On a Friday under the lights, Denmark shut out Harrison in the second half and scored the game's final 22 points to rally for a 25-21 win at home.
“Awesome,” Danes head coach Mike Palmieri said regarding the comeback victory. “Our kids have been doing this for three years now, and that’s something that we do. We expected them to play hard. I told them at halftime ‘We just got to work one play at a time, executed, stay together and we did.”
The Danes’ first defensive series couldn’t have been any better to start the game by causing a fumble and recovering it on the 22-yard line.
However, on the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Kohl Yearwood tried to throw a pass to wide receiver Ty Woodruff, but the ball landed out of bounds. The Danes brought out the field goal unit for a 33-yarder, but senior Hamilton DiBoyan’s kick went slightly left, and Harrison got the ball right back.
The Danes defense still was energized after forcing Harrison to go three and out. On fourth down, Ryan McDaniel dashed in and blocked the punt for the Danes to start their second series in plus territory.
However, another stalled drive brought the field goal unit back out, and this time DiBoyan was able to get the ball between the field goal posts for the first score of the game.
Harrison lined up in shotgun formation, and quarterback Braylan Ford threw a deep ball into double coverage. But he placed the ball where only Brady Kluse could get to it for a 45-yard reception, giving Harrison a first-and-goal opportunity.
On Harrison's second play, Ford threw a fade route to Kluse, and he hauled in a one-handed grab over defensive back Che Ojarikre for a 10-yard touchdown.
The start of the second quarter wasn’t ideal for Denmark, as they got a false start to pin punter Noah Moore to the 3-yard line. Given the circumstances, Harrison wanted to bring the pressure, and it was successful, as the Hoyas were able to block the punt and recover it in the end zone to grow the lead to 14-3.
The Harrison offense demonstrated its quick-strike ability with Kluse elevating over E.J. Adams to snag the ball and run into the end zone to cap off a seven-play drive for a 21-3 advantage.
The Danes defense came up huge late in the second quarter, when a pass was intercepted by Dee Crayton after Ford rolled right and tried to hit his receiver but failed to spot the linebacker in coverage.
In the aftermath of Crayton brushing off a Hoya, his defense escorted him for a 38-yard pick-6 to cut the lead to 21-10 heading into halftime.
Early in the second half, wide receiver Dylan Brozena shined light into the Danes offense by beating Harrison cornerback Tyler Wells and catching a deep ball from Yearwood. However, an ineligible man downfield penalty stalled the drive, and the Danes booted the ball to Harrison's 22-yard line.
On third-and-8, Harrison fumbled the snap, allowing McDaniel to recover his second fumble with 1:05 left in the third quarter.
The Danes proceeded to try to force their way in the end zone with running back Amon Williams. From the 3-yard line, Williams stretched out for the touchdown, but a costly flag backed Denmark up to the 8-yard line.
Yearwood rolled left, saw an opening in the Hoyas defense and took it himself for an 8-yard touchdown.
The Danes rolled the dice on a 2-point conversion.
On a trick play — with Yearwood under center for the first time all game — the quarterback hands the ball to Thoman who hands the ball to Aidan Brozena. Harrison was convinced Brozena was going to try to run it in, but instead, he threw the ball to a wide-open Yearwood to close the gap to 21-18.
“Offensive coordinator Chad Pickett called a great play, and the kids executed," Palmieri said. "That’s pretty much what it comes down to.”
With 6:52 to go, Williams got shaken up after carrying the football, and the Danes threw Crayton onto the field at running back.
On Crayton's first carry, he rumbled for 6 yards. On the following play, Yearwood kept and tucked the ball to pick up the first down.
A costly facemask penalty against the Hoyas advanced the ball to Harrison’s 15-yard line.
Shortly after, Crayton took the handoff and showed his strength by trucking multiple Harrison defenders for a 7-yard touchdown — his second overall score of the game — to give Denmark its first lead since the opening quarter.
That fired up the defense as Harrison's first play on its ensuing possession resulted in a loss of 4 yards.
On third-and-14, everyone knew Ford was going to try to give the ball to his playmaker Kluse — who entered the week with the most receiving yards (347) in Class 7A, per the GHSF Daily newsletter.
The Danes made sure to double Kluse. Ford tried to escape the pressure and throw on the run, but it lands in the hands of defensive back Sean Patterson for Denmark's third forced turnover to seal the game.
“First pick of the year in a crazy environment – so many fans, so much love,” Patterson said of his interception. "It was amazing and fun."
Denmark (2-1) will travel to face Pebblebrook on Sept. 16 in Cobb County.
“We made some plays early,” Palmieri said describing the Danes’ defensive performance. "We told our kids that ‘No. 7 is a great player, and he’s going to make some plays.' We stuck to what we wanted to do. I’m proud of them to execute the game plan."