (Gilmore) was sort of in and out of it, but I talked in length to Wil (Hinton) and he was for us playing the game (on Friday night). Their parents wanted us to play the game, there was no ‘second thoughts’, and that is one of the first things they said to me was ‘play the game’.”
“There is no good decision with something like this and if we put it off one more day, the kids are still concerned about their teammates and the families are still concerned,” Lucas concluded. “This is one of those things that it is going to take more time than what we have got.”
Lucas also stated that last night’s game was good for the kids, for the simple fact that it might take their minds off the difficult situation.
“We’re hoping the game might take the kids’ minds off what is happening,” Lucas explained. “I am not one of those people who might use an experience like this to motivate people. I just think normalize right now would be good for our team.”
“Our kids were within 100 yards of the accident, a couple of the kids were behind them as they pulled out, and most of them got to the scene (of the accident) very quickly,” Lucas added. “We had about 80 percent of the team there when the accident happened.”
“We simply are going to do the best we can with what we got,” Lucas said. “The kids wanted to play, the two young men wanted us to play, so we are going to do the best we can with what we got left of the team and go from there.”
From a football standpoint, both Gilmore and Hinton were a big part of the Jumpers’ success this season.
Hinton, despite playing with an injured ankle over the past couple of games, was the ‘go to’ guy – as an offensive tight end – in crucial third and fourth down situations.
Gilmore was part of the Jumpers’ outstanding defensive unit. Gilmore had a knack for penetrating into the opponents’ offensive backfield for sacks or QB pressures.
Gilmore averaged nearly 7 tackles per game, while Hinton averaged almost 4 tackles per game during the football season .
However, over the past 48 hours – football has been a distant second on Coach Robbie Lucas’ mind.
“I didn’t want to take that field last night without those two young men ... I really didn’t,” Lucas said with a shaky voice. “I didn’t think I had the heart for it, but it is something we had to do. I guess for respect of the game, we are going to compete and do the best we can.”
The Briar Jumpers ended up dominating the Danville Admirals in an impressive 24-7 win in Danville, Ky.