Vikings staying confident in Forrest's second season

Vikings staying confident in Forrest's second season

DANVILLE — Marcus Forrest's first season roaming the sidelines as Danville football's head coach was filled with high points.

The Vikings posted a second consecutive 8-3 record and won a Class 6A first-round playoff game in commanding fashion. They sent two athletes to the University of Illinois for college careers.

Now, Danville may be in for a challenge. Several statistical leaders have graduated, and the Vikings' Big 12 Conference slate is full of challenging games.

Poll Forrest's athletes, though, and you don't hear any fear.

Their buzzword for the 2018 campaign isn't "rebuilding" or "inexperienced."

It's "hard-working."

That's a good sign for the squad that checks in at No. 4 in The News-Gazette's preseason top 10.

"I believe we're a playoff-bound team," senior Cedrick Wilson said. "I still think the more veteran guys can help lead us to another playoff run, even further than last season."

Forrest hasn't had trouble getting the Vikings to buy in to his leadership philosophies, even after replacing a well-known boss in B.J. Luke prior to the 2017 season.

That's part of the reason Danville was able to make an impact in the 6A playoffs despite losing its 12-year coach. A comfortable connection clearly exists between Forrest and his pupils in Season 2.

"He's done a lot of things (in football) in his life," said junior Delrey Crowder, referring to Forrest's 10 years as Luke's assistant and two seasons playing collegiately at Vanderbilt. "It's helping us that we can trust him because of everything he's been through. We're trying to get to that level, too."

Fostering a good relationship between coach and athletes can only take a program so far, of course.

The Vikings will be without leading tackler Julian Pearl and star kicker Caleb Griffin, who are now part of Lovie Smith's Illini program. Also gone are starting quarterback Ernest Plummer and lead rusher Jerry Reed, among others.

Crowder will step in under center, Wilson will play a key role at linebacker and senior Josiah Payne returns to wreak havoc at running back, receiver and linebacker.

"I think we can do better than we did last year," said junior John Ward, an integral playmaker at linebacker. "As long as everybody prepares mentally and everyone's on the same page and not goofing around like we had in the past few years (we'll be fine)."

Crowder feels the Vikings' bigs up front will be a noticeable strength. Wilson, meanwhile, is ready to extent the knowledge he garnered as a sophomore to any newcomers in the starting lineup.

"They haven't had the feel to play in an actual Friday night game," Wilson said. "Just making sure they're mentally ready and prepared for it, because I know how hard it is — being a young cat, going on the field and playing."

Danville won't receive any respite from its Big 12 opponents, five of whom made the 2017 postseason. That's no problem, in Ward's mind.

"I feel like we can win our conference," Ward said, "as long as we keep working hard in practices and everybody's taking care of what they need to take care of in the classroom."

Worrying is not something these Vikings do a whole lot of when it comes to gridiron matters. So even as adjustments will be made in the wake of graduations, confidence is not in short supply.

"I feel like this team can go, honestly, all the way," Crowder said. "I feel like we could because we have the mental strength to do it."

Tale of the tape

Coach: Marcus Forrest (8-3 in one season at Danville)

2018 schedule

DATE OPPONENT TIME

Aug. 24 vs. Bloomington 7 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Urbana 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 vs. Normal West 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Centennial 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Thornwood 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 at Champaign Central 1 p.m.

Oct. 5 at Normal Community 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 vs. Richwoods 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Peoria N.D. 7 p.m.

Danville's must-win game is ... vs. Normal West on Sept. 7. The Vikings feel some of their biggest in-league competition will come from the Normal schools, so if they hope to hang with the likes of West and Community this season, taking down the former at home would be a huge step in the right direction.

A look back

Last year's leading passer was ... Ernest Plummer, who went 82 of 154 and threw for 1,090 yards and 14 touchdowns in his senior season.

Last year's leading rusher was ... Jerry Reed, who ran 153 times for 1,160 yards and 17 touchdowns in his senior season.

Last year's leading receiver was ... Andrez Parker, who hauled in 22 passes for 343 yards and five touchdowns during his senior season.

Last year's leading tackler was ... Julian Pearl, who compiled 98 total stops as a senior.

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