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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Vikings fight off Bethel to reach semifinals

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Vikings' defense applied steady pressure to the pocket, senior Tripp Thomas (6) bearing in on Bethel quarterback Will Masoud.
(Chris Allen/Democrat-News)
"The Machine" was Mike Hall's handle in mixed martial arts two years ago.

The senior linebacker and the Missouri Valley College defense was caged in much of the game Saturday during the NAIA Championship Series quarterfinal round, but didn't submit during a 10-7 home win over Bethel (Tenn.).

"We've got a cutthroat defense," Hall declared. "We're always ready to come out and make big hits and big plays."

The second-ranked Vikings defended their red zone four times, twice from inside the 5-yard line, before No. 18 Bethel broke through. That wasn't until there was only 1:17 remaining in the game; it wasn't enough and the Wildcats didn't get the ball back.

"Gosh, what a great job keeping them off the scoreboard until the very, very end," proclaimed MVC head coach Paul Troth. "Our defense bowed their backs and stood up to them."

Valley scored on its second possession of the game, which started with senior Bruce Reyes' 19-yard pass to senior Chris Owens. It took seven more plays for the Vikings to get within striking distance, when Reyes found freshman Seth Martinko on a 15-yard crossing route.

Senior Will Masoud completed four passes for 52 four a first down at the Valley 4, but junior Danny Reyes made two stops and Hall had another to force sophomore Robby Phillips to attempt a 19-yard field goal, which he shanked to the right.

Masoud tossed of 28 yards to senior Justin Brandy and 15 yards to senior Michael Newbern got the Wildcats to the MVC 5, but on fourth down and goal to go Reyes intercepted a tipped pass. That was the last incursion into Viking territory during the half.

"That was tremendous," Troth said of the goal-line stands. "When you get to this level, you'll take the plays however you make them -- and our defense sure came up with a lot of them."

Catches by freshman Raquis Hale and Brandy gained 51 yards for Bethel to open the second half, but sophomore Ty Phillips came up with a sack and Phillips' 29-yard kick was blocked by junior Phillip Fowler.

Senior LaQuentin Black recovered a fumble midway through the third quarter and then picked off a pass in the end zone later in the period.

"He was rolling out and I knew he was going to try the back-side post, so I baited him a little bit," Black said about his sixth interception of the season. "The defense got pressure up front that allowed me to make a play."

Dormant through the middle two frames, Valley's offense got going during the final stanza. Freshman Del'Von Franklin took a swing pass 13 yards and Reyes hit Martinko for 29 yards and freshman Jacoby Bellard for 21 to set up senior Fabian Miramontes' 23-yard field goal -- which proved to be decisive.

Hall and junior Leon Jackson combined for a sack to ruin the Wildcats' ensuing series, but a 57-yard reception by junior Jahron Reynolds put them in position for Masoud's 19-yard scoring strike to Newbern.

An onside kick was expected, and Owens was there to haul it down for Valley, which picked up the needed first down to run out the clock.

Although the Vikings' defense yielded a season-high 458 yards, Bethel (9-4) converted only five of 17 third-down attempts, made just one of four fourth-down tries and suffered five sacks.

"We bring heat," Hall said of a unit which has recorded 41 sacks. "You better move out of the pocket or get it out fast, because we're coming and we're coming fast."

Meanwhile, Valley gained only 259 yards, the only time its been held under 340 yards, but didn't commit any turnovers and got consistent punting by sophomore Jayson Mayden -- a net average of 41.6 yards on nine kicks -- to keep the 'Cats from starting drives with good field position.

"They did a good job of keeping us out of rhythm and we were struggling a little bit," Troth admitted. "Special teams played very well against a dangerous return team."

The Vikings (12-0) return to the semifinal round for the third time under Troth, having dropped back-to-back contests at Sioux Falls (S.D.) in 2006-07. Fifth-ranked Marian (Ind.), which spent much of the season at No. 1, will come to Gregg-Mitchell Field on Saturday.

Valley will be looking for its first trip to the championship game since 1974.

"We've got a lot of things going here with this program," Black remarked. "We've worked hard, trained hard.

"We'll just take it one game at a time until we reach our ultimate goal," he added.

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