The Vikings were coming off an emotional upset of then-10th-ranked MidAmerica Nazarene and the Eagles were an opponent without stature.
Yet, it wasnâ€™t so much a let-down by Valley, although there were mistakes aplenty â€" turnovers, penalties, missed blocks and dropped passes among them â€" but Avilaâ€™s ability to control the ball which accounted for the narrowness of the No. 15 Vikingsâ€™ 20-14 decision.
â€śTheyâ€™re a lot better than their record indicates,â€ť Troth remarked, pointing to the two touchdowns thrown by junior Billy Firn â€" the first, for 21 yards to junior Anthony Kelly, giving the Eagles the early lead.
However, Valley was able to use its running game, along with some big defensive plays, to take control with three straight touchdowns during the middle two frames.
First, though, the Vikings had to avoid falling further behind, which they did by stopping a drive at their 5-yard line and then getting a block by senior Rich Beltram of freshman Andrew Korthâ€™s chip-shot 23-yard field goal try.
Valley took over and marched 95 yards on nine plays, the big one being freshman Chris Whiteâ€™s 50-yard bomb to senior tight end Maurice Austin â€" setting up a 4-yard touchdown run by junior Robert Holmes, who would rush for 146 yards on 27 carries.
â€śWe had bad field position most of the first half,â€ť Troth said. â€śThe defense came up big. That was kind of the turning point of the game.â€ť
The Vikings began the second half with an 11-play, 54-yard series completed with Whiteâ€™s 13-yard TD toss to senior John Brinley.
â€śWe just went at them with the power game,â€ť Troth said after watching his offense run for 211 of its 359 total yards. â€śWe felt we controlled the line of scrimmage.â€ť
The Eagles were stuck deep in their own end of the field late in the third quarter when senior Aubrey Smith hauled in one of his two interceptions at the Avila 30. Four plays later, sophomore David Allen rumbled in from 5 yards out.
Eventually the Eagles (1-7, 1-7 HAAC) closed the margin to within a single score, Firn hitting sophomore Chadd Rivera for 13 yards into the end zone with 1:32 left, but Valley recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
Firn completed 28 of 46 passes for 254 yards, but Avila only managed 23 rushing yards on 23 attempts. Senior Nick Saviano had a game-high 15 tackles for AU.
Junior Soane Sevelo had an interception and junior safety Tevita Williams led the Vikings with seven tackles.
Valley (5-2, 5-2) has strung together three wins in a row, but will have one of the teams it is currently battling for second place in the standings to face Saturday when Baker arrives at Gregg-Mitchell Field.