BY CHAD DARE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — DANVILLE — When push came to shove, it was the Normal West Wildcats that had a little more strength against the Danville High Vikings.
Normal West had a pair of scoring drives in the final 7 minutes, 14 seconds to rally from a 21-14 deficit to beat Danville 28-21 in a Big 12 Conference contest at Ned Whitesell Field.
“Every Monday, we have a conditioning practice where we have push through anything,’’ said Normal West senior lineman Kyrin Tucker. “That came into play tonight. I think we were in better condition than them and we just pushed through them on those final two drives.’’
The eight-rated Wildcats (4-0 overall and 4-0 in the Big 12) ran the ball 14 times on their final 15 plays, gaining 86 yards including a 19-yard touchdown run by Genia Fuss with just 26 seconds left to win the game.
“One of our strengths is up front and we are getting more and more confident in our running attack every game,’’ said Normal West coach Darren Hess, whose team ran for 285 yards on 46 attempts.
On that final drive, eight of the nine plays, were designed running plays behind Tucker, the 6-foot-8, 300-pound left tackle.
“I’m glad the coaches have confidence in me to get the job done in that situation,’’ he said. “All of our linemen did a great job on those drives and our backs ran hard. This was a really good win.’’
Danville senior lineman Tim Pittman admitted a big part of Friday’s game was decided in the trenches.
“At times, we came through, but when we really needed it, we didn’t get the job done,’’ said Pittman, who had to move from defensive tackle to defensive end because of an injury to junior Tyvon Cooper. “They took advantage of Tyvon being out of the game. I was in a position that I really didn’t know real well. They just rolled on that side,doubling me with the big kid and another kid.’’
The Vikings knew exactly what the Wildcats were trying to do on that final drive but that didn’t matter.
“We knew when they got into that last drive, all they were going to try to do is grind it on us and see if we could hold up,’’ Danville coach B.J. Luke said. “They did a nice job of driving the ball down and putting it into the end zone.
“We had trouble standing up in the last drive.’’
But, Luke didn’t put all the blame on his team’s defense.
“We kept putting them on the field, again and again in that four quarter,’’ he said. “We just gave them too many chances.’’
That was because the Viking offense, which had produced 233 yards of offense in the first three quarters, managed just 26 in final 12 minutes against the Wildcat defense.
“I think it came down to the fact that they made plays when they had to and we didn’t execute when we had to,’’ said Danville senior quarterback Trent Sherfield, who was 12-of-28 passing for 190 yards and three touchdowns in the contest. “They played Chris (Collier) and Denzel (Smith) real tough. I think that’s the best defense they have played all year. It was real tough.’’
In the fourth quarter and the final play of the third quarter, Sherfield was 0-for-9 passing with two interceptions.
“We just didn’t make plays when it came time to make plays,’’ Luke said. “It was crunch time and we struggled making plays at the end.’’
And Normal West not only took away the Danville passing attack, but the Wildcats held the Vikings to just 77 rushing yards in the game on 25 attempts — that’s just 3.1 yards per carry. The Vikings came into Friday’s game averaging 3.4, and Danville’s last playoff team in 2011 averaged 6.2 per rushing attempt.
“We didn’t run the football very well,’’ Luke said. “We throw it alright at times, for the most part. But even late, we struggled throwing the ball. We struggled catching it and we struggled throwing it.
“Bottom line is that we need to be able to run the ball in those situations. That’s been our forte. We are struggling moving people up front.’’
Sherfield had 74 rushing yards on 23 carries and he had a 83-yard touchdown run called back on a questionable penalty. The Vikings were flagged 11 times for 100 yards in the contest and their two running backs, Collier and Caleb McLain had two rushing attempts for 3 yards.
“They had a game plan for Trent,’’ Pittman said. “But that’s not an excuse for why we didn’t run the ball. Our line needs to be more physical. We have to finish our blocks and run the ball.’’
Luke said his team will learn to be more physical before next Friday’s game at Decatur Eisenhower.
Smith led the Vikings with five receptions for 80 yards, and Collier had a team-high 90 receiving yards on nine catches.
Collier also had an interception for Danville as did junior defensive back Alan Bryant late in the first half to preserve the Vikings 14-7 halftime lead.
PREP FOOTBALL Big 12 Conference Glance All times Central Conf. Overall Team W L W L Normal West 4 0 4 0 Normal Community 3 0 3 1 Bloomington 3 1 3 1 Decatur MacArthur 1 1 2 1 Decatur Eisenhower 1 2 1 2 Danville 1 2 1 3 Champaign Centennial 1 3 1 3 Champaign Central 1 3 1 3 Urbana 0 3 0 3 Friday, Sept. 20 scores Bloomington 13, Champaign Central 0 Normal Community 39, Champaign Centennial 12 Normal West 28, Danville 21 Urbana at Springfield Lanphier, Postponed to Sept. 21 Saturday, Sept. 21 game Springfield Lanphier at Urbana, 10 a.m. Decatur MacArthur at Decatur Eisenhower, 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27 games Champaign Central at Decatur MacArthur, 7 p.m. Danville vs. Decatur Eisenhower, 7 p.m. at Decatur Stephen Decatur Normal West at Normal Community, 7 p.m. Urbana at Champaign Centennial, 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28 game Bloomington at Chicago St. Patrick, 1:15 p.m.