The Vikings came from behind three times to eventually pull out a 33-27 triple-overtime victory at 19th-ranked Benedictine, where they haven't won since 1990.
"This is a prime example of what a championship team looks like," declared senior captain Reggie Singletary, who didn't miss the season opener despite a sore knee. "We never put our heads down and kept coming back until the game was over."
Valley's offense, now under the guidance of junior Adam Mares, was balky during the first half. A punt deflected by junior Maomao Palepale gave the Vikings' good field position, with Mares throwing his first career touchdown 35 yards to senior Michael Wilder midway through the first quarter.
"I had a little butterflies," Mares conceded. "After the first couple of minutes, I got them out and started playing."
Mares had eight passes deflected and five others dropped during the contest, including one by Wilder in the end zone at the end of the opening drive of the second half -- Valley's most effective series to that point: 17 plays for 71 yards. This was after the Ravens had gone ahead 13-7 at the break on junior Jesse Thomas' 7-yard run and two field goals by sophomore Jordan Banion.
The Vikings got a second chance to take the lead when senior Marquette Floyd's sack pinned Benedictine deep in its own end, giving the offense the ball at the home team's 33-yard line. Runs of 13 and 8 yards by junior Robert Holmes set up Mares' 6-yard toss to senior John Brinley seven seconds into the fourth quarter.
"Our defense held, that was the key," noted MVC head coach Paul Troth. "We were putting our strong side on the right and they overplayed that way, so we ran Holmes left."
Sophomore Cortavious Anderson forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and a 29-yard field goal by Joe Park made it 17-13.
Valley's defense held for three series, until sophomore Ryan Kelly fired a 33-yard TD pass to sophomore Jake Mohr to put the Ravens up by three with 1:54 left in regulation.
Junior Javion Jones appeared to answer with an 85-yard kick return, but the apparent touchdown was called back on an illegal block near midfield. However, a pass interference penalty -- the only one flagged against Benedictine despite many opportunities to do so -- and a 19-yard catch by senior Eric Brown got Valley close enough to try a game-tying field goal.
It was from 45 yards, longer than any Park made a year ago. But even after Benedictine called two timeouts to freeze him, the senior from Chugiak, Alaska, coolly drilled it with eight seconds to go.
"That happened to me in '99. I've never had a bad outcome from those," Park said of the pre-kick delays. "It just gives me a chance to settle down."
Senior Connor Walsh caught a 16-yard pass for BC in the first overtime, but sophomore fullback Jacob Cahill -- a converted linebacker -- took a swing pass 23 yards to keep Valley alive.
In the second OT, Park missed a 21-yard try wide to the left, but Banion's 39-yard attempt was blocked by junior Dasche Dahlke. The Ravens were stopped to begin the third extra period.
"It was hungry," Singletary said about the D's stand. "It was time to eat."
The feeding went to Holmes, who carried the ball four times for 25 yards -- the last a 6-yard game-winning rumble off left tackle.
"We've got some guys who are fierce competitors and don't want to quit," Troth declared, the Vikings' heart demonstrated by their ability to overcome adversity -- not the least of which was having senior defensive end Larry Wentzel, last year's HAAC "player of the year," among a handful of key players out with injury.
Still, Valley (1-0) made the statement that it wouldn't easily relinquish its championship.
Troth realizes, though, that even with a major hurdle cleared -- arguably the Vikings' toughest road opponent this season -- it won't get any easier.
"We did just enough to get by," Troth remarked. "We've got a lot of things to work on."