Behind a power rushing game which produced 284 yards and enough big play firepower to earn red-shirt freshman quarterback Chris White his second straight playoff award for top offensive performance, the Vikings demonstrated the style of hard-nosed football advocated by legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes.
That doesn't happen without stellar offensive line play, credited for keeping the Panthers' defense on the field for 40 of the game's 60 minutes.
"We went into the game knowing they had a good line, but we were more physical," said senior Sean Clark, center on a unit which only allowed four tackles for loss in 61 rushing attempts and recovered a Valley fumble. The Vikings lost none of their four cough-ups while taking four away from Dominican.
A 49-yard bomb to senior Eric Brown and a 63-yard catch by junior Javion Jones set up sophomore David Allen's 3- and 2-yard touchdown runs in the first quarter to answer record-setting junior Cris Reisert's 37-yard scoring strike to junior Josh Smart on Dominican's first drive of the game.
Still, the going wasn't easy for Reisert, who was leveled by 285-pound tackle Merlin Benefield -- the "defensive player of the game" for also forcing a fumble at the Valley 28-yard line -- and like White had an interception on a throw deflected by his own receiver.
When he had time, though, Reisert found his targets, including junior Joe Farfsing for a game-tying 7-yard TD following a disputed pass interference call against the Vikings.
White was picked off again by senior Nathan Hillerich, but sophomore wideout Cortavious Anderson -- a special teams standout -- took the ball away from him and Valley picked up a first down on the change of possession to boot.
A rare quarterback draw by White picked up nine yards and another of the Vikings' 30 first downs, with junior Robert Holmes going in from 9 yards out the play after a 13-yard catch on yet another rarity: a throwback screen, which on the next series Holmes took 70 yards and breaking a tackle near the goal line for a 28-14 lead.
"It looked like Chris was in trouble and I stayed with him," Holmes said. "I saw the sideline and got my blocks" -- notably one by senior guard Larry Boone -- "and just motored into the end zone."
Senior Marquette Floyd deflected a punt, Holmes ran three times for 25 yards and White's lob from the 37-yard line was grabbed away from a Panther defender by the leaping Brown -- who had six catches for 160 yards in another of the Californian's primetime displays -- to extend the margin to three touchdowns with 2:16 left in the half.
Aided by three major penalties for 40 yards -- including a 15-yard facemask call which Valley coaches thought should have been no more than a minor, for one of the Panthers' five first downs by penalty -- Dominican got close enough for senior Andy Wernicke to connect on a 30-yard field goal.
Wernicke hit from 26 yards away to begin the second half, but the Vikings struck back harder. Valley converted 14 of 19 third-down attempts, among them a 17-yard pass to Brown on its next possession. Holmes broke loose for 42 yards before being stopped at the ODU 16-yard line and Jones took a toss into the right flat for the final five of 15 yards through traffic to make it 41-20.
Although Reisert would hook up with senior Jared Stace for 55 yards and Smart for 15 yards to score, the second half was in the hands of Valley's offense -- which consumed nearly 17 of a 23-minute span on three drives, among them a six-and-a-half minute possession which ended on downs on the ODU 35 with 1:42 remaining in the game.
Only one of the three long 10-play-plus drives resulted in points, on Holmes' 6-yard run early in the fourth quarter, but they kept the ball out of Reisert's dangerous hands.
"We knew we couldn't stop him, we just wanted to slow him down," Troth said. Reisert took only 14 fourth-quarter snaps because MVC's offensive line "just kept plugging away."
Reisert passed for 429 yards and four TDs, reflecting his average out-put in a 5,434-yard season which surpassed the NAIA standard. Further, he led growing Ohio Dominican (12-1) to a Mid-States Mideast Conference championship and its first-ever playoff appearance in the fourth year of the program.
Of course, White didn't play last year when Valley won 13 straight to reach the semifinals, with a return engagement in store Saturday at defending national champion Sioux Falls (S.D.) -- which barely survived the previous meeting, 25-18.
However, the rookie -- who led Manasquan High to a New Jersey Central Group II title two years ago -- has replicated the 2006 post-season performance of all-American Jason Shoulders, the man he eventually succeeded three games into the current season and has guided to nine wins in 10 starts.
White added 34 net rushing yards to his 359 through the air and Holmes contributed 240 all-purpose yards as Valley (10-2) racked up 643 total yards to punish the Panthers' staggered and ultimately weary defense.
"We were in there with a simple game plan," said Holmes, who had 59 tackles and 3.5 sacks as a freshman linebacker and has run for 2,406 yards and 24 touchdowns in the two years since. "We came in here with the mentality we could dominate physically."
Woody would have been proud.