Vikings host BC to start 2008 campaign
It had been raining all morning, so Missouri Valley College head football coach Paul Troth was arranging an indoor practice. At the same time, he was dealing with a last-minute player eligibility issue, a broken video machine and his program's budget.
It was only two days before the third-ranked Vikings' season opener against Benedictine, and Troth seemed to barely have time to focus on Saturday's tilt at Gregg-Mitchell Field.
"The assistants are definitely carrying the load right now," he admitted. "We manage to get something done."
Fortunately, Troth has built a crackerjack staff -- and has a strong core of veteran players who've been through the Heart of America Conference wars before and know what it's about.
"I'm pleased with some of the returnees who have stepped into some of the vacant spots," Troth said. "They came in hungry and ready to go."
Troth has also been impressed with several of the newcomers, including speedy freshman tailback Junior Allen -- who will see time behind the established tandem of senior Robert Holmes and junior David Allen -- and a couple of big offensive linemen who are pushing the starters. Valley's strength recently has been its depth, which produces competition.
"That's what we want," Troth said. "Some of the question marks have been answered."
However, when it comes to the Ravens, there's a huge question: what offense will they bring?
Word out of Atchison, Kan., is that Larry Wilcox -- who enters his 30th year as Benedictine head coach with 200 victories -- may be changing his spots from a north-side power running game to a wide-open spread offense.
"That's a drastic change," Troth said. "We don't know what they're going to do.
"We're preparing for both, but that makes me worry, going in blind," he conceded.
There aren't any major changes in Valley's offense, which has been among the league's most consistent over the past two years.
"The same things we've preached: take care of the ball and keep their offense off the field," Troth reaffirmed. "We want to pound at them."
Having to replace three "hoggies" up front, including all-American guard Kris Vasquez, is a challenge. Troth said he has "guarded optimism" about the revamped line.
"We're showing signs we could be okay," he said, in typically cautious fashion. "We have a couple of new linemen pushing for starting position."
Valley begins the campaign favored to win the league title, but the Ravens -- still smarting from last year's 33-26 double-overtime home loss -- have been waiting a long time for payback. So Troth understands, and hopes his players likewise realize, that all the accomplishments of the 2007 club and preseason hoopla matters little when the hitting begins.
"It's the same thing as always: we have to find a way to beat Benedictine," Troth declared.
So begins another season where the goal is to go 1-0, at least 10 times and, hopefully, more.