MOUNT VERNON — The Centerburg Trojans and the Danville Blue Devils have taken eerily similar paths since the start of the football season. Both teams are 0-5 (0-2 in Mid-Buckeye Conference) and both are still trying to find their identity.
For Danville, the 0-5 start is an unwelcomed sight. Coach Charlie Duncan never envisioned his team struggling the way it has in the first five weeks, but he has used those struggles as learning experiences.
“This is not where we expected to be at this point and time,” said Duncan. “Each game we’ve taken something away from what we’ve needed to learn and I think we’ve made some of those adjustments. This second half of our schedule, we need to become a little more focused and make less turnovers and penalties. We’ve got to address those issues and take care of the football in the second half.
“We’ve gone back and focused on what we set out to do at the start of the season. ... We’re moving the football on people, but we are not cashing in when we are in the red zone. It is kind of hard in the type of offense we run to move the ball as well as we do, but then get a penalty and start out with first-and-20. That’s not the kind of situations we want to put ourselves in and we’ve addressed that with our kids.”
Likewise, Centerburg coach Ken Kish has his team forging ahead. While they can learn from their past, Kish hasn’t wanted his team to dwell on it.
“Practice has been good,” said Kish. “We are working hard and staying focused on each game, and playing one team at a time. We’re disappointed in last week’s game, but that was last week. We’ve got to focus on this week. We are in the same boat as Danville in that we are both trying to get our first win. We are working hard and focused on what we have to do.
“The one thing we didn’t do well last week was run the football,” Kish added. “Anytime you want to be a good football team, you have to be able to run the football. We weren’t able to do that, and as a result, we weren’t able to sustain our drives.”
When the Trojans hit the field in Danville on Friday night, Duncan knows the type of team he will face. Like many of the intra-county rivalries, Centerburg and Danville go way back and it is always a battle. He expects nothing different this year.
“Centerburg always plays us tough no matter what the records are; it has always been a close game,” Duncan said. “We’ve seen a lot of good things out of them on film. They are a very athletic team, and they run the spread offense and do it very well. In every game we’ve gotten film on, they’ve moved the ball very well. They are not a bad football team; they are not as bad as their record shows so we can’t take them lightly. ... We are going to have to play sound defense to hold them in check.”
Both Duncan and Kish see parts of their team in the other. Both have had some of the same struggles this season.
“I see some similarities,” said Duncan. “Things haven’t gone their way, and that’s the same as with us — turnovers, a few calls and things like that. They are a few plays away from being 2-3 or better, just like we are.”
“Danville moves the ball pretty well, but when they get into the red zone, they have had a little trouble scoring,” said Kish. “We’ve had some of the same problems. There has been a couple of times this year where we’ve had more first downs and led the time of possession, and had more yards but lost.
“They have, in the past, looked like a very good football team,” added Kish. “It looks like they are dealing with some of the same issues we are with the biggest being consistency.”
For the Trojans, the game could come down to defense. While Centerburg is not racking up the points on offense, it is up to their defense to keep it close enough to give the offense a shot for the win.
“We have to be able to stop somebody defensively,” Kish said. “We’re just giving up too many yards and too many points. We have to play good defense, and then when we get the ball, we have to be able to score more than seven or 14 points. We’ve got to continue to move the football, and when we get into the red zone, we need to score.”
Danville will be celebrating homecoming on Friday night, so the atmosphere will be charged even if both teams are winless entering the game. One thing will be certain: Neither team wants to go 0-6.
“Emotions are going to be high,” said Duncan. “It is homecoming; we are back home for the first time (since Week 2) so it will be nice, and not to mention we are still looking for our first win of the season. It will be an emotional high as we try to achieve that accomplishment.”
“This will be my first time of playing over there as a coach, and I expect it to be loud,” said Kish. “(Danville) is rich in tradition. I’m sure they will be ready to give us a good football game.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.