DANVILLE — There are plenty of available veterans for B.J. Luke as he begins his eighth season as the football head coach at his alma mater, Danville High School.
Not all of his athletes with the most game-night experience are playing where they did a year ago, but prospects for the state’s 10th-ranked Class 6A team are good.
“We’ll match up with most everybody,” Luke said. “We have quite a bit of playing experience.”
The quarterback is junior Trent Sherfield, who made his varsity debut on the gridiron as a freshman. He is a three-sport athlete who started some varsity games last year in basketball and ranked fourth in the area last spring as a triple jumper (43 feet, 4 inches).
“Sherfield is a good athlete and has as good of an arm as I’ve had in my coaching career,” Luke said.
Seniors Martez Davis and Justin Robinson could be among the aerial targets this fall. Junior Chris Collier figures into the passing game and seniors James Brown and Steve Williams are others with potential.
Daniel Carter (205 pounds), is a returning starter and he will be at tight end.
The players who caught all 38 of the team’s passes last fall were underclassmen. Carter (15 catches, 304 yards), Sherfield (12 catches, 169 yards) and Davis (nine catches, 139 yards) were the leaders.
The Vikings, 10-2 last year, have a solid group of linemen. The tackles are seniors Jon Lomax (272 pounds) and Aaron Hardimon (271 pounds). Former tackle Michael Vascura (263 pounds) is a junior who has been shifted to center.
Sophomore Darrien Rose (305 pounds) is a returning letterman and will be at guard.
The other guard position has an abundance of prospects: senior Davvan Butler (207 pounds), sophomore Cameron Duckworth (256 pounds), Klein (230 pounds), sophomore Jaylen Marbury (234 pounds) and junior Austin West (240 pounds).
Senior William Morris, a 185-pound bulldog running back, will often be the lone person in the backfield with Sherfield. Collier (the backup quarterback) and senior Marcus Brown could also get some carries.
Morris rushed for 1,240 yards as a junior (second on the team) and Luke said, “he could be even more effective. We should throw the ball quite a bit more efficiently, and he’s more powerful and quicker.”
The defensive front will feature Hardimon and Rose at tackle, along with senior Brandon Hightower at an end. Hardimon has also been getting practice reps at end.
Others who could play the position include Duckworth, Vascura, West, junior Kendrick Davis (257 pounds) or junior Tim Pittman (252 pounds).
The linebacking corps will feature Carter and Robinson on the inside. Outside linebackers could include Morris, senior Jason Grady, sophomore Deonta Turner and sophomore Hoey Watson.
Collier and Sherfield are returning starters in the secondary. Marcus Brown is projected as another cornerback.
“The defense is a little untested, but we’re looking for kids to step in and fill some spots,” Luke said. “Our offense is a little more established.”
Last year’s top five tacklers were all seniors, but the next four in line return: Collier (69), Hardimon (57), Sherfield (52) and Rose (51).
Seniors Marcus Brown and Butler along with junior Pittman are among the athletes with limited varsity experience who may emerge as significant contributors.
“You feel good about them, knowing they want the positions,” Luke said.
Placekicking duties could come down to Rose or junior Gracson Torres, a soccer player who will miss the first two games due to conflicts in his other sport.
Carter and Sherfield have both worked on their punting game.
“This is a team that is capable,” Luke said. “I can say, we’re not afraid to play anybody on our schedule.”
The Vikings open up with back-to-back home games at Whitesell Field, starting Friday against Big 12 Conference rival Bloomington. In Week 2, the opponent is Chicago-area power St. Rita.
The Danville staff is working with 95 athletes, 40 of whom are freshmen.
Joining Luke on staff are Brian Anderson, Tyler Arnholt, Alex Bates, Rich Dierking, John Fogleman, Marcus Forrest, Dan Hile, Carl Long, Steve Luke, Frank Luzenske, John Pendleton and Mitch Thomas.
Bates is a former Danville player under Luke who joined the staff this year. Arnholt is a Mattoon native who is a former high school state-place in the discus (fifth in 2006).