(Hobby King/The Concordian)
Once they got the lead, the Vikings never gave it up, maintaining at least a two-score advantage the rest of the game. Reyes completed 10 of 21 passes for 161 yards, including a 70-yard strike to freshman Chris Smith during the first period.
That came between a pair of Crusader TDs engineered by sophomore Andrew Brimhall, whose 26-yard pass to freshman Shawn Hebert set up a 1-yard quarterback sneak and connected with senior Fred Brown for 24 yards to give Evangel a 14-7 lead.
Valley's comeback began with a punt by senior Chris Heale that was downed at the visitors' 4-yard line. The Vikings stopped Evangel cold and got the ball back only 38 yards away from the end zone. Freshman Nijel Daw ran five times for 34 yards and Reyes found junior Chris Owens with a 4-yard flip to tie the score.
Sophomore Zach Thomas, an all-state lineman at Sweet Springs, forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Daw recovered it at the EU 23. Reyes threw to senior Gary Taylor for 12 yards and to freshman Cameron Hope 8-yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
The Crusaders handled the kickoff, but then mishandled the first snap as freshman Michael Barnes fell on the ball at the 32. Sophomore Keith O'Neal gained 21-yards on two carries and Smith caught Reyes' 20-yard pass for a 28-14 lead.
There were still four minutes left in the half and the Crusaders used nearly all of them while driving 66 yards on 11 plays before senior Wayne Williams intercepted a pass at the Valley 10.
A short punt downed in Evangel territory led to freshman Chase Capron's 42-yard field goal early in the third quarter.
Junior Drew Cain answered with a 37-yard kick for the Crusaders, but Valley then kept possession for six minutes on a 12-play drive which included a 12-yard reverse by freshman Trey Rich and an 18-yard Owens reception -- capped by Daw's 1-yard plunge across the goal line 29 seconds into the fourth stanza.
Junior Tripp Thomas stripped the ball loose and sophomore Stanley Pittman recovered it at the EU 24. O'Neal gained 20 yards on three runs and sophomore Rahfee McClee chugged it in from three yards out.
Evangel closed to within 45-24 on freshman Casey White's 15-yard toss to Hebert, but the team's fourth fumble would lead to more MVC points. After junior Colby Broadnax picked off a pass for the Crusaders (3-6, 3-5 HAAC), senior Darren Bell knocked the ball loose and Williams picked it up on the run to a 70-yard touchdown.
O'Neal got his largest workload since the second week of the season with 100 yards on 17 rushing attempts, his third time hitting the century mark.
The win kept Valley (8-1, 7-1) in a tie for first place in the league standings, but only with MidAmerica Nazarene, which lost the Sept. 10 meeting between the teams, 26-21. While the Pioneers survived a 24-8 contest against Peru State, Benedictine fell to third place after being beaten at Baker, 10-7.
The Vikings close out the regular season Saturday at Central Methodist, which has already locked up its first winning season since 1991. The Eagles have shown uncharacteristic offensive spark with their triple-option attack, ranking seventh in the NAIA in rushing offense and giving NCAA Division I FCS member Southeast Missouri State a hard time Saturday during a 55-44 road loss.