The Vikings were coming off a loss which dropped the defending Heart of America Conference champions to 2-2 and threatened their return to the NAIA playoffs.
Valley's 35-0 victory Saturday over the Eagles was a more subdued, matter-of-fact disposal of an opponent whose alleged improvement over past seasons is debatable -- and then probably more schematic than athletic.
Methodist, even under a new regime, still doesn't possess an effective passing attack -- a necessity against one of the NAIA's stalwart run stoppers. Most of the negative yardage the Vikings' defense caused, 52 of 67 yards, was due to seven sacks -- five in the first half, four involving senior defensive end Jacory Lindsey.
"They tried to overset so much, they left the inside open, so I played it like that," he explained.
A victory for third-ranked Valley was nearly pre-ordained, but with a clash against No. 6 MidAmerica Nazarene coming up following a bye week, a more workmanlike performance than usual was also no surprise.
"Everybody was walking around saying we should win," admitted MVC head coach Paul Troth, "but we knew Central Methodist was going to come to play, and they did."
Offensively, though, the Eagles (1-4, 1-3 HAAC) found themselves in a hole early.
Freshman quarterback Josh Tipton fumbled a shotgun snap for a 9-yard loss and then was sacked at his own 3-yard line by Lindsey and freshman Adam Maher.
Despite the favorable field position created by that stop and a 24-yard punt return by freshman Theron "Junior" Allen, the Vikings where unable to score until late in the first period -- when senior Javion Jones grabbed a 47-yard pass from sophomore Chris White.
Methodist was geared to stop the run, "putting in an eight-man front," Troth explained. "Our defense was holding them off."
The defensive pressure routinely gave Valley short fields, which it capitalized upon with 17 points in the final 5:20 of the first half. A sack by Lindsey and senior Larry Wentzel gave the Vikings possession near midfield.
Senior Robert Holmes ran for 14 yards and White hit senior Jonathan Nunez for 16 and 12 yards, the latter for a touchdown.
Lindsey sacked junior Brock Brockmeier, a third-year starting quarterback who only played during the second quarter, to allow Valley to begin its next series at the Methodist 31. Allen carried for 21 yards to set up junior Adrian Trevino's 23-yard field goal.
Junior Merlin Benefield dropped Tipton for an 8-yard loss and another short punt gave the Vikings the ball only 41 yards from pay dirt, 36 covered on the first snap with a screen pass to Holmes. White's 5-yard flip to Jones with 21 seconds left in the half made it 23-0.
The second half was more of the same, although Valley's offense was content with grinding out first downs and running the clock. Trevino made field goals of 40 and 42 yards during the third period and Holmes capped an 11-play, 33-yard drive begun by junior Davohn Dillard's interception with a 1-yard touchdown run early in the final frame.
It was the first shutout for the Vikings since they beat Culver-Stockton, 30-0, two years ago.
"We've been trying to pitch one all year," Lindsey said. "Toward the end, we thought they'd get one, so we had to shut them down."
"We played well enough to win, but ..." was Troth's reaction. "We're not where we need to be to play at a high level."
Even a few minutes after the final gun, Troth's focus was on the upcoming contest against the Pioneers, who "you know is going to be real, real good."
Valley (5-0, 5-0) is aware of the stakes involved, and of the intensity which is sure to be present following its controversial 32-7 victory a year ago.
"That's about as big as its going to get," Lindsey declared. "We have to show them that it was no fluke last year."