BY CHAD DARE
A three-game winning streak and potential playoff berth apparently wasn’t enough motivation for the Danville Vikings.
A poor week of practice turned into a disappointing performance as the Normal Community Ironmen ran all over Danville 48-24 on Senior Night at Ned Whitesell Field.
“It was disappointing,’’ Danville sophomore linebacker Hoey Watson said. “We thought we were trying, but we just gave up.’’
And it wasn’t like the Ironmen did anything special or tricky against the Vikings.
Normal Community didn’t attempt a pass in its final 36 plays from scrimmage.
“I think everyone in the town of Danville knew that we were running the ball on every down, but that’s who we are,’’ Normal Community coach Wes Temples said. “Our guys up front are veterans, they are seasoned, they are big kids and we are going to live and die by those guys.
“As the game went on, we started to wear on them a little bit, that doesn’t happen at Danville very often.’’
It was three consecutive touchdown drives in the second quarter for the Ironmen that seemingly sealed the deal for them.
“They just came out and got after us,’’ Danville coach B.J. Luke said. “They really dominated up front, and when they dominated up front, we had to be perfect catching the ball and doing the little things.
“Instead, we sputtered around on offense and we didn’t help our defense.’’
Normal Community turned an 8-3 deficit into a 24-8 halftime lead with those three touchdown drives. Freshman Alec Bozart, who had 97 yards on 16 carries, capped the final two with a 1-yard plunge and 9-yard jaunt.
“That’s when a team is telling you that they are going to control the game,’’ said Luke about Normal Community’s single-minded offensive approach. “That’s pretty much did that from the get go and they a good job.
“I think a lot of that comes with effort, and that surprised me a little bit. We haven’t had many teams get handled like that.’’
But Luke also admitted that he saw some negative signs this week from his team.
“Our focus was elsewhere this week and you can’t do that and play against good football teams,’’ he said. “Our focus needs to be on our schoolwork and on football. We need to take care of our business each week.’’
During the Danville three-game win streak, Luke saw a team that was constantly improving.
And this week?
“We weren’t up to speed,’’ Danville senior tackle Jon Lomax said. “It seemed like everyone was just trying to hurry through practice, I don’t know what was going on after practice, but everyone wanted to get it over with.
“It looked like no one’s mind was there.’’
The lack of focus showed up in all facets of the game.
Danville’s offense was held to a season-low 73 rushing yards on 27 attempts, that’s an average of 2.7 yards a carry.
“On that first series, they took it down their pretty easily and pretty quick,’’ said Temples of Danville’s seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive. “I thought our kids adjusted well after that.’’
But, the Vikings still outgained the Ironmen 324-236. The biggest factor in that might have been the poor play of Danville’s special teams.
“Our kick game was just brutal,’’ Luke said.
Danville averaged starting its offensive drives on its own 20, while Normal Community averaged starting on the Danville 41.
The Ironmen had 99 kickoff return yards on four attempts to just 67 for the Vikings on six returns.
“That was huge,’’ Temples said. “We feel like we have a pretty good kicker in Grant Donath and he was good tonight.
“But the most impressive part was that Danville is known for its kickoff returns … we did a fantastic job of keeping them contained.’’
The Ironmen kept their postseason hopes alive with the victory, improving to 5-3 overall and 5-2 in the Big 12 Conference; while the Vikings fall to 4-4 and 4-3.
Danville needs a win over Urbana next Friday to become playoff eligible and some help around the state to earn its seventh straight playoff berth.
“We have to give everything we have left,’’ Lomax said. “We still have another week. Everything we’ve lost in the past, we can get back this week.
“This could be our last time on the field as a Viking.’’
Kickoff next Friday at Urbana is set for 7 p.m.