CHAMPAIGN — Danville’s football crew walked onto the Tommy Stewart Field turf Saturday afternoon with out its head coach.
Marcus Forrest is recovering from a profitable coronary heart transplant final month.
The Vikings additionally entered their season-opening Big 12 sport in opposition to Champaign Central with out star athlete Devin Miles. The reigning News-Gazette Player of the Year wasn’t obtainable for his first sport as a senior.
How would Danville reply to this adversity? Pretty nicely, it seems.
The Vikings compiled 4 speeding touchdowns and recovered three fumbles on protection en path to a 30-12 victory over the Maroons.
“Our kids played hard, flew around to the ball,” Danville interim coach Mitch Thomas stated. “We made mistakes that we knew we would with young kids, but I thought they rallied.”
The Vikings (1-0, 1-0 Big 12) boast 15 seniors on their roster, however in addition they make the most of underclassmen in a number of key spots.
One is linebacker, the place Danville deploys two freshmen and a sophomore.
Another is working again. Sophomore Antuan Lee carried the ball simply as soon as for six yards in Saturday’s first half, however he broke by means of with 74 yards and three touchdowns on seven carries within the second half.
“Exploded like an absolute monster,” stated Vikings senior quarterback Eric Turner, who accounted for 187 yards and two scores by means of his mixed speeding and throwing efforts. “He’s a little guard (5-foot-8, 135 pounds), so it’s like, ‘It’ll be easy to tackle him.’ But he’s so fast in and out of his cuts, it’s like, ‘What do you do about it?’”
Turner dealt with most of the guests’ early ball-carrying duties, together with a 2-yard landing plunge to open scoring. He additionally linked with senior Larvell Watkins on a 45-yard landing cross within the second quarter.
“He’s the one that told me the safety was cheating over the middle of the field, so that’s why I threw that pass to him,” Turner stated. “It definitely is a booster because I wasn’t that good at passing last year.”
The Vikings additionally made it troublesome for Central (0-1, 0-1) to complete drives ultimately zone.
Danville pressured three turnovers in its personal territory — one fumble, two on downs — along with creating two different misplaced fumbles. One of the Maroons’ unsuccessful possessions ended when senior lineman Joseph Irons sacked junior quarterback Cody Brown close to midfield.
“We obviously wanted to get off the field earlier, but against that kind of a ball control offense you’re going to give up first downs,” Thomas stated. “If you give up a first down, if you give up a 10-yard run, you just regroup and keep playing. … We eventually got stops.”
Central’s protection scored its first landing when junior and first-year crew member Klaton Davis intercepted a Turner cross and returned it 75 yards to paydirt.
That lower the Maroons’ deficit to 12-6 early within the third quarter.
“Pick-six, how about that?” Central coach Tim Turner stated. “Those guys (Davis and twin brother Kadin), they’re freaks of nature. … They’re really going to be a bright spot for our squad.”
Danville responded by tallying the following 18 factors, all coming from Lee’s ft on landing runs of 35, 2 and 5 yards.
The Maroons’ offense bought on the board with lower than 5 minutes to play, when Brown discovered Klaton Davis on a brief toss that Davis took 47 yards alongside the house sideline.
Like Thomas, Tim Turner is aware of what a youthful roster seems to be like. In truth, the third-year Central coach has simply six seniors.
“We play a lot of sophomores,” Tim Turner stated. “That’s what really encourages me about this season. We’ve got six games for our guys to grow up. … To have that happen and get it under our belts to where these kids are able to compete, I’m excited.”
Eric Turner additionally expressed pleasure over dealing with an precise opponent on the football area for the primary time since Nov. 2, 2019, when the Vikings dropped a Class 6A first-round playoff sport to Chatham Glenwood.
Suiting up on a spring afternoon — which Danville additionally will do in Weeks 2 and three — may take some getting used to.
“I’m used to playing under lights, (making) a bunch of highlights, fans all in the stands,” Eric Turner stated. “I’m happy to be playing, but it definitely is weird.”