BY CHAD DARE email@example.com
---- — DECATUR — Danville senior Chris Collier isn’t the biggest player on the field, but on Friday night, he had the biggest smile.
The 5-foot-7, 165-pounder played wide receiver, safety and corner back, but his biggest contribution came at the quarterback position in the final 33 minutes of the Vikings come-from-behind 34-31 victory over the Decatur MacArthur Generals at Matheson Field.
“There are not words to describe what ‘Butter’ means to this team,’’ Danville junior lineman Darrien Rose said. “He did everything tonight for this team. In the second half, he just put this team on his back and carried us.’’
Danville coach B.J. Luke had the exact words to describe Collier.
“He’s little,’’ said the coach putting his arm around his senior. “But, he’s got a huge heart. He can play anywhere. He does anything that we ask him to do on the football field.’’
Collier, whose nickname is Butter, had to step in the quarterback position as Danville senior Trent Sherfield suffered an ankle injury with just three minutes left in the first half.
“We’re a team, and when Trent went down, I knew it was my responsibility to step up in the quarterback position,’’ said Collier who finished with 225 yards of offense and he scored four touchdowns. “The biggest thing was to stay calm. I had to be a team leader and get my guys all going in the same direction.’’
When Danville lost Sherfield, the Vikings not only lost their field general but the senior had accounted for more than 1,400 yards this season and 21 touchdowns. Even in Friday’s game, he had 187 yards of total offense, including touchdown passes of 53 and 45 yards to Collier.
“Losing Trent was a big deal, but it wasn’t the end for our team,’’ Danville senior lineman Mike Vascura said. “We just go to the next guy and that guy was Butter.’’
With Collier at quarterback, the Vikings put their offensive emphasis on its running game.
“We kept running our offense, but we put this game in the hands of our offensive line guys,’’ Collier said. “Those guys have been getting better and better every week and they just stepped up and won us this game.’’
Danville, which improves to 3-3 overall and 3-2 in the Big 12 Conference with the victory, scored the game-winning touchdown with a 15-play, 81-yard drive that took 7 minutes and 39 seconds.
Collier, who rushed for 71 yards on 20 carries and caught four passes for 122 yards, capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge on fourth down-and-goal with 9:59 left in the fourth quarter. But his biggest play on the game-winning drive was a 32-yard completion to senior Denzel Smith on a third down-and-8 play from the Danville 40 that kept the drive alive.
“We knew that Butter was going to get it done,’’ Vascura said. “We just had to do our job up front to get him a hole and we knew he get us into the end zone.’’
This was the same offensive line that two weeks ago, couldn’t get a first down in the fourth quarter against Normal West.
On Friday night, the Vikings ran the ball 23 times in the second half for 88 yards and Danville had seven first downs in the final 17 minutes.
“I almost forgot how to milk a game,’’ said Luke as the Vikings ran the final 4:18 off the clock with three first downs on their final drive. “Our big boys up front did their jobs tonight and got us this victory.’’
While Collier and the offensive line stepped up their play in the second half, so did the Danville defense.
After allowing 31 points in the first half, MacArthur (4-2, 3-2) was held scoreless in the final 30 minutes.
“It was frustrating walking off the field at halftime, but it was also our motivation in the second half,’’ Rose said. “There was no way that we were going to let them get anything in the second half. We knew we had to shut them down.’’
MacArthur managed just 39 yards of offense against Danville in the second half and the Generals managed just two first downs in the fourth quarter against the Vikings defense.
“We’ve been getting better every week,’’ Rose said. “We had a really good week of practice and that finally showed up in the second half.’’
Collier, who is the starting safety for the Vikings, gave credit to the Danville linebackers, Trey Reed and Hoey Watson.
“We’ve been pushing those guys hard all week and they played their best game of the year,’’ Collier said. “They made sure that the MacArthur backs weren’t able to get outside and they did the job of getting those guys to the ground.’’
Devan Ingram and Jaquay Owens came into Friday’s game averaging 154 yards a game on the ground, that duo did pick up 140 but 56 of those yards came on one play in the first half. The Generals had just 23 yards rushing in the second half.
The Generals actually didn’t have a huge offensive game against the Vikings. They had just 159 yards of offense in the first half, but their five touchdowns were the result of three kickoff returns for 198 yards and a second-quarter fumble by Sherfield that gave MacArthur the ball on the Danville 3.
“Our kids on our special teams weren’t doing their job,’’ said Luke as MacArthur had kickoff returns of 43, 67 and 88 yards. The latter went for a touchdown. “I think some of the kids are not taking it seriously and thankfully, it didn’t cost us a game.’’
The Generals had just one kickoff return in the second half for 10 yards and the Vikings didn’t turn the ball over after having two turnovers in the first half.
“Our kids stepped up,’’ Luke said. “What a wonderful effort that we gave in the second half in all areas. That’s a big win and it keeps us in position to get where we want to go.’’
The Vikings have won back-to-back games for the first time this season and they need wins in two of their final three games to become playoff-eligible.
“This one feels really, really good,’’ Collier said. “It got us to 3-3 and it’s another step to making the postseason.
“That’s our goal for this year and we just have to keep getting better every week.’’
Danville sophomore running back Kaleb McLain had another big game for the Vikings with 90 yards on 16 carries.
Sherfield’s status for next week’s game is unknown. The Vikings return to Ned Whitesell Field for the 2013 Homecoming Game against the Champaign Central Maroons. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
PREP FOOTBALL Big 12 Conference All times Central Conf. Overall Team W L W L Normal Community 5 0 5 1 Normal West 5 1 5 1 Bloomington 4 1 4 2 Decatur MacArthur 3 2 4 2 Danville 3 2 3 3 Champaign Centennial 2 4 2 4 Champaign Central 1 4 2 4 Decatur Eisenhower 1 5 1 5 Urbana 0 5 1 5 Friday, Oct. 4 games Bloomington 35, Champaign Centennial 26 Champaign Central 15, Chicago Heights Marian Catholic 10 Danville 34, Decatur MacArthur 31 Normal Community 50, Decatur Eisenhower 6 Normal West 41, Urbana 34 Friday, Oct. 11 games Champaign Central at Danville, 7 p.m. Bloomington at Normal West, 7 p.m. Decatur Eisenhower at Urbana, 7 p.m. Normal Community at Decatur MacArthur, 7 p.m. Springfield at Champaign Centennial, 7 p.m.