DANVILLE — For the first time in seven years, the Danville Vikings enter their season finale without any playoff aspirations on the line.
Tonight’s game at Ned Whitesell Field against the Urbana Tigers will be the final game for nine Danville High seniors.
“We’ve got to go out, play hard and win it for our seniors,’’ Danville junior defensive end Tyvon Cooper said. “This is their last football Friday night and we want to send them out on a good note.’’
Danville (3-5 overall, 3-4 in the Big 12 Conference) were eliminated from postseason consideration with back-to-back losses to Champaign Central (39-14) and to Normal Community (60-20) a week ago. The Vikings, who also missed the playoffs a year ago, still had a shot in the final week a year ago to extend their string of playoff appearances, but they lost the season finale to Urbana.
“While we don’t have anything to play for this year, you hope that the kids go out there with all that they got for several reasons,’’ Danville coach B.J. Luke said. “First off, you want to give your seniors a good experience in their final game. Secondly, you want to have a good taste in your mouth as you go into the offseason. And finally, these are your rivals from the east, you always want to beat them and we want to get back at them for last year.’’
Danville senior Chris Collier, who has 1,002 receiving yards this season, points out it’s a chance to get things back on the right track.
“Why not go hard and put on a good show for our fans?’’ he asked. “We haven’t had the greatest season and we feel like we should have played better this year. This is our last chance to show everyone the team that we felt we could have been this year.
“We need to get that Danville football pride back into this program for the years to come. We’ve got nothing to lose in this game.’’
While Collier achieved one of goals with the 1,002 receiving yards this season, he can achieve another major accomplishment (2,000 all-purpose yards) with 241 yards against the Tigers.
“It’s a good feeling getting one of your individual goals,’’ he said. “I didn’t even know about the all-purpose yards. It will be nice to get that one as well, but the main thing is coming out with a win.’’
Senior quarterback Trent Sherfield, who rushed for 1,029 yards and passed for 1,598 yards a year ago, enters the final game with just 530 rushing yards and 1,386 passing yards this season. Sherfield, who has committed to playing at Vanderbilt next year, has been slowed by injuries to ankle and groin the past few weeks.
Luke said that Sherfield has looked good all week in practice and should be ‘good to go’ in tonight’s game against the Tigers.
The matchup between Sherfield and Urbana sophomore quarterback Alex Beckman figures to be one of the highlights of the game.
“I think you are going to see a pretty scrappy game between two teams wanting to end the season on a good note,’’ Luke said. “Urbana has really been throwing the ball more and more here at the end of the season.’’
Beckman, who is the son of Illinois football coach Tim Beckman, has passed for 1,554 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. The Tigers have five receivers with touchdown receptions and more than 150 yards receiving this year. Senior wide receiver Tanner Russell, who had 22 receptions for 336 yards and five scores this season, is questionable after suffering an injury in last week’s game against Decatur MacArthur.
“We’re going to need to get pressure on the quarterback when we can and we’re going to need to cover their wide receivers,’’ Luke said.
And while tonight is seniors night, Luke pointed out that it will be 10 months before the Vikings are back out on Ned Whitesell Field.
“I know I’m going to miss it until next August,’’ said Cooper, one of eight defensive starters that will return for Danville. “I know that I need to work harder in the offseason to get to a place that I need to be for next year.
“As a team, we also need to work harder in the offseason to get ourselves better prepared to get back in the playoffs.’’
Tonight’s game will kickoff at 7 p.m. with the pregame festivities for the nine Danville seniors starting about 20 minutes before the game. Tonight’s game can also be heard locally on WDAN-AM 1490.
Game 9 Urbana Tigers vs. Danville Vikings When -- 7 p.m. tonight Where -- Ned Whitesell Field, Danville Records -- Urbana 2-6 overall, 1-6 in the Big 12 Conference; Danville 3-5 overall, 3-4 in the Big 12 Conference. Rankings -- Neither team is rated. On the air -- WDAN-AM 1490 Last year's results -- Urbana 36, Danville 14 Last week's results -- Decatur MacArthur defeated Urbana 34-30; while Danville lost to Normal Community 60-20 Next week's games -- Final game for both teams. Statistical leaders Rushing -- Urbana: James Cobbs 99 attempts, 717 yards, 8 touchdowns. Danville: Trent Sherfield 144 attempts, 530 yards, 9 touchdowns; Kaleb McLain 38-263; Chris Collier 62-206, 2 TDs. Passing -- Urbana: Alex Beckman 126 completions, 267 attempts, 11 interceptions, 1,554 yards, 19 touchdowns. Danville: Sherfield 76 completions, 158 attempts, 8 interceptions, 1,386 yards, 19 touchdowns; Collier 2-6-0, 66 yards, 1 TD. Receiving -- Urbana: Cobbs 27 receptions, 425 yards, 3 touchdowns; Tanner Russell 22-336, 5 TDs; Jeffrey Trask Jr. 39-295, 6 TDs; Dustin Lard 20-243, 2 TDs; Jaimin Carter 11-174, 2 TDs. Danville: Collier 48 receptions, 1002 yards, 15 touchdowns; Denzel Smith 14-270, 4 TDs; Tavion Boyd 12-109, 1 TD. Tackles -- Urbana: Cedrick Fry 66, Kenny Patton 63, Johnnie Murray 58, Connor Gremer 54. Danville: Latrey Reed 56, Boyd 54, Hoey Watson 54, Deonta Turner 52, Tyvon Cooper 51, Collier 47, Darrien Rose 47.