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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Vikings bump off Friends

Monday, November 19, 2007

Senior wideout Eric Brown caught eight passes for 136 yards, two of which led to second-half touchdowns, during the Vikings' 34-21 playoff win at Friends.
(Chris Allen/Democrat-News)
WICHITA, Kan. -- Chris White has come a long way since he was installed as the Missouri Valley College football team's starting quarterback in the third week of the season.

The red-shirt freshman from Brielle, N.J., directed the Vikings' offense flawlessly Saturday, throwing for a career-high 312 yards and two touchdowns -- without an interception -- during a 34-21 victory over eight-ranked Friends in the first round of the NAIA Championship Series at Wichita, Kan.

"All I want to do is win," White said while cradling the "offensive player of the game" plague. "I don't care if I throw for 20 yards or 200 yards, I just want to win."

Valley has won plenty with White at the helm, seven in a row to advance to the quarterfinal round for the second consecutive year. The latest followed a familiar pattern: being in a fight for about a half, then pouring it on coming out of the break to cruise through the fourth quarter without any series worries -- the Falcons' two late touchdowns doing no real damage.

"I thought Chris played extremely well. He was right on target," remarked MVC head coach Paul Troth. "They were a good run defense, so we knew we were going to have to throw the ball."

Friends held the same respect for the Orange Crunch, and never established a running game which had average 209.7 yards per outing -- winding up with 25 net yards, minus-16 in the first half.

"We knew when we stopped the run, we'd make them throw the ball," noted Valley junior defensive end Larry Wentzel.

The Falcons bombed away on the first play of the game, a 50-yard catch by junior Abe Kersting to set up junior Joe Paletta's 33-yard field goal.

White wasted no time, either, hitting senior Michael Wilder for 33 yards to open Valley's first drive -- which ended on a 19-yard touchdown toss to sophomore Jacob Cahill.

Midway through the half, the Vikings put together a 12-play, 51-yard drive which resulted in a 33-yard field goal by senior Joe Park. Then White went deep to junior speedster Javion Jones for a 76-yard TD bomb.

Friends closed the gap a minute later when, after converting a fourth-down play, a tipped ball was caught near the line by Kersting. He lateralled to freshman Brett Goerzen, who took it 48 yards to make it 17-9.

The teams traded turnovers, with the Vikings having a chance to extend the margin when White went over the top to senior Eric Brown -- only to have a potential 58-yard touchdown pass dropped.

It was the only flub of the day for Brown, who caught eight passes for 136 yards -- including a 50-yarder to the Friends 3-yard line on the opening drive of the second half, leading to junior Robert Holmes' 1-yard TD plunge.

A 27-yard catch by Brown on Valley's next possession led to Park's 39-yard field goal and a 12-play, 76-yard series -- featuring a 21-yard reverse by Jones -- was capped by Holmes' 3-yard rumble to make it 34-9 with less than 13 minutes remaining in the game.

"I felt very comfortable in the pocket," White said. "I couldn't do it without our offensive line. It did a heck of a job."

The Falcons (9-2) scored twice in the final seven minutes, the first after getting the ball at the Valley 9 due to a bad punt snap. Overall, though, with interceptions by seniors Aubrey Smith and Emmanuel Robinson and two fumble recoveries junior Lee Taylor and senior Marquette Floyd, the Vikings held a 4-2 edge in takeaways.

"In any big game, turnovers are important," Troth said. "In a playoff game,going on the road, you have to win the turnover battle."

Turnovers, run defense, ball control -- all major factors in not only this, but most other preceding Valley wins. Whether the ninth-ranked Vikings can continue to exploit this formula, and their proven mental toughness, for success during Saturday's quarterfinal contest at No. 3 Ohio Dominican remains to be seen.

"We've had our backs against the wall for quite a while," Troth remarked. "I don't know if they're starting to get used to it."

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