PEORIA — Danville football coach Marcus Forrest had a simple halftime message for his Vikings on Saturday at Peoria Richwoods.
“Just do the things that you need to do. That’s it. Simple,’’ he said as Danville went into the halftime locker room trailing Richwoods 27-22. “Play football the way that we expect you to play, and the way that you have been taught.’’
The final 24 minutes met his expectations.
Danville scored all four of its second-half possessions on its way to a 52-35 triumph over Richwoods in a Big 12 Conference contest at Endres Field on a very hot Saturday afternoon.
“We came out and played a lot better in the second half than we did in the first half,’’ said Danville senior defensive tackle Samuel Pollard. “We just needed to execute, and play harder.’’
The execution was probably the biggest change for the Vikings (2-2) at halftime.
Richwoods, who fell to 0-4, had scored four times in the first half — twice on long pass plays where the Danville defense had breakdowns in its coverage and the other two scores came as a result of turnovers by the Vikings.
“It came down to just playing football,’’ Forrest said. “Wrapping up, tackling and knowing our defensive assignments were part of our problems. But, we also needed to handle the snaps, handle the handoffs and get our backs to run where they were supposed to go.
“Once we did all of those small things that we were supposed to do, good things happened. We moved the ball on offense and we got stops on defense.’’
And how long did it take for Danville to get it turned around in the second half?
On the opening kickoff of the third quarter, the return team for Richwoods just watched the ball bounce on its own 25-yard line. Danville senior Zane Ray didn’t wait for an invitation, he just simply dove on top of the ball.
Six plays later, the Vikings took the lead for the fourth time on a 2-yard run by Tommy Harris Jr.
“One of the things we talked about at halftime was making a play on the kickoff and then getting a stop from our defense,’’ Forrest said. “Thankfully, we had a smart senior that did exactly what he is supposed to do in that situation, and got onto the ball.
“He helped jumpstart our second half.’’
But, the Knights took advantage of another coverage breakdown by the Vikings.
Gary Burnside Jr., who was 8-of-14 for 224 yards and three scores, hit Davonta Albert with a 58-yard scoring strike and Richwoods was back on top 35-30.
Danville responded on the very next offensive play.
Tommy Harris Jr. gave the Vikings the lead for good with a 65-yard touchdown run.
“We had to bounce back and get our minds right,’’ said Harris, who finished with 79 rushing yards on five carries. “It was my team and my line blocking that made me score. I couldn’t have done it without them.’’
The Vikings went on to score two more times in the second half.
Quarterback Micah McGuire, who rushed for 98 yards on 16 carries, had his second rushing touchdown of the game and then backup quarterback Bryson Hinton connected with Tevin Henderson for a 20-yard touchdown pass.
“We learn something every day,’’ Harris said. “Today it was a lesson on never letting down and learning to just keep playing football.’’
Additionally, there is a lesson about respecting an opponent.
“We probably underestimated them,’’ Pollard admitted. “We saw that they were 0-3 and we didn’t come out as hard as we should have.’’
Pollard also pointed out that the change from a Friday night game to a noon kickoff on Saturday didn’t help the Vikings, who were on the road at 8 a.m.
“It was pretty quiet on the bus coming over here and it seemed like it carried over into the game,’’ Pollard added. “Hopefully, this game is a learning experience.
Up next for the Vikings is another trip to Peoria on Friday as Danville is scheduled to play Peoria Manual in a 7 p.m. contest the Peoria Public Schools Stadium.