DANVILLE — Having the right mental approach can be just as important as any offensive or defensive game plan.
This season, the Danville Vikings have been focused on a next play approach.
“Basically, we just forget the play that just happened — good or bad — and we go onto the next play,” said Danville senior quarterback Bryson Perez-Hinton. “The only difference is that if it was something bad, we try to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
“Honestly, it’s always been a part of this program but we are just more committed to it this season.”
And it showed on Friday night.
Danville overcame a pair of second-half turnovers, a season-high 85 penalty yards and an ill-advised fake punt on its way to a 28-14 triumph against the Bloomington Purple Raiders in a Big 12 Conference contest at Ned Whitesell Field.
“That was a good tough win,” Danville coach Marcus Forrest said. “It shows how mentally tough they have become to fight through a lot of adversity. There were a lot of different things we had to overcome from unusual penalties at odd times, turnovers, miscues and even a bad call with the fake punt.
“Our defense just stepped up all the way to the end. They came up with big stops when we needed them. In the second half, we got after them and started to wear down Bloomington. And even when they made a big play at the end, our defense rose up and stopped them on four straight plays inside the 10-yard line. That just shows how mentally far they have come.”
The Vikings (3-1 overall and 2-1 in the Big 12) pitched a shutout in the second half as they held the Purple Raiders to just 56 yards of offense in the final two quarters — 43 of that came on a pass from AJ Codron to John Shuey in the final minutes.
“Early on, Bloomington moved the ball pretty well on us,” said Danville senior safety Matthew Thomas. “We found ourselves down a touchdown twice and we had some stupid penalties and stupid decisions. We didn’t have our heads on right, but we were able to overcome that to get the win.”
And it wasn’t just coming up with the stops, the Danville defense also forced turnovers on back-to-back third quarter possessions as Thomas and sophomore safety Ja’Vaughn Robinson picked off pass from Codron, who was 2-of-12 for 39 yards in the second half after completing 10-of-14 for 124 yards in the first two quarters.
The interception by Thomas, which was his third of the season, came just one play after the Vikings had turned the ball over with a fumble.
“i know in the past, we would turn the ball over and let our heads get down and they would score a touchdown,” Thomas said. “We have a saying, when that happens, we need our defense to put out the fire. We were able to do that in the defensive secondary, but a lot of credit goes to our defensive line — they were getting in the quarterback’s face and caused him to throw some of those incompletions and the interceptions.”
In the past two games, the Danville secondary has produced six interceptions giving them nine this season, which is more than the last two seasons combined for the Vikings.
“I’m so glad that they took it to heart what was talked about all summer about being more aggressive,” Forrest said. “Instead of waiting for the ball to hang up and then waiting to make a tackle after the receiver caught it like we did multiple times last year. We talked about being aggressive and understanding that a ball in the air is just as much ours as it is theirs.
“This season, we have been really aggressive going for the football and today, both our safeties came up with big plays at crucial times. And it wasn’t just the interceptions, we also broke up passes and we made some big tackles that stopped Bloomington from either getting into the end zone or picking up a first down.”
While Danville’s defense was doing its job, the guys on the offensive side had a bad penalty on its first possession that cost the Vikings 15 yards and unexplained loss of down forcing them to punt on what should have been third down and that was followed by fumbles on its next two possessions.
That’s when Forrest put the ball in the hands of his “little general.”
Perez-Hinton connected with Tommy Harris Jr. on a 30-yard completion to get the next drive started and the four-play scoring drive was capped with a 11-yard touchdown pass to Thomas.
“Honestly, the best thing that happened to his this year was that big hit he took in the game against Peoria,” said Forrest. “Ever since that game, he has calmed down and thrown the ball extremely well. He is extremely focused and understands more of what he needs to do for us to be successful.”
Perez-Hinton had a season-best 142 passing yards, completing 12 of 16, while the 5-foot-7 senior also ran for a season-high 125 yards on 22 carries including a pair of touchdown runs.
“Our passing game is also something we worked on a lot this summer,” said Thomas, who had 7 receptions for 57 yards. “All of our work finally showed up tonight. I think our whole offense did well, but it helps when we get our passing game going.”
Perez-Hinton admitted that Friday’s win on Senior Night was special.
“There were people outside of our program that doubted us,” he said. “We knew Bloomington was a really good team and this was our chance to make a statement.”
And what was that statement?
“Don’t doubt us,” Perez-Hinton answered.
Danville 28, Bloomington 14
Bloomington `7 `7 `0 `0 `— `14
Danville `7 `7 `0 `14 `— `28
Bloomington —John Shuey 15-yard pass from AJ Codron (Taylor Anderson kick), 5:42.
Danville — Bryson Perez-Hinton 16-yard run (Braiden Wilson kick), 1:27.
Bloomington — Garrick Dickerson 7-yard pass from Codron (Anderson kick), 4:52.
Danville — Ja’Vaughn Robinson 19-yard run (Wilson kick) 0:26.
Danville — Matthew Thomas 11-yard pass from Perez-Hinton (Wilson kick), 8:04.
Danville — Perez-Hinton 1-yard run (Wilson kick), 1:45.
Rushing — Bloomington: Marcus Griffin 14-48. Danville: Bryson Perez-Hinton 22-126, Tommy Harris Jr. 8-63.
Passing — Bloomington: A.J. Codron 12-26-2 163 yards. Danville: Perez-Hinton 12-16-0 142 yards.
Receiving — Bloomington: John Shuey 5-112. Danville: Matthew Thomas 7-57, TJ Lee 2-40.
Records — Bloomington 2-2 overall, 2-2 in the Big 12 Conference. Danville 3-1 overall, 2-1 in the Big 12 Conference.