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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Vikings have title game in sight

Friday, November 30, 2012

If the Vikings are going to get their offense going, junior David Stewart (78) and his line mates will have to command the trenches.
(Chris Allen/Democrat-News)
The Missouri Valley College football team has gone deep into the NAIA Championship Series for the third time since 2006, and head coach Paul Troth couldn't be happier.

"It's fun," he remarked in a rare Alfred E. Neuman ("What, me worry?") moment. "This is why you do it."

The Vikings haven't reached the national title game since 1974, when they lost 42-20 at Texas Wesleyan, while Saturday's semifinal opponent has never been during the six years of the program -- although came close last year with a three-point loss to eventual champion St. Xavier (Ill.) in this round.

"It's hard to get to this point," Troth noted. "When you get here you want to take advantage of it."

Although the fresher experience of coming close -- as Valley did twice in 2006-07 with late-game losses at Sioux Falls (S.D.) -- will be a motivating factor for the fifth-ranked Knights (10-1), Troth considers the pressure about the same for all four teams still alive.

"Is this a bigger game than the previous round? I don't know," he admitted. "You know since the first round that if you lose, you're done."

For much of the season, Marian was in the same favorite's role as the second-rated Vikings (12-0) have found themselves recently, holding the No. 1 spot in the rankings before dropping a 23-6 Mid-States Mideast Conference contest to St. Xavier in the regular season finale.

The Knights are therefore a well-rounded team, rated eighth in the NAIA in total offense (451.1 yards per game) and 10th on defense (278.1). While sophomore tailback Tevin Lake has been impressive with 1,348 rushing yards -- among 1,800 overall -- and 20 touchdowns, Troth believes senior quarterback Adam Wiese "makes them go."

"He does a nice job of looking defenses off, can throw it downfield or he can dump it off," Troth said, pointing to a 161.1 pass efficiency rating and 27-7 touchdown to interception ratio. "He makes good decisions and is pretty accurate."

Marian offers a four-man front, which could be seen as a family heritage for head coach Ted Karras, Jr.: father Ted Karras, Sr., was a 4-3 NFL defensive tackle (Chicago, 1960-64), as was recently-departed uncle Alex Karras (Detroit, 1958-70) -- a four-time Pro Bowler.

"They're real good up front," Troth noted. "A lot of times you find somebody you can take advantage of, but we can't find any spots like that. Every player is good."

Valley is coming off its poorest offensive performance of the season, with lows of 259 yards and 10 points against Bethel (Tenn.), which came in with the nation's 49th-ranked defense.

"We were close to getting some things to get continuity going, but it never happened for us," Troth said. "We've got to execute both running and throwing the ball."

Or else the burden will again be on the defense, which shut out the Wildcats four times within the red zone before finally allowing a score with a little over a minute remaining.

However it's accomplished, the Vikings objective is go 1-0 for the 13th time this season, and looking ahead to possibilities is the trap.

"Hopefully we've ingrained in them enough that they're focused on the task at hand," Troth said. "You just want to come and play like you're capable of playing.

"It doesn't require a superhuman effort," he added.

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