DANVILLE — During the B.J. Luke era at Danville High School, the Vikings have held their own against Chicagoland competition — until the 2012 season.
After beating the likes of Crete-Monee, Lemont, Lincoln-Way North, Oak Lawn and Oak Lawn Richards during its playoff runs in 2009 and 2010, the Chicago St. Rita Mustangs came to Ned Whitesell Field and crushed the Vikings 42-7.
”Last year, we just basically laid down for St. Rita,’’ said Danville senior Trent Sherfield.
The Mustangs, who were a disappointing 4-5 a year ago, ran for 384 yards and they led 42-0 at halftime. It was also a game where the Vikings lost both of their starting inside linebackers.
t. Rita, who opened its season with a 28-26 win, are ranked No. 7 in the latest Class 7A poll.
”They are a big team. They are a strong team,’’ Danville senior defensive tackle Tim Pittman said. “We have to come out and compete. We know it’s going to be a very tough game, but we have trained for this all summer.
”Everything I’ve heard this week has been negative about us. I feel like we can go up there and surprise everyone by just playing them tough.’’
Some of the negativity towards Danville (0-1) can be directly related to the fact that the Vikings gave up 55 points in their loss to the Bloomington Purple Raiders.
”We definitely had some errors defensively,’’ said Danville defensive end Tyvon Cooper. “We need to eliminate the big plays and we would have been much better on defense.’’
Bloomington gained 197 of their 410 yards of total offense on just four plays and that doesn’t include the Purple Raiders 82-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“That’s tackling,’’ Luke said. “If we just get them on the ground, and make them go the distance — something good could have happened for us on each of those occasions.’’
Instead, Luke saw his Vikings surrender 30 points in the fourth quarter and 36 points in the final 18 minutes, 23 seconds en route to losing their season opener for the second straight season. But, the coach senses a different feeling with his team.
“I was impressed with the way the kids bounced back this week,’’ he said. “We went back to work on Monday, I think this group understands that this is a long season. These first two weeks can really make us into a really good football team for the final seven weeks.
”Last year, the Big 12 Conference champions (Urbana and Bloomington, each lost a game during the season. I think that could definitely happen this year.’’
According to Luke, the key this week is about improvement.
”We have to go out there and get better this week,’’ Sherfield said. “If we do that, that will give us an advantage over all the other Big 12 Conference schools.’’
St. Rita is definitely a better team this year as Tommy Mister, a transfer from Oak Lawn Richards, is the starting quarterback. The senior has already committed to play at Iowa State next year and in last week’s win over Marist, he accounted for 414 yards (220 rushing, 194 passing) and all four touchdowns for the Mustangs.
”We have to get to him before he can break it off,’’ Cooper said. “We have to hit him before he gets to the edge.’’
Sherfield said while Danville’s defensive front seven will be trying to contain Mister, the Vikings defensive secondary will be trying to contain his big-play receivers.
”We all have a job to do,’’ he said.
Offensively, Sherfield matched Mister with four rushing touchdowns and the Vikings quarterback had 315 passing yards and three scores through the air. Senior wide receiver Chris Collier caught eight of those passes for 289 yards.
Danville will also add another weapon to Sherfield’s arsenal as senior wide receiver Denzel Smith is back after missing the first game for discipline reasons.
”We hope that Denzel can give us another offensive dimension,’’ Luke said. “He is a big receiver that can get deep in a hurry. He still has some work to do when it comes to route running, but he is still a dangerous weapon.
”We hope that he will take a lot of heat off of Chris.’’
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. tonight at St. Rita High School. The game can be heard locally on WDAN-AM 1490.
Game 2 Danville Vikings vs. St. Rita Mustangs When -- 7:30 p.m. tonight Where -- St. Rita High School in Chicago. 7740 S. Western Avenue Records -- Danville 0-1 overall; St. Rita 1-0 overall Rankings -- Danville is No. 9 in the Class 6A poll; St. Rita is No. 7 in the Class 7A poll. On the air -- WDAN-AM 1490. Last year's result -- St. Rita 42, Danville 7 Last week's results -- Danville lost to Bloomington, 55-50; while St. Rita defeated Marist 28-26. Next week's games -- Danville will host Champaign Centennial; while St. Rita hosts St. Laurence. Statiscial leaders Rushing -- Danville: Trent Sherfield 27 carries, 128 yards, 4 touchdowns; Chris Collier 15-65. St. Rita: Tommy Mister 31-220, 4 TDs; Tyre Lee 9-32, D.J. Miles 8-28. Passing -- Danville: Sherfield 9 completions, 22 attempts, 3 interceptions, 315 yards, 3 touchdowns. St. Rita: 9-17-0 194 yards. Receiving -- Danville: Collier 8 catches, 289 yards, 3 touchdowns, Hoey Watson 1-26. St. Rita: Julian Crum 5-103, Malik Space 4-91. Tackles -- Danville: LaTrey Reed 12, Sherfield 10, Tyvon Cooper 8, Tavion Boyd 6, Watson 5. St. Rita: Matthew Mitchell 8, John Connolly 7, Martin Bechina 7, Daniel Gleaves 6.