Nor did assuming the Pioneers' previous No. 5 spot in the NAIA poll curse the Vikings, who raced out to a 48-0 halftime lead en route to a 55-6 Heart of America Conference victory over Avila on home-opening Family Weekend at Gregg-Mitchell Field.
"We talked about not having a letdown," remarked MVC head coach Paul Troth. "It was good that we came out and executed as well as we did."
Valley scored on six of its seven first-half possessions, and threatened the goal line in the lone exception.
The usually run-first Vikings came out flinging from the start. Sophomore Bruce Reyes completed a 33-yard pass to junior Alex Benson on the first snap, found freshman Seth Martinko for what appeared to be a 27-yard scoring strike on the second -- before it was called back on an illegal block penalty -- and connected with freshman Mikquel Johnson for a 23-yard touchdown on the repeated down.
"We'd like to think we can do that a little bit better," Troth said. "The offensive line did a great job of protection and Bruce and the receivers did a good job of execution."
The next possession was a nine-play, 68-yard drive, the biggest gain being senior LaNorris Duke's 14-yard TD run. The Eagles' next series ended with sophomore Trey Rich blocking a punt into the end zone for a safety.
When Valley got the ball back, Reyes hooked up with freshman Jacoby Bellard for 30 and 12 yards, Benson for nine and senior Chris Owens for 14 to set up senior Zavier Steward's 2-yard touchdown plunge for a 24-0 first-quarter lead.
The Vikings got a short field on a punt and nearly punched the ball in, but officials ruled Dukes fumbled before crossing the goal line at the end of a 17-yard run -- which Valley coaches disputed, futilely since the NAIA has no instant replay -- and the Eagles recovered the ball in the end zone.
It didn't stop the Vikings for long, since junior Andrew Huhman -- who last week scored on a 59-yard fumble return after swatting down a lateral -- knocked the ball loose from senior Harley Kreisman and fell on it at the Avila 8-yard line.
Senior quarterback Taylor Beasley covered the distance with a bootleg on the first snap. Three minutes later, junior linebacker Rahfee McClee -- a converted tailback -- returned an interception 62 yards to extend Valley's lead to 38-0.
"Anytime defense scores, that's such a bonus," Troth said. "I felt we came out in the first half and completely dominated in all three phases."
It only took another minute before junior Danny Reyes picked off a pass from the Eagles' third quarterback, taking it to the AU 17, leading to senior Fabian Miramontes' 30-yard field goal.
The Vikings closed the half with a 71-yard scoring drive, Benson catching a 35-yard pass and Martinko getting a 21-yard reception. Bruce Reyes' 5-yard TD flip to freshman Del'Von Franklin capped the series with 29 seconds left.
The third quarter was scoreless, Valley threatening before Miramontes' 47-yard field goal attempt was blocked by freshman Isiah Bryant.
"That's some young kids getting some great experience," Troth explained. "That's going to pay off down the road."
After Avila (0-3, 0-2 HAAC) scored on junior Dominic Carmazzi's 35-yard pass to freshman Robert Johnson, the Vikings used a 43-yard bomb from freshman Zach Dorton to Rich to set up Dukes' 1-yard touchdown run.
It's back to serious business Saturday for Valley (3-0, 2-0), which heads to No. 9 Baker for a clash between two of the league's three remaining unbeaten teams.
"They're obviously very good and playing over there is tough," Troth observed. "We're going to have to be ready."