(Hobby King/The Concordian)
The ninth-ranked Vikings, who last year had the No. 1 pass defense in the NAIA, had trouble containing senior quarterback Jake Snodgrass -- who threw for 252 yards and a touchdown and added a 24-yard scoring run.
Valley got the game's first break when senior LaQuentin Black intercepted a Snodgrass pass and returned it 10 yards to the Bulldogs' 14-yard line. Although the Vikings were unable to move the ball from there, senior Fabian Miramontes booted a 29-yard field goal for the lead.
A Viking turnover led to McPherson's first score, senior Keith O'Neal fumbling in the backfield after catching a swing pass and sophomore Trea Lott recovering at the MVC 47. On the first play from scrimmage, Snodgrass connected with senior Julius Record on a bomb to give the Bulldogs a 6-3 edge.
That didn't last long, Valley marching downfield on the ensuing possession. Junior Zavier Stewart ran for 10 yards and sophomore Bruce Reyes tacking on an 18-yard bootleg.
On the third snap, Reyes found junior Alex Benson for a 38-yard pass to the McPherson 4-yard line, from where Reyes scrambled in for the score.
Neither team struck again in the first half, although a fumble forced by junior Phillip Wilson gave the Bulldogs the ball on the Valley 40 with 2:54 left in the second period. Two sacks by junior Andrew Huhman, the second fourth down and 18 yards to go, prevented McPherson from taking advantage of the break.
Reyes hit freshman Seth Martinko for 27 yards and Benson for 17 to the 'Dogs' 31 before time expired.
McPherson opened the second half with a seven-play, 83-yard drive, including a 30-yard Snodgrass strike to sophomore Michael Ramos to the Valley 24. Snodgrass legged it in the rest of the way as the Bulldogs regained a three-point lead.
The Vikings once more promptly answered with a scoring drive of their own, going 55 yards on nine plays -- the biggest a 25-yard Martinko reception on fourth down and 6 at the McPherson 40. Stewart ran for eight yards and two carries by senior LaNorris Dukes put Valley back in front, 17-13.
Again the Bulldogs went on the march. Snodgrass gained 13 yards on the ground and junior Havelock Pomele carried for 17 into Valley territory. On third down and five at the MVC 10, Snodgrass lost 11 yards on a sack by junior linebacker Rahfee McClee -- a converted tailback -- and on fourth down Snodgrass' toss to junior Paul Rotering was stopped two yards short of the marker by senior Phil Kraft.
Reyes went to the air -- hooking up with Martinko for 18 yards, freshman Mikquel Johnson for 10 and freshman Jacoby Bellard for another 18 -- to get within range for a 39-yard Miramontes field goal with 9:14 left in the game.
McPherson moved the ball 71 yards on 11 plays, aided by a personal foul penalty against the Vikings which put the ball on their 15-yard line. Snodgrass kept the ball for a 10-yard gain on third and 13, but on fourth down junior Tyler Davis threw record for a 1-yard loss.
The next Bulldog possession ended with a pick by senior DeMarcus Blackmon and two snaps later Dukes rumbled 60 yards for a win-clinching touchdown with 1:36 to go.
Record caught 14 passes for 114 yards for McPherson (0-1), which has lost back-to-back season openers to the Vikings after claiming the 2010 KCAC championship.
Reyes completed 17 of 28 passes for 219 yards and no interceptions, while Davis led the Valley defense with 12 tackles -- two for loss.
Having gotten the preliminary out of the way with a victory, the Vikings (1-0) now turn their attention to fellow HAAC co-champion MidAmerica Nazarene -- heading to Olathe, Kan., Saturday for a showdown with the fifth-ranked Pioneers.