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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Culver hosts No. 6 Vikings for Homecoming

Friday, September 30, 2011

Junior LaNorris Dukes is among four tailbacks who have pushed the Vikings to sixth in the NAIA rankings for rushing offense.
(Chris Allen/Democrat-News)
Once again the Missouri Valley College football team finds itself in a position of following an impressive win over a nationally ranked team with a road game against a lightly-regarded Heart of America Conference opponent.

"Danger, Will Robinson!" the robot from the 1960's TV sci-fi show "Lost in Space" warned, much like the alarm in Vikings head coach Paul Troth's psyche.

"The thing we're always talking about with our guys is that you can't look at the opponent or record, but to approach each week the same way and maintain our focus," he explained. "That's what good teams do, and we want to be a good team."

If Valley needs any reminder of the pitfalls which could await it, the slow start at Avila two weeks ago need only to be recalled. The Vikings eventually won, 49-0, but didn't necessarily feel jubilant about it.

So now awaits Culver-Stockton, which brings in the NAIA's sixth-ranked team for Homecoming on Saturday, and Troth recognizes that his squad "is going to get their best. What we want to see is if we're going to be better this week than we were going into the Avila game."

The Wildcats (1-3, 1-3 HAAC) have a new head coach and a win under their belt, having begun the season with a 35-10 victory over Graceland.

"They're a much better team than they were a year ago," said Troth, whose Vikings won the last meeting 70-0. "They've got better players."

Among those are Culver's I- backs, senior Blake Jackson -- who has gained 244 yards on 48 carries -- and junior Trayon Nash.

"They want to get the ball to their running backs in space," Troth said. "Their skill players on the perimeter are improved."

Senior quarterback Kyle Haeberling has also thrown effectively, with 668 yards and four touchdowns, but has also been picked off six times. Forcing the 'Cats to throw is the goal of Valley (4-0, 3-0).

"No matter who we play, we want to make them one-dimensional," Troth said. "Take the run away."

Culver's defense has only allowed 7.0 yards per pass play and 165.0 yards per game through the air.

"They mix up their coverages very well" between two- and three-deep zones and man-to-man, Troth said. "In the red zone, they bring a lot of pressure."

With a true freshman at quarterback in Bruce Reyes, facing a strong pass defense could be a concern for the Vikings -- except for a ground game which is currently ranked sixth in the nation (249.0 yards per game).

Between the explosiveness of sophomore Nijel Daw and Keith O'Neal and the power of junior LaNorris Dukes and sophomore Rahfee McClee, Valley has an enviable backfield tandem.

"We have better speed there and we have a couple of bigger backs," Troth remarked. "Any one of them is good enough to be a feature back."

With the team's bye week to follow, and then a critical test at No. 12 Benedictine, an inspired Culver team could mean trouble if the Vikings are looking past it.

"They're going to come out and play with intensity," Troth declared. "We have to match that."

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I love Coach Troth's responses to your interview. He must have a book of quotes he reads from. Quit hilarious I'd say.

-- Posted by Judge, jury and executioner on Sat, Oct 1, 2011, at 10:17 AM

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