A week after being handed their first loss of the season at then-ninth-ranked Benedictine, the Vikings scored eight touchdowns and got 30 points from their defense and special teams for a 78-0 Heart of America Conference victory over the Yellowjackets.
Yes, 78-0, and 51-0 at halftime -- with Valley leaving points on the board by taking a knee at the visitors' 4-yard line on the final play before Homecoming ceremonies began.
"That loss last week really set a fire under us," admitted senior linebacker Adam Maher, the Ted Chitwood Award winner, who blocked a field goal to help preserve the Vikings' second shutout of the season. "We knew we had to come back this week and get things done."
While Valley piled up 492 yards in total offense, even with reserves on the field and score-suppressing play-calling during the second half, Graceland miscues contributed mightily. Three interceptions, two fumbles, four botched punts and a pair of missed field goal kicks have a way of doing that.
After opening the game with a drive capped by freshman Bruce Reyes' 20-yard touchdown pass to freshman Chris Smith, the Vikings took a 9-0 lead when a high punt snap went through the end zone. However, Reyes was intercepted on the next two possessions, by freshman Isaac Newsome and senior Tyler Hosfield, to put the Yellowjackets in scoring position.
"He made a couple of throws," said Troth, who has watched Reyes throw six picks in the last two games. "I wish it didn't happen, but he's a freshman."
Graceland couldn't capitalize, though. Senior Chaluim Muir missed his first field goal attempt wide to the right from 36 yards out and the second one was blocked by Maher.
Valley began a scoring drive with a 29-yard run by junior LaNorris Duke and ended it with a 20-yard toss from Reyes to senior Gary Taylor.
Freshman Kent Young blocked a Muir punt, with freshman Jonathan Bird scooping up the loose ball at the 8-yard line and diving across the goal stripe. Five minutes later Reyes hooked up with junior Daniel Gray for his third touchdown pass, from 24 yards out.
The Vikings tallied three times within a two-minute span, starting with a Muir punt into the back of his blocker, who had been pushed backwards by sophomore Rahfee McClee. Valley took over at the GU 26, from where sophomore Lorenzo Dennard threw a TD pass to senior Gareth Brown.
Graceland's next punt attempt was another high snap, the Vikings striking on sophomore Keith O'Neal's 23-yard run for a 44-0 lead.
"They scored and they set us up for short fields," Troth said about his special teams' contributions.
Sophomore Tyler Davis returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown and freshman Jonathan Hicks picked off a pass in the Valley end zone to thwart what would be the 'Jackets' last serious scoring threat.
Davis recovered a fumbled punt return at the Graceland 25 and McClee ran twice for 21 yards for a first and goal at the 4 with 30 seconds and three timeouts remaining, but the Vikings elected not to score.
A 45-yard Davis punt return set up Dukes' 3-yard scoring run early in the third period, senior Chester Woolen's sack knocked the ball loose for sophomore Tyler Wedeking to grab and rumble 20 yards for a touchdown and Valley closed out with TD runs of 1 yard from McClee and 8 yards by freshman Nijel Daw.
"I was hoping we'd rebound this week," Troth said. "They came out and took care of business."
Graceland (1-6, 1-5 HAAC) was limited to a net of minus-2 rushing yards and completed only 12 of 47 passes.
"We knew their quarterback was real young," Maher said. "We thought if we could stop the run, we could handle their quarterback."
McClee finished with 117 yards on 20 carries while freshman Michael Barnes made six tackles and came up with an interception.
With MidAmerica Nazarene handing the Ravens their first loss of the season, 49-39, the Vikings (6-1, 5-1) are tied with those two teams atop the league standings heading into Saturday's game at Peru State.
"If we take care of business, the worst we'll finish is as co-champions," Troth explained. "We can't do anything about the other teams anyway."