10-0 Lindenwood up next in finale
CANTON -- Some of the Missouri Valley College football players who got caught up in "Cleatgate" responded well to a week of rest, turning in impact performances Saturday.
Sophomore David Allen ran for 146 yards and two touchdowns and senior Reggie Singletary and junior Larry Wentzel came up with sacks as the 14th-ranked Vikings turned the lights out by halftime at Culver-Stockton, their 56-26 victory setting up a one-game shot this week against Heart of America Conference champion Lindenwood for a possible NAIA playoff berth.
Valley broke open a 14-6 game after one period with four touchdowns during the final 12 minutes of the first half and another TD coming out of intermission before sitting most of the starters, even freshman quarterback Chris White after he completed 17 of 22 passes for 192 yards and three TDs.
A 1-yard run by junior Robert Holmes and senior John Brinley's 2-yard catch put the Vikings up 14-0, both players getting banged up in the first half. The Wildcats struck on freshman Dustin Jacoby's 29-yard quarterback bootleg before junior Billy Atlas snuffed an extra point -- Valley's 11th blocked kick this season.
Allen broke off a 41-yard touchdown run, senior Michael Wilder hauled in a 22-yard scoring strike, sophomore Tommy Gayfield capped a 10-play, 68-yard drive with a 3-yard scamper and White connected with junior Jonathan Nunez for 16 yards to make it 42-6 at the break.
The Vikings went strictly with time-consuming ball control offense during the second half. Allen ran it in from 12 yards with 10:25 left in the third quarter and senior Brandon Ware, in his fifth year after injuries slowed a promising career, had 18 carries for 75 yards and the final touchdown from 2 yards out as Valley opened the final stanza by answering junior Justin Gumm's 73-yard bomb to senior Pres Nicholson.
The Vikings racked up a season-high 29 first downs, dominated time of possession 40 to 20 minutes and rushed for 337 yards -- while only allowing 8 yards on the ground, a gain even from their No. 2 national ranking in run defense (48.3 yards per game).
Gumm threw three touchdowns for the ‘Cats (1-9, 1-8 HAAC), splitting 437 passing yards almost evenly with Jacoby, but interceptions by senior Aubrey Smith and juniors Maomao Palepale and Soane Sevelo proved costly.
Senior Joe Park, who had struggled with his kicking earlier in the season, appears back in form -- hitting all eight of his conversions after going four-for-four with two field goals during the previous week's similarly commanding 34-20 victory over Baker, which came close to upsetting No. 16 MidAmerica Nazarene before faltering at the end of a 34-30 loss Saturday.
Meanwhile, 19th-ranked Graceland -- tied for second place heading into the weekend with the Pioneers and Vikings, which it beat in Week 2 -- was likely knocked out of contention for a second, or even third, HAAC playoff invitation by William Jewell, 38-20.
The task for Valley (7-2, 7-2) remains the same during the five wins which followed a September loss to Evangel. No. 7 Lindenwood, which has already clinched the league title, brings its 10-0 record onto Gregg-Mitchell Field on Saturday, with the Vikings needing yet another 1-0 week.