BY CHAD DARE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — DECATUR — A win, that’s all the Danville Vikings needed from Friday’s Big 12 contest against Decatur Eisenhower Panthers.
Danville got that and a lot more with a 47-0 win over Eisenhower.
“It was a very good win for this team,’’ Danville coach B.J. Luke said. “We had some guys step up.’’
Luke also pointed out that the Vikings were able to get every player that dressed into the contest against the Panthers, but more important the team recorded their first shutout since a 45-0 win over Eisenhower on Sept. 30, 2011.
“We were talking all week about how we wanted to keep them out of the end zone,’’ said Danville junior linebacker Tavion Boyd, who had an interception in the game and scored his first varsity touchdown with a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter. “Getting a win was a big deal, but finishing the job on defense is a big confidence builder for this team.’’
Boyd admitted this was a completely different defense than the one that gave up 55 points in the season-opening loss to Bloomington (55-50).
“We’ve learned from those mistakes that we made in that game,’’ Boyd said. “We’ve continued to get better in every game since then and tonight shows just how far that we’ve come as a unit.’’
Eisenhower, which fell to 1-4 overall and 1-4 in the Big 12, managed just 151 yards of total offense and the Panthers best scoring opportunity came in the second quarter, but the Vikings turned them away when sophomore linebacker Latrey Reed recovered a fumble on a fourth down-and-goal play at the Danville 6.
“Our guys have been gaining confidence each week on defense and they have been tackling better,’’ Luke said. “We made some plays and kept them out the end zone.’’
In addition to turning away the Panthers midway through the second quarter, the Vikings also got a big defensive stop right before halftime.
Khalil Cook, a senior running back, had a 42-yard run late in the second quarter. It was the longest play from scrimmage for Eisenhower, but it also showed just how far the Danville defense has come this season.
That’s because Boyd almost had Cook for a 2-yard loss, but the Eisenhower running back slipped out of the tackle and reversed field, running down the far sideline.
And who kept him from scoring?
It was Boyd, the junior got up after missing the tackle for the loss and ran down Cook, forcing him out of bounds at the Danville 39.
“Tavion had a similar play against St. Rita earlier this year,’’ Luke said. “We showcased that play in our film study two weeks ago and it’s really good to see him continuing to play with that passion.
“Those are the type of plays that have defined our defense recently. We are at our best when our guys are flying around the ball and making plays.’’
Danville senior quarterback and defensive back Trent Sherfield said it was a complete game for the Vikings, who improve to 2-3 overall and 2-2 in the Big 12 Conference.
Not only did the Vikings defense pitch its first shutout in two seasons, but Sherfield had the team’s first kickoff return for a touchdown in more than two years with a 87-yard jaunt to open the second half.
“We came in here and did everything we wanted to do,’’ Sherfield said. “This team is getting better every week in all aspects of the game. This victory feels really good.’’
Sherfield was also part of a backfield tandem for Danville that rushed for 229 yards on 21 carries. Sophomore Kaleb McLain making his first varsity start finished with 105 yards on nine carries.
“All week we’ve been working on our running game and I have to give props to my young guy (McLain) for coming up big,’’ said Sherfield, as the Vikings have been held to 240 rushing yards in their last three games. “Coach Luke has always had teams that could both run the ball and throw the ball effectively. We hadn’t been doing the job on the ground, and we had to get that corrected this week.’’
Sherfield pointed out that new starters, Emmet Black at tight end and Andrew Custer-McBride at tackle made big contributions to the Vikings offense.
As a team, Danville finished with 270 yards rushing on 32 carries, an average of 8.4 a carry as they came into Friday’s game averaging just 3.3 a carry.
“We can’t be a one-dimension offense,’’ said Sherfield, who had 124 yards on 12 carries, including touchdown runs of 34, 6 and 21. “Defenses have started trying to shut down our passing game and if they are going to do that, we need to run the ball to take advantage of that.
“And getting Kaleb going will give us another weapon.’’
Luke said getting the ground game rolling also will help in the close games that the Vikings have lost this season.
“We need to be able to run the ball to close out games like we had last week,’’ said Luke, noting that the Vikings had just 1 first down in the fourth quarter of a 28-21 loss to Normal West. “That’s what we’ve come to expect from our teams and it was good to get the young kid (McLain) out there running hard.’’
Danville scored on four of its first five possessions, building a 27-0 halftime lead. Sherfield got it started with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Chris Collier and he followed that with his three rushing touchdowns. In addition to his rushing, Sherfield was 6-of-16 passing for 94 yards.
“This was a good win for our entire team,’’ Sherfield said.
And when Danville got a 41-point lead in the third quarter, the Vikings were able to get every player on its sideline into the contest.
“You like to see those kids that put their time in during the week, get an opportunity on Friday night,’’ Luke said. “Everyone is going to upbeat after this one and it should make things better next week in practice.’’
Danville returns to Decatur next Friday for a Big 12 Conference contest against the MacArthur Generals. It will be the final regular-season meeting between the schools for the foreseeable future as MacArthur is leaving the Big 12 Conference next year for the Central State Conference.
“We’re completing the Decatur farewell tour,’’ Luke said.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Mathieson Field in Decatur.
Note — Danville school nurse Judy Pendleton contributed to this report.