Sep. 7—DANVILLE — A Friday night home football game.
That's something the Danville Vikings haven't experience since a 41-6 win over Champaign Central on Oct. 22, 2022.
"Finally, after two weeks on the road, two weeks of playing very good teams, we're at home," Danville coach Marcus Forrest said. "Not only do we get to play at home, but it's a Friday night, which is kind of foreign to the kids."
That's because both road games this season for Danville, at Glenwood, 14-12 loss, and at Peoria High, a 56-32 loss, have been on Saturday nights.
And this Friday's game against the Peoria Manual Rams is also senior night.
"I'm excited," said Danville senior defensive end Evan Yates. "This is my last first home game of my senior year. This is four years of football that is coming to end this season for me."
So, does it mean more to be a home?
"Definitely. That's our turf and we have to protect it," Yates said. "This is Viking territory and I will lay my life on that field."
It's also an opportunity for the Vikings to get their first victory of the 2023 season.
"We have played some dogs," Yates said.
And Forrest believes his team can start a winning streak this Friday night if they take the lessons they have learned from the first two weeks and play with the required energy.
"Well, it should have started on Monday," he said. "We always knew that we had those two really tough games to start the year. We have said all along that we wanted to learn and get the experience of those games.
"Now, we have to understand that we are 0-2 and we need to have a sense of urgency to learn and get better. The teams we have coming up, like a Manual this week, will probably not be as aggressive as a Peoria High or as long as a Chatham Glenwood, but they are still athletic and they run around well."
Manual is also 0-2 coming into Friday's game after losses to Peoria Notre Dame (33-12) and Champaign Centennial (35-8).
"We can't take anyone lightly. We don't have the record to take anyone lightly," Forrest said. "Even at 0-2, they want to get a win just as much as we do. It's not like they don't have the opportunity. They see us as an a 0-2 team in the same spot that they are in."
So, how does Danville avoid a letdown?
"They key to not stepping backwards is keep up the heat," Yates said. "You can never underestimate a team that you are about to play.
"As long as we do our thing, we should be fine."
Forrest admits there is a different sense of pressure when a team is playing at home.
"The biggest thing we have to do is not have the kids try to overdo," he said. "When you play on the road, we have some fans that follow us, but it's not everybody that we are going to see on Friday night. Everyone is going to have family and friends there for this one."
How does Forrest prepare his team for this situation?
"We know that the majority of the fans are coming to watch the football game," he said. "It's like being in a play or being in a movie. You have been going over your lines, you have been learning everything for your part — now, is your time to come out and perform."
Junior quarterback Darius Jay will be making his Danville debut. In his first two starts, he has thrown for 318 yards and four touchdowns, while also rushing for 81 yards.
In addition to Jay out of the backfield, the Vikings will rely on seniors Phillip Shaw IV (87 yards) and Caleb Robinson (63 yards).
Shaw and Robinson, along with senior Curtis Beasley are the top three tackles on the Danville defense.
Friday's game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff and the game can be heard locally on WDAN-AM 1490.