LAMONI, Iowa -- Reigning Heart of America Conference "offensive player of the week" Zavier Steward made a strong case to hold on to the title Saturday.
The senior tailback rushed for 173 yards and four touchdowns on only 13 carries during the third-ranked Missouri Valley College football team's 39-7 win at Graceland.
Despite four turnovers, the Vikings went into the fourth quarter with a 36-0 lead, although lost their shutout in the closing minutes for the third time this season.
While Valley's defense forced more punts by the Yellowjackets than allowed first downs, the offense scored on its first two possessions. On the second snap of the first one, Steward broke off a 66-yard touchdown run.
A shanked punt set the Vikings up on the Graceland 44-yard line for their second series, which took six plays. Sophomore Bruce Reyes tossed passes of 8 yards to freshman Mikquel Johnson and 14 yards to senior Chris Owens, a pass interference penalty put the ball on the 11 and Steward covered the remaining distance on two runs.
Valley didn't score again the rest of the first quarter, two interceptions ending drives, but went 87 yards on seven players early in the second period. Steward ran for 19 yards and Reyes gained 20 with his legs before finding Owens for 8 yards and freshman Seth Martinko for 16.
Steward scampered in from eight yards out to make it 22-0, which would be the halftime score. The Vikings got the ball back with 2:22 left in the half, moved to the GU 15, but ran out of time and had to settled for a 32-yard field-goal attempt by senior Fabian Miramontes, which he missed.
Valley bounced back quickly from that disappointment as Steward opened the second half with a 68-yard dash on the first play.
A fumble gave Graceland the ball on the MVC 36. A 9-yard run by sophomore Terrence Wells was offset by two minor penalties and the 'Jackets were stopped on downs.
Reyes went to work by hooking up with Owens for 15 and 38 yards and then finding freshman Del'von Franklin on a swing pass with he took 25 yards into the end zone.
A 20-yard punt return by senior LaQuentin Black and senior Taylor Beasley's 18-yard pass to Owens set up a 30-yard Miramontes field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Graceland scored with 2:11 remaining on sophomore Adam Goodvin's 20-yard pass to junior Raysean Brown and got the ball back at the Viking 36 when the ensuing kickoff was fumbled. However, junior Veylin Stedham recovered a fumble on the next play and Valley was able to run out the clock.
The Yellowjackets (4-4, 3-3 HAAC) converted only two of 16 third-down attempts and were limited to 182 yards in total offense by the second-ranked defense in the NAIA.
Owens caught five passes for 93 yards for the Vikings (7-0, 6-0), who return home Saturday to face Peru State.