No. 3 Valley stuffs Crusaders, 47-10
SPRINGFIELD -- If revenge was what the Missouri Valley College football team had as its goal, then the feat was emphatically accomplished Saturday.
The Vikings smashed the last Heart of America Conference team to beat them with a 47-10 victory at Evangel. After losing to the Crusaders last season, Valley reeled off 10 straight wins to reach the NAIA semifinal round for the second year in a row.
Evangel looked like it would start strongly when senior Nathan Thomas returned the opening kickoff 42 yards and sophomore quarterback Richie Roepke completed a pair of passes for 20 yards. However, on the third toss senior Correy Webb stripped the football and returned the fumble 79 yards for a touchdown.
The Vikings got the ball back quickly and sophomore Chris White hit sophomore Darrell Madry with a 41-yard scoring strike.
The Crusaders cut the deficit to 13-7 on the ensuing kickoff, which Thomas took 98 yards, but they wouldn't be able to get closer with an offense stuffed for a net of minus-7 yards rushing -- the second time this season Valley's defense has held on opposing ground game to negative yardage on the road.
Senior Robert Holmes capped a seven-play, 90-yard drive, in which he gained 39 yards on three straight carries, with a 13-yard run following a 20-yard catch by freshman Tommi Pinta -- the novice tight end from Finland.
White was intercepted for the first time this season, on his 85th pass, by Thomas to give Evangel the ball near midfield. Two major penalties by the Vikings helped lead to junior Trevor Gies' 31-yard field goal with 11:57 left in the second quarter.
It appeared Valley's lead would remain at 20-10 going into the break, until it scored a pair of touchdowns in the final two minutes of the half.
White capped a 14-play, 86-yard drive with a 7-yard toss to sophomore fullback Bryan Blackley, a series keyed by Madry's 36-yard third-down reception. Then junior Merlin Benefield forced a fumble, recovered by sophomore Michael Franklin deep in Crusader territory, and Madry caught a 25-yard pass in the end zone.
Evangel's longest gain from scrimmage -- a 42-yard run by senior Ryan Polite -- put it in position to try a 45-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the half, but junior Colin Smith blocked Gries' kick.
The Vikings got into the "red zone" on its first two possessions of the second half, but only managed a 28-yard field goal by junior Adrian Trevino after turning the ball over the first time.
However, Benefield, who already has one conference "defensive player of the week" award to his credit this season, intercepted a screen pass and raced as fast as his 290-pound frame could manage 19 yards for his first career touchdown.
Trevino tacked on a 26-yard field goal with one second left in the third quarter to close out the scoring.
The Crusaders (2-2, 2-1 HAAC) were limited to 54 yards in total offense on 55 attempts from scrimmage, while MVC racked up 568 yards -- including 133 rushing yards by Holmes and 100-plus receiving yards for Madry and senior Jonathan Nunez.
The third-ranked Vikings (4-0, 4-0), who have scored 44 or more points in three straight games, will return home Saturday for a tilt with Central Methodist.