BY CHAD DARE email@example.com
---- — DANVILLE — A season-opening 43-42 loss to Bloomington was a harbinger of things to come for the 2012 Danville Vikings.
“Losing by one point was really hard,’’ said Danville senior Trent Sherfield.
Danville acutally scored seven touchdowns to six for Bloomington, but the Vikings were 0-for-7 in two-point conversions and the Purple Raiders were 6-of-6 in extra-point kicks and all-conference quarterback Jake Romani successfully executed his team’s only two-point conversion with 36 seconds left to give Bloomington the 1-point victory.
“It was very frustrating,’’ Danville senior Chris Collier said. “We had seven chances to get a conversion to win the game, and we couldn’t get it done.’’
The Vikings went to finish with a 4-5 record, the school’s first losing record in seven seasons and it was also their first non-playoff season in that time frame.
Collier said this team is completely different from last year’s squad, that surrendered 29 points in the final 14 minutes of the contest.
“We really didn’t practice that hard before the first game,’’ Collier admitted. “We just took it for granted, and everyone got really tired at the end. We are going to hold up for all four quarters this time around.’’
In this final week of practice, Collier said things have gone really well for the Vikings.
“It’s like most first games,’’ said Danville coach B.J. Luke, beginning his ninth season at his alma mater. “You are not sure where you are — you think you’ve covered everything and you think you are ready for a game. I know the players are ready to play, but some things are going to pop up that we will need to adjust to happening.’’
And Luke knows that it could be anything on either side of the football.
“That’s the thing about a first game,’’ he said. “They could have put in a brand-new offense or defense during the off-season. But, with an established program like Bloomington, you figure that they will stick with the things they’ve done in the past. But, we know they are probably going to have a wrinkle here or there, that we will need to adjust to on the fly.’’
Looking at the Purple Raiders, who shared the Big 12 Conference title with the Urbana Tigers in 2012, they not only return Romani at quarterback, but their defense is anchored by all-conference performances Austin Weltha at linebacker and Robert Hooker at defensive end.
Hooker, who is an impressive 6-foot-3 and 306 pounds, is also going to start on the offensive line according to the Bloomington preview in the Pantagraph.
“They have some tough matchups for us,’’ Luke said, “They won the league last year with Urbana and they are favored to win it again this year.
“This is probably the first time where Bloomington is a prohibitive favorite over us in a while.’’
The Vikings had won four straight in the matchup of Big 12 Conference powers before last year’s win for the Purple Raiders.
Additionally, a state-wide panel of voters in the Associated Press Class 6A preseason poll have ranked Danville No. 7 and Bloomington No. 10.
“This is a great way to start the year,’’ Collier said. “We will be ready for any game this year after playing Bloomington in the opener.
“This could be for the Big 12 Championship.’’
Sherfield, who has committed to play defensive back at Vanderbilt next season, believes Bloomington has all the pressure on it.
“They have targets on their back because they are the defending conference champions,’’ he said. “Everyone expects them to win the Big 12 again this year.
“I like being in that position. We’re just a bunch of Danville kids and we know we can match up with them.’’
Sherfield said the key is going to be the Vikings defense, which allowed 33.7 points per game a year ago.
“I know that our offense is going to be able to put points on the board this season,’’ he said. “We need to do a better job of flying around to the ball and making big plays on defense. If we do that, we can be successful again this season.’’
Luke said he has some concerns on both sides of the ball.
“Yes, we worked on that mentality of flying to the ball and getting the man down on defense this offseason,’’ Luke said. “But, we’re also going to need a couple kids to step up on offense and make plays to take some pressure off of Trent and Chris.’’
Tonight’s game at Fred Carlton Field in Bloomington is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff and the game can be heard locally on WDAN-AM 1490.
Game 1 Danville Vikings at Bloomington Purple Raiders Where -- Fred Carlton Field in Bloomington When -- 7 p.m. today 2012 records -- Danville 4-5 overall, 4-4 in the Big 12; Bloomington 7-3 overall, 7-1 in the Big 12. Rankings -- Danville is No. 7 in the Class 6A preseason poll; Bloomington is No. 10 in the Class 6A preseason poll. On the air -- WDAN-AM 1490 Last year's results -- Bloomington defeated Danville 43-42. Next week's game -- Danville travels to Chicago to play St. Rita; while Bloomington hosts Normal Community. Danville offensive starting lineup QB -- Trent Sherfield, 6-1, 187, senior RB -- Chris Collier, 5-7,165, senior WR -- Tavion Boyd, 5-9, 160, junior WR -- Emmet Black, 5-11, 186, sophomore WR -- Marquis Minor, 6-3, 170, junior TE -- Hoey Watson, 5-11, 220, junior T -- Kendrick Davis, 6-1, 267, senior G -- Tim Pittman, 5-7, 252, senior C -- Curtiss Cline, 5-9, 245, senior G -- Darrien Rose, 6-2, 301, junior T -- Mike Vascura, 6-3, 253, senior Danville defensive starting lineup DE -- Tyvon Cooper, 5-9, 190, junior DT -- Tim Pittman, 5-7, 252, senior DT -- Darrien Rose, 6-2, 301, junior DE -- Mike Vascura, 6-3, 253, senior ILB -- LaTrey Reed, 5-10, 180, sophomore ILB -- Hoey Watson, 5-11, 220, junior OLB -- Tavion Boyd, 5-9, 160, junior OLB --Deonta Turner, 6-0, 190, junior CB -- Alan Bryant, 5-7, 150, junior CB -- Chris Collier, 5-7, 165, senior S -- Trent Sherfield, 6-1, 187, senior