linemen

Members of the Danville offensive line, from left to right, Charles Eldridge, Travis Abbott, Jacob Simmons, Kyle Guerrero and Derek Williams have been protecting Danville quarterback Cody Zeigler, standing. This group has allowed just three sacks in 54 passing plays as the Viknigs are 2-0 heading into Friday’s game against Bloomington at Ned Whitesell Field. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

The names of Travis Abbott, Charles Eldridge, Kyle Guerrero, Jacob Simmons and Derek Williams are not found in any statistical category for the Danville Vikings in Saturday’s newspaper.

They don’t run the ball, they don’t catch the ball and they don’t score touchdowns.

That is just the nature of their business — and they know that.

But, the business of being an offensive lineman this season for the 2-0 Vikings has been very good.

“We know that if the team loses the game, we are probably going to get the blame,’’ said Williams, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound tackle. “When we win, a lot of credit is going to go the running backs and the quarterbacks.

“We just hope that those backs keep getting a lot more credit.’’

Danville second-year coach B.J. Luke, an offensive lineman when he played for the Vikings, said he knew from day one that the program’s success was dependent on the development of an offensive line.

“We are always going to have athletic kids at Danville, but the offensive line is where it starts,’’ he said. “When I played here it was an honor to be an offensive lineman for coach (Frank) Luzenske.

“We are trying to build that reputation back up and this group is laying the foundation.’’

All this group of four seniors and one junior has done is spearheaded a Viking offense that is averaging 33 points, nearly 400 yards per game.

In two games this season, they have allowed just three sacks in 54 passing plays and running back Reggie Cloyd has run 273 yards.

“They are each man for each other,’’ Danville offensive line coach Dan Hile said. “When one is down, I see the others picking him up. When they are all up, they end up elevating each other to another level.

“When they are on, I don’t think there is anybody that can stop them.’’

Danville senior quarterback Cody Ziegler, who has thrown for nearly 450 yards, says he has the utmost trust in those five guys.

“I have had all the time in the world back there and that makes a world of a difference when you are running an offense,’’ he said. “When I need more time, I know they are going to give it to me.’’

While size and strength are important factors to a good offensive line, the Vikings have something else that they feel is their strongest attribute.

“It’s our experience and our communication skills,’’ said Eldridge, a 6-foot-2 tackle. “The communication next to the partner is key. If you don’t work well with your partner, it messes up the line, and it messes up the play.

“The guy next to me (Abbott) knows what I am thinking and I know what he is thinking. We just know what each other is going to do.’’

Luke said those strong communication skills were very important in the 32-28 win over Mattoon last Friday.

“Mattoon came out last Friday in a defensive front that we hadn’t seen this year or very much last year,’’ he said. “It only took us two series to get things straighten out, where last year, it would have taken until halftime.

“These guys have a great understanding of what it takes to be successful on the football field.’’

Williams said its not only verbal skills but also non-verbal communication that has allowed the group to gel.

“Sometimes, we don’t have to say anything,’’ he said. “We can just look over at the guy next to us, and he will know what we need.

“It’s a lot easier than trying to yell to the guy. Because the defense can pick up on what you are saying, or you will mess up what the quarterback is trying to call. It also tends to confuse the defense, because they don’t know what we are going to do.’’

Abbott acknowledged that it has taken a lot of time and experience for this group to come together.

“We have been playing together since our freshman year and a few of us have been together even longer,’’ Abbott said noting that Eldridge and him were teammates for the Danville Saints. “We have not only been playing together, but we have lifted together.’’

This past season, those guys also took it one step further.

“We all went out for track together,’’ Eldridge said. “We did it to get ourselves into better condition for our senior year.

“We came together as a group throwing the shot put. None of us were that good, but we used it to get better for football.’’

Guerrero, the lone junior, actually missed all of last season because of a knee injury, but he is still one of the guys.

“We don’t think of him as a junior,’’ Abbott said. “He is just one of us.’’

Guerrero admitted that watching from the sidelines a year ago was not very fun.

“I knew that I was going to get my chance this season and I know I also have next year,’’ he said. “Being a lineman is all about heart. You have to want it to take it.’’

The smallest guy on the line, Simmons, is also the guy with one of the toughest jobs.

“I have to snap the ball and then make my block,’’ he said of Danville’s shot-gun formation. “Snapping is real hard work.’’

All five of them admit that being a lineman takes a special kind of love for football.

“We do it because we like to play, no matter what our record is,” Eldridge said. “ But, being 2-0 is a nice feeling.’’

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