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No. 7 Vikings head to Avila

Friday, September 16, 2011

(Photo)
Sophomore Keith O'Neal (23) has led the Vikings' devastating ground attack with a pair of 100-yard games.
(Chris Allen/Democrat-News)
Opening the season with convincing wins over a pair of nationally-ranked foes, Saturday's Heart of America Conference contest at winless Avila could be emotionally anticlimactic for the Missouri Valley College football team.

For the seventh-ranked Vikings, this may be the mother of all trap games.

"They're all trap games," remarked MVC head coach Paul Troth, whose club is coming off a 26-21 victory over defending league champion MidAmerica Nazarene to end a three-game losing streak against the Pioneers. "It was a big win for us and great, but it was only the second game of the season."

The issue is whether Valley has the leadership on the squad to maintain their intensity against a foe against which it has never lost.

"We'll find out about our guys," Troth said. "Our practices have been good, our guys were focused and paying attention."

The Eagles (0-2, 0-1 HAAC) are under new management yet again, former Lindenwood assistant Justin Berna taking over the program. It's no wonder, therefore, that Avila's offense looks much like the Lions'.

"They're going to want to spread us out and mix it up," Troth forecast. "I wouldn't think they'd try to line up and play smash-mouth football with us."

With only 98 rushing yards in its first two games, Avila isn't geared to pound the ball -- but has shown some life in its passing attack, freshman Vincent Beltron completing 16 of 26 attempts for 216 yards. So far, though, the Eagles haven't put the ball in the end zone.

They'll be up against a Valley secondary which has allowed only 136.5 yards per game and intercepted six passes, four by sophomore Tyler Davis -- son of former Oakland Raiders running back Clarence Davis.

Avila has shown a little more on the defensive end, which is coordinated by former Lindenwood and Missouri assistant Marcus Yokeley, a Marshall native.

"He's a good young coach and I'm sure he'll have his guys coached up," Troth said after studying the Eagles' defense, which features a promising linebacker in sophomore Jarrett Hernandez.

While the Vikings (2-0, 1-0) are fourth in the NAIA in rushing offense at 273.5 yards per game, they have yet to get the passing attack going. Sophomore Lorenzo Dennard has shown a strong arm, and gives Valley more mobility at quarterback than it's had during Troth's tenure, he's only completed a third of his attempts and been picked off three times.

"It's overall consistency," Troth said. "We didn't execute early on [versus MNU], but were running the ball effectively so we just stayed with it."

That may again be the case, since the Vikings' proclivity is to run until stopped.

Despite being in ideal position to claim its first HAAC title since 2006, the finish line is yet too far away to see, which means no foe can be taken lightly.

"It doesn't matter who we're playing," Troth emphasized. "We'd like to see improvement every week."



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