The third-ranked Vikings were never in danger of losing, yet there were enough flaws -- 11 penalties, inconsistent blocking and a couple of big coverage breakdowns -- that they shouldn't be complacent.
"We were clicking, but we've got a lot of stuff we have to work on," declared senior defensive end Larry Wentzel. "I think we played as a whole [team] all game."
Valley never trailed, leading from the moment junior Adrian Trevino booted a 37-yard field goal with 7:08 left in the first quarter to the end of the game. It took less than a minute for the Vikings to score a second time, sophomore Chris White firing a 40-yard touchdown pass to junior Jacob Cahill following sophomore Maurice Peterson's interception.
"It was just a 'go' pattern," White explained. "They had two safeties deep and we just split the difference."
White's 41-yard pass to sophomore Darrell Madry set Valley up at the Ravens' 4-yard line early in the second quarter, senior Robert Holmes running it in from there to make it 16-0.
On the next series, though, Benedictine finally got something going when junior Ryan Kelly found junior Chris Langley for 21 yards on a fourth-down dice roll and a 5-yard TD flip to junior Jake Mohr three plays later.
Madry's 49-yard catch got the Vikings close enough for Trevino to hit a 41-yard field goal, but a penalty gave head coach Paul Troth the choice of taking the points off the board for a first down. The decision blew up in his face when back-to-back penalties pushed Valley out of scoring range.
"That's something we never do. I got greedy," Troth admitted. "At that point we were moving the ball pretty well."
The Vikings were denied another scoring chance when junior Merlin Benefield sacked Kelly at the BC 15, jarring the ball loose. Senior Soane Sevelo picked the ball up and was headed to the end zone when the whistle blew, stopping the play and allowing Benedictine to retain possession.
"That would have been a great boost going into halftime," Troth said, admitting that he "didn't see the play. Soane thought he had it."
The Ravens recovered a fumble at the MVC 20 five minutes into the third quarter, getting a 42-yard three-pointer from senior Jordan Banion, but then Valley's heretofore dormant running game got in gear.
Holmes was fed six straight plays for 48 yards, Trevino knocking in a kick from 27 yards out to begin the fourth quarter.
"We were not being consistent with" the ground attack, Troth said. "We get kind of stubborn with that stuff, but we finally got it going."
The next Viking drive consumed seven precious minutes and began when a hit by junior Colin Smith, who had knocked Kelly out of the game briefly with a sack on the previous play, separated the ball from Langley. The carom was caught in the air by sophomore Jesse Putnam.
Sophomore Bryan Blackley powered through a tackle for the last 10 of 23 yards on a flat pass to reach the visitors' 10. Madry caught an 8-yard toss in the end zone for a 26-10 lead with eight minutes left.
The Ravens (0-1, 0-1 HAAC) had one more moment to shine when junior Conor Walsh caught a 39-yard touchdown pass with 4:33 left, but senior Jacory Lindsey's sack the next time they got the ball prevented another threat.
With five sacks costing Benedictine 29 yards, the Vikings' vaunted run defense allowed only 20 net yards.
It was a debut fraught with peril for Valley (1-0, 1-0), going against an esteemed and motivated opponent sporting an unseen new offense -- although Wentzel said the defense "knew what they were going to run, ran our checks right and executed."
There was a palpable sense of relief for the Vikings to come away with a relatively comfortable win.
"First game of the season, anything can happen," White noted. Coming out on top "is a great feeling."