DANVILLE -- Champaign Central won the statistical battle, but Danville High School came out on top of the points battle on Friday as it officially clinched a football playoff berth.
Visiting Central ran more plays from scrimmage (70-53), had more total yards (287-243), had more first downs (13-11) and had the game's top individual performer in Denzel Stewart, who rushed for 194 yards. Stewart entered the game needing 12 yards to reach 1,000 for the season and he hit that mark on his second carry.
Danville showed the ability to bounce back quickly after what could have been momentum-shifting plays by the Maroons on two different occasions..
Myke Tez Forman returned the kickoff after Central's first score for a TD which enabled Danville to take a 14-7 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Since B.J. Luke returned to his alma mater as head coach four years ago, Danville has returned 14 kickoffs for touchdowns, including three this season. Forman's return Friday marked the second time he'd accomplished that feat this season.
The Vikings' 14-7 lead held until the final 2:54, when Central capped a 16-play, 81-yard drive with DeAngelo Williams hauling in a Doug Kyrouac pass for the game-tying TD.
Each team had another possession in which they were unable to gain a first down and with 47.7 seconds to play, Danville got the ball on its own 35. Mario Crosby, who had been limited to 33 yards rushing during the game's first 47 minutes, shook off would-be tacklers for a 50-yard first-down run and seconds later -- following a 6-yard pass to Derrick Cunningham -- Danville was on the Maroons 9.
Jordan Johnson, who made a TD-saving tackle on Crosby's run, broke up a third-down pass in the end zone,but Danville's Malcolm Anderson calmly booted a 26-yard field goal with 9.2 seconds to play and Danville's homecoming crowd was treated to a 17-14 victory.
Danville's Mike Bowman recovered the final kickoff, after it bounced off a Central player, and the Vikings had secured their sixth win in seven games. Central dropped to 4-3 with its annual showdown with Centennial set for next Friday at Tommy Stewart Field.
Anderson's composure was outstanding. Friday's game was the team's first where he didn't take the majority of the snaps at quarterback. And yet, in the role he was called upon to fill, he excelled.
The best news of all for Danville was that Normal Community's win over previously unbeaten Decatur MacArthur created a four-way tie for first place in the Big 12 between the Vikings, Bloomington, MacArthur and Normal Community.
That number will be reduced next week when the Vikings play their final regular-season home game against Normal Community. Bloomington, meanwhile, still has to play MacArthur in Week 9. There are still plenty of ways in which the conference race could end.