"Guys were banged up, so we got a chance to get healthy," declared head coach Paul Troth, who have the Vikings a few days of practice without pads before getting back down to business this week. "We wanted to keep some semblance of football timing."
During the hiatus, the Vikings rose to fourth in the NAIA poll, but that status will be in jeopardy Saturday when they travel to No. 9 Benedictine -- the only other unbeaten Heart of America Conference team.
"We want to control where we finish in the conference," Troth reiterated. "Only two teams are left that have control."
With only some small differences in scheme, Valley (5-0, 4-0 HAAC) is looking at a mirror image of itself when playing the Ravens.
"Philosophically, we're very similar," Troth noted. "We're both going to play good defense and run the football."
Benedictine (6-0, 4-0) is third in the league in rushing offense (204.2 yards per game), led by junior Kevon McGrew's 466 yards on 69 carries, and scoring (33.3 points per game). The Vikings lead the loop in running the ball (240.0) and putting points on the board (41.6).
"They're back to what they were," Troth said about the Ravens' approach, which had gone through some adjustments during recent years as veteran coach Larry Wilcox tried to find a way back to the playoffs his program has missed since 2003. "That makes them scary.
"They're real big up front and they're running a little bit of option," Troth explained. "It makes them tough to defense."
These are also the HAAC's top two defense clubs in all four major categories: scoring (MVC: 10.4, BC: 5.0), rushing (MVC: 50.2, BC: 71.0), passing (MVC: 125.6, BC: 122.0) and total yards allowed (MVC: 175.8, BC: 193.0).
"They want to stop the run," Troth said, echoing the Vikings' priority. "We want to run the ball. We can't let them stop us."
Both use a 3-4 scheme, although Valley's is an attacking style and the Ravens are more read-and-react.
"They don't get out of position, keep everything in front of them, run up and tackle," Troth said. "We like to be balanced. If they want to collect eight [players] in the box, we want to throw the ball."
Troth sees penalties and turnovers as being key. While the Vikings are the second-most penalized team in the league, Benedictine has had the fewest flags thrown against it. Both teams have positive turnover ratios.
What also may be a deciding factor is the site. Valley under Troth is 2-2 at Atchison, Kan., winning the last two meetings by a combined seven points.
"They just seem to play with more confidence when they play at home," Troth observed. Are the Vikings up to the challenge of a hostile environment? "We'll find out. We just need to deal with the 11 guys on the field and not worry about the rest."