BY CHAD DARE
---- — NORMAL — "Adversity does not build character, it reveals it."
Is a famous quotation attributed to American novelist James Lane Allen.
Coming off a disappointing loss to Champaign Central a week ago, the character of the Danville Vikings was reveal.
Playing with a limited roster because of an injury, a player quitting the team and two starters not making the trip after missing a Monday morning practice, Danville put forth its best effort against the fourth-rated in Class 6A Normal Community Ironmen.
In the end, Danville coach B.J. Luke had plenty of praise for his team's effort but Normal Community was too much to overcome as the Ironmen claimed at least a share of the Big 12 Conference title with a 60-20 victory over the Vikings at Normal Community High School.
"The kids that we brought over here gave us everything they had and that's all I can ask,'' Luke said. "We made some mistakes, but those things are going to happen when you have some kids that just got their starting jobs two days ago.''
The Vikings, who fall to 3-5 on the season, had eight players going both ways on Friday night with three guys going just offense and three more just going defense. In all, Danville had less than 30 kids dressed on its sideline, while Normal Community had no players going both ways and the Ironmen had close to 60 players on their sideline.
"It's frustrating, but you have to do things the right way,'' Danville senior quarterback Trent Sherfield said. "Coach Luke has always had a policy that if you miss a practice, you don't play. It's a shame that a couple of guys weren't able to make practice this week, but even if we just had 11 players, we were still going to give it all we got. That's the Danville way.''
And the most disappointing absence might have been a senior receiver, who quit the team this week, but not according to players.
"The guys in this lockerroom are not going to quit, no matter what happens,'' Danville senior lineman Mike Vascura said. "We had a really good week of practice and we came into playing to win.
"We made some mistakes and with them being a really good team, they capitalized on them.''
The miscues for Danville started on the first play from scrimmage.
Sherfield, who had only one positive rushing play in 11 attempts, fumbled at the Danville 22 and Normal Community's Jeremiah Franklin was there to recover it.
Four plays later, Ironmen sophomore running back Alec Bozarth scored the first of his five touchdowns in the contest with a 4-yard blast through the Danville defense giving Normal Community a 7-0 lead just 1 minute, 17 seconds into the contest.
Bozarth finished with 191 rushing yards on 15 carries to go along with 38 yards receiving and he was 1-of-2 passing for 3 yards. Normal Community finished with 384 yards of total offense in the game played with a running clock over the final 17 minutes.
"The end results don't show it, but I thought our kids played much harder this week,'' Luke said. "We're going to go back to work and see if we can continue to get better as a football team. That's what you are supposed to do.''
Danville did have some offensive success in the first half as Sherfield was 10-of-19 for 90 yards and senior wide receiver Chris Collier had 265 all-purpose yards, catching a 24-yard touchdown pass and throwing a 34-yard scoring strike to Tavion Boyd, that pulled the Vikings within 26-13 with 6:18 left until halftime.
But in between the two Danville first-half touchdowns was an interception by Normal Community's D.J. Frank. The Ironmen needed just three plays to cover 38 yards as Kyle Lantman's 13-yard touchdown reception on a Colin Olson pass gave them a 20-6 lead.
"We could turn the ball over against the team, and expect to win,'' Sherfield said. "Without our full assortment of offensive weapons, we needed to play mistake-free football.''
Normal Community scored on eight of its first nine possessions and in its last two games, the Danville defense has given up touchdowns on 14 out of 17 possessions.
"They are a very good offensive team, they can run the ball and they can throw the ball effectively,'' Luke said. "It was another tough game for our defense, but we also didn't help them out with a few of our offensive miscues giving them a short field.''
The Vikings wound up with 10 rushing yards on 34 rushing attempts and the biggest struggle in the run game for Danville was Sherfield who had negative-44 yards on 11 carries, included in that was five sacks by the Ironmen defense. The Vanderbilt recruit, who has been battling an ankle injury, said he was limited by a sore hamstring.
"I felt something in pregame warmups and I just couldn't get going,'' Sherfield said. "That definitely didn't help our running game.''
Normal Community coach Wes Temples made a few questionable decisions in the second half of his team's 40-point victory. The Ironmen attempted an onside kick with a 53-13 lead with 5:20 left in the third quarter, and the final touchdown for Normal Community was scored by Bozarth on a 51-yard run.
Danville coach B.J. Luke responded by putting his hands-unit out for the final kickoff by Normal Community, just in case Temples wanted to call another onside kick attempt.
With the loss, the Danville Vikings will miss the IHSA Playoffs for the second consecutive season.
The Vikings will close out the regular season next Friday at Ned Whitesell Field against the Urbana Tigers. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and Danville will honor nine seniors before the contest.
PREP FOOTBALL Big 12 Conference All times Central Conf. Overall Team W L W L Normal Community 7 0 7 1 Normal West 6 1 6 1 Bloomington 5 2 5 3 Decatur MacArthur 4 3 5 3 Danville 3 4 3 5 Champaign Centennial 3 4 4 4 Champaign Central 2 5 3 5 Urbana 1 6 2 6 Decatur Eisenhower 2 6 2 6 Friday, Oct. 18 games Normal Community 60, Danville 20 Bloomington 53, Decatur Eisenhower 0 Champaign Centennial 20, Champaign Central 8 Decatur MacArthur 34, Urbana 30 Saturday, Oct. 19 game Normal West at Columbia Battle, Mo., 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25 games Urbana at Danville, 7 p.m. Decatur MacArthur at Bloomington, 7 p.m. Champaign Centennial at Normal West, 7 p.m. Normal Community at Champaign Central, 7 p.m. Decatur Eisenhower at Bloomington Central Catholic, 7 p.m.