The seventh-ranked Vikings were held scoreless until midway through the second quarter, then got a gift near the end of the half and pulled away after the break.
"They were just more excited to play than us," admitted MVC head coach Paul Troth. "I was disappointed we didn't come out with more emotion early."
The Eagles received the opening kickoff and moved the ball 47 yards, 28 on Valley penalties, before stalling. However, the Vikings only snapped the ball 12 times and picked up one first down in their first four possessions, the last one ending with a fumble at the Avila 43-yard line.
"They came out ready to play," conceded Valley senior linebacker Adam Maher. "We came out a little flat and didn't expect them to be physical."
Early in the second period, Troth gave highly-touted freshman quarterback Bruce Reyes his first action of the season -- and that, along with drier conditions, got the Vikings moving. Reyes completed five straight passes for 61 yards and then went 24 yards into the end zone on a bootleg for the game's first points.
"We had planned that," Troth said about Reyes' appearance. "He's a very talented freshman and it was good for him to play."
Valley got a break with 22 seconds left in the first half when sophomore Tyler Davis recovered a fumbled punt return at the Eagles' 15. Reyes found junior Chris Owens for a touchdown on the first play for a 14-0 halftime lead.
The Vikings scored on three straight second-half series, the first one a 10-play, 58-yard drive. A 21-yard reception by Owens at the Avila 5 set up junior LaNorris Dukes' 5-yard TD run.
Reyes fired an 11-yard scoring strike to freshman Chris Smith less than two minutes later and connected with him for 13 yards on the next series, which ended with sophomore Rahfee McClee's 6-yard rumble across the goal line.
"The guys kind of settled down a little bit" during the second half, Troth said. "We were executing better."
Valley scored its final two touchdowns with the offense off the field. Sophomore Gideon Lockett intercepted a pass and completed the pick-six with a 39 yard return with 2:50 left in the game and junior Daniel Gray picked up a fumbled punt and hauled it 16 yards into the end zone -- the third straight game in which special teams had scored for the Vikings.
"We're fortunate to have the athletes and playmakers to have that capability," Maher said.
Valley's defense held Avila (0-3, 0-2 HAAC) to 128 yards in total offense, including 26 yards on the ground. (Editor's Note: The official statistics were inaccurate on a number of points, including yardage assigned and player identification.) After posting two shutouts last year, it was the Vikings' first of the current season.
"With our defense, we expect those kinds of things," Maher said. "That's our goal every week."
Valley (3-0, 2-0) will return home Saturday to face a Baker squad which is looking to return to the national rankings after being upset at Evangel two weeks earlier, 34-27. The Vikings hope they've learned a lesson about taking opponents lightly.
"We'll find out," Troth said.
"Our approach has got to be the same every week," he explained. "It's a very good conference and you have to show up ready to play."