NORMAL – You had to be there to fully understand what was going on. The box score doesn't do this game justice.
There was the pregame captains meeting. Normal Community sent four hulking football players to midfield. Danville sent its 125-pound senior place-kicker, Janelle Hensold.
It was one of coach B.J. Luke's psychological ploys.
"She went out and shook hands with all of them," said Luke, who wanted his offensive players to continue preparations for Friday's Class 6A football playoff opener.
There was the running back whom the Vikings called upon for 10 of their 26 rushes, freshman Justin March, who didn't have a varsity carry all season.
"We expected Danville would make some adjustments," said Normal Community coach Hud Venerable, whose team topped the Vikings in Week 9 and pulled out a 32-6 triumph Friday in a game where all the scoring took place before halftime.
March is part of the reason Luke is excited about Danville's future. "He's going to be a good one," the coach said, "and we wanted him to get his feet wet."
The entire game was played in a steady rain. "No pun intended," Luke said.
What spectators really missed if they weren't among the few dozen in attendance along the Danville side was the manner in which the Vikings controlled the majority of the first half.
After allowing Normal a touchdown on its first possession, Danville ran 25 consecutive plays from scrimmage. The Vikings took over with 8:48 left in the first period and the Ironmen's offense didn't return to the field until the 5:23 mark of the second period.
On the 15th play, Normal's Alex Buck – who scored his team's first TD – doubled the Ironmen's point total. He intercepted a Kendall Carter pass and returned it 94 yards. Carter rallied the Vikings immediately, capping a 10-play possession by hooking up with Derrick Cunningham on a 21-yard scoring strike.
"It was a perfect night to throw," Venerable said, "because it was hard for us to get traction to rush. Carter is awfully good, and their receivers are very good."
As soon as Danville got back in the game, however, the explosive Ironmen attack reached the end zone on consecutive one-play possessions.
Senior Zane Kentner, the Vikings' top tackler in the regular season, wasn't upset about the immediate rematch against the state's top-ranked 6A team.
"It was more of a gift to play them two weeks in a row," he said. "Too bad we couldn't get the big win. We didn't roll over. We played with our hearts."
Danville (5-5) finished with more first downs (13-11) and more yards (235-233).
"I was pleased with the way we moved the ball," Luke said, "particularly in this weather. We had some big plays out of our receivers."
Carter, a senior, hit 15 of 27 passes for 190 yards, raising his season total to 1,518 yards. Mikel Brigham hauled in six passes. Daveon Allen caught five.