Conference champions? That sure does have a nice “ring” to it in Viking Nation as the campus is still buzzing about the bittersweet ending of the season, resulting in the Vikings taking command of the Heart of America Conference and taking the title as conference champions.
Under the realm of Coach Paul Troth, the Vikings set out to defend the conference in the 2011 NAIA Football Championship series first round game against the St. Francis (Ind.) Cougars at the Greg-Mitchell Field. Unfortunately, MVC fell short late in the game and was unable to recover from late fourth quarter scores from the Cougars and were defeated 28-14.
Although no team is ever ready to exit the playoffs, heads were not hung low for long for Viking players as they achieved another well-highlighted season including starting the season off 5-0 and recording their only regular season loss to the Benedictine Ravens 35-19. The Vikings displayed many dominating total team performances this season including the MVC Homecoming “Massacre” of Graceland University 78-0 and the road shut-out of the Avila Eagles 49-0.
To no surprise, the Valley defense had another extremely cohesive season ranking in the top 10 in the nation in defensive categories: pass defense efficiency (75.2), total defense (204.7), pass defense (130.7), rushing defense (74.0), opponent first downs (125), scoring defense (11.8), opponent 3rd down conversions (24.7), and sacks (29). The team was stacked with many explosive weapons headed by senior First Team All-HAAC Richard Wick who recorded 6.5 sacks and 14 total tackles for loss on the season. Sophomore Tyler Davis also made a lot of noise this season leading the team with 6 interceptions and earning HAAC Special-Teams Player of the Week honors.
Vikings made a change in quarterback 4 games into the season and introduced freshman Bruce Reyes into the starting position and never looked back! Reyes took on the pressure of running the team as a true-freshman and was credited for 1,277 passing yards, 20 total touchdowns (16 passing and 4 rushing), and 11 interceptions. The Vikings relentless rushing attack was key in the success of the team this year and was led by the “Dynamic Duo” of Keith O’Neal and Nijel Daw who collectively gained more than 1,500 yards on the ground and accounted for 10 touchdowns.
The Missouri Valley Vikings will be able to enter next season as the reigning Conference Champions but also will be motivated to continue to build on this season’s success and go further into the playoffs as they have now become a direct target to aspiring teams on the hunt. And on behalf of the Viking Nation, bring them on!