PEOIRA, Ill. — He’s seen the statistics, watched the tape and come up with a game plan just like a coach.

Tim Thornton wants to break down barriers between teenagers and law enforcement in Peoria.

“I want to let our players meet these (police officers), let then know they are more than just a badge and let these guys see our guys are more than just a kid form the neighborhood,” Thornton said.

So on Monday and Thursday this week, representatives from the Peoria Police Department had dinner with Thorton’s team, the Peoria High football squad.

And Friday night, the Lions will wear special police-themed jerseys for their home game against Champaign Central.

“I think this will be a huge step towards ending all the hatred toward the police,” said senior running back Davion Allen. “It will help the community a lot.”

Thornton says he looks around the country and sees the “tough relationships” youth have with police. And he knows it’s a similar issue in Peoria.

“There is a huge gap (between teens and police) because of the violence,” said senior lineman Sencere Brent. “Hopefully, this game pulls everyone together. We’re trying to bring us close together.”

The football coach calls it ‘closing the gap,’ and it means a lot to Thornton. It’s an issue he hears about every day.

At school, at practice and even at home.

“My wife is a police sergeant and does a fantastic job. I get to view that side of it. I have great kids at the high school, I view that side of it as well,” Thornton said. “I have a unique perspective of it. I feel it is somewhere we can make a difference, make it better.”