As Homecomings go, it's hard to imagine one more likely to prompt celebration than the one the Missouri Valley College football team enjoyed last week.
The Vikings' 78-0 Heart of America Conference romp over Graceland even made their phlegmatic head coach uncommonly giddy, if only for the moment.
"It was kind of fun to not have to stress the second half," remarked Paul Troth, whose team went into intermission with a 51-0 lead. But now it's time to move on. "Our guys know they have some challenges ahead of them greater than the one we just faced."
One of those will be Saturday at Peru State. It's not that the Bobcats entered the league with a powerhouse, but they are a new opponent for Valley -- one which Troth suggested has a bit of a "Jekyll and Hyde" quality.
"They're a little bit of an unknown entity," he explained. "They've had some games where it looked like they played well, and others where they didn't look very good."
One has to wonder about a team which lost to the woeful Yellowjackets (45-13) and then two weeks later upended an Evangel (20-13) squad which came into the contest with a promising 3-1 league record.
An explanation may be that Peru State (2-5, 2-4 HAAC) relies on a young quarterback. Freshman Tyler Francis has completed 129 of 251 pass attempts for 1,366 yards and five touchdowns, but has also thrown nine interceptions -- none in the team's two victories.
"When they're scoring points, he's thrown for a lot of yards," Troth said. "We don't want him to get in a rhythm."
While the Bobcats rank third in the loop in passing offense (200.7 yards per game), they're dead last in stopping opponents' aerial attacks (242.9). They also are eighth against the run (191.8), which gives the Vikings game-plan options -- although Troth's first priority is gaining control on the ground.
"There's some things we want to establish no mater who we're playing or what they do," he admitted. "Then we look at the fringe things we do."
Bouncing back after losing at Benedictine, coupled with the Ravens' loss last week at MidAmerica Nazarene, Valley (6-1, 5-1) is in a three-way tie atop the HAAC standings. The Vikings jumped over Benedictine in the NAIA rankings, from ninth to seventh -- which bodes well for a potential home playoff game should they win out.
However, the view from neither Valley's high perch in the polls nor of the Bobcats' picturesque Oak Bowl on the bluffs of the Missouri River -- where Troth won while coaching Huron (S.D.) -- is in Troth's line of sight.
"The big focus is where we are in the conference," Troth emphasized. "The rankings are important at the end of the season, but they'll take care of themselves as long as we take care of business."