BY CHAD DARE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — DANVILLE — For three weeks the Danville Vikings have been practicing the signing of the school song.
On Friday night at Ned Whitesell Field, they finally got their chance to perform it in front of a McPack the Place crowd as Danville claimed its first win of the season with a 35-19 victory over the Champaign Centennial Chargers.
“We need to sing a little bit,’’ Danville coach B.J. Luke said of the traditional victory celebration. “We practice it every Thursday and that practice paid off tonight.’’
The biggest reason that Danville (1-2 overall, 1-1 in the Big 12) was able to show of its vocal skills on Friday night was the play of the Vikings defense.
After giving up 19 points and 202 yards of total offense against Centennial in the first half, the Chargers managed just 72 yards in the second half.
“It was mostly pride thing,’’ said Danville junior defensive tackle Darrien Rose. “We know that we are Danville boys and we had to get after them. We knew that our front four had to start it and everyone got on board, we went from there.
“Getting pressure helped a lot in the second half. It gave our secondary guys a chance to get where they needed to be and it put a lot pressure on their quarterback.’’
Centennial junior Jimmy Fitzgerald, who has a offer to play college football at Illinois, was 6-of-8 for 136 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. In the final 24 minutes, he was 9-of-17 for 45 yards and he was sacked twice, once by senior Mike Vascura and once by junior Hoey Watson.
“That was big for our defense and for our confidence,’’ Luke said. “It was really a great night with a huge crowd. It makes us feel a lot better.’’
Luke said the biggest thing that his defense did in the second half was getting pressure on Fitzgerald and tackling “much, much better.”
Danville senior defensive back Chris Collier said the Vikings finally started playing the shutdown defense that they have been practicing for weeks.
“We came out in the second half and played like the team that we knew we could be this year,’’ he said. “We had a good week of practice and everyone did their job tonight.’’
But what about the first half?
“We were playing tentative and kind of laid back,’’ Collier admitted. “We were trying not to make a mistake.
“In the second half, we came out aggressive and ready to play.’’
And that aggressive approach carried over the Danville offense.
The Vikings scored on all three of their possessions in the third quarter.
Collier, who finished with 191 receiving yards on 12 catches, had touchdown receptions of 11 and 45 yards in the quarter, while his new running mate, senior Denzel Smith, had a 41-yard scoring strike in between.
“I love that Denzel is back,’’ said Collier, noting that Smith missed the opener against Bloomington. “When he was gone, it was just me and it’s easy for a team to lock on just one person.
“Now, they have to deal with myself and Denzel along with Trent (Sherfield) in the backfield.’’
The trio of Collier, Smith and Sherfield combined for all 417 yards of total offense by the Vikings on Friday night.
“We took what they gave us,’’ Luke said. “We tried to run the ball and run some clock. We got them to sit on the corner, and we were able to get past them with some big pass plays.’’
But considering that Collier and Sherfield have combined for 611 of Danville’s 630 yards of total offense in the first two games, how did those two combined for 191 passing yards on 12 receptions and three touchdowns?
“They are pretty good players, No. 1,’’ Luke said. “And even though they are a good pitch-and-catch duo, Trent’s ability to run the ball will keep people in an honest defense.
“And with Denzel becoming more of a factor, that balances the field a little bit.’’
Smith, who had 1 catch for 32 yards against St. Rita last week, scored his first-ever varsity touchdown with 2 minutes, 35 seconds left in the first quarter on a 32-yard pass from Sherfield on fourth down-and-16 play. Smith, who had three catches for 82 yards, also had a 41-yard scoring strike in the third quarter.
“It feels really good to be out there helping my teammates,’’ Smith said. “It’s harder for teams to defend two receivers instead of one and I need to do my part to help out Chris and Trent.’’
A year ago, Smith had eight catches for 202 yards but he failed to reach the end zone. Getting there on Friday night was very special for the senior.
“Today, was my mom’s birthday and both scores were for her,’’ said Smith, wanting to wish his mother, Sabrina Graham, a happy birthday.
In addition to the five touchdown passes, the Vikings also got five successful extra point kicks from senior Gracson Torres, who had a goal in Danville’s 3-1 soccer victory over Bloomington on Thursday night.
Danville will look for back-to-back home victories next Friday when the Vikings host the Normal West Wildcats, who are 3-0 in the Big 12 Conference after a 23-20 win over Decatur MacArthur.
“This win means a lot, but we have another big week coming up,’’ said Rose.
Big 12 Conference Glance All times Central Conf. Overall Team W L W L Normal West 3 0 3 0 Normal Community 2 0 2 1 Bloomington 2 1 2 1 Decatur MacArthur 1 1 2 1 Danville 1 1 1 2 Champaign Centennial 1 2 1 2 Champaign Central 1 2 1 2 Decatur Eisenhower 1 2 1 2 Urbana 0 3 0 3 Friday, Sept. 13 scores Danville 35, Champaign Centennial 19 Bloomington 49, Urbana 26 Decatur Eisenhower 8, Champaign Central 7 Normal West 23, Decatur MacArthur 20 Niles Notre Dame 21, Normal Community 7 Friday, Sept. 20 games Champaign Central at Bloomington, 7 p.m. Normal Community at Champaign Centennial, 7 p.m. Normal West at Danville, 7 p.m. Urbana at Springfield Lanphier, 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 game Decatur MacArthur at Decatur Eisenhower, 3 p.m.