After three straight field goal attempts rode the wind wide right, the Marian (Ind.) senior's last-second 51-yard kick sailed straight and true to end the second-ranked Vikings' dream season with a 20-17 home loss in the NAIA Championship Series semifinal round.
"It hurts. It hurts to lose that way," lamented Valley senior tackle Stephon Kelly, "when a couple of little plays here or there could have made the difference."
"It's tough to be that close to have a chance to move on and then come up short on just one play," admitted MVC head coach Paul Troth. "It's too bad for our kids, because they played so hard."
For the second time in three games, the Vikings committed five turnovers -- preventing their offense from reaching 300 total yards. They only ran the ball 21 times for 35 yards, both season lows.
The opening drive reflected Valley's plan to move through the air, with just one rushing attempt in eight plays -- the key one a 33-yard pass from sophomore Bruce Reyes to freshman Seth Martinko -- before senior Fabian Miramontes booted a 29-yard field goal.
Meanwhile, the Knights also had trouble running, but a pass interference call got them into Valley territory before the first of Josifovsky's four field goals -- from 47 yards out -- tied the score.
A sack by freshman Daniel Rojas gave Marian a field position advantage, so only a 15-yard pass from senior Adam Wiese to freshman Anthony Jones was needed to set up Josifovsky's 54-yard boot early in the second quarter.
The Vikings avoided disaster when Rojas intercepted a flat pass at their 14-yard line, only to have senior Zavier Steward wrestle the ball away from him. Valley coughed the ball up anyway four plays later on freshman Del'Von Franklin's fumble forced by Rojas and recovered by senior Garrett Pritt at the MVC 36, leading to a 34-yard Josifovsky field goal.
"We said coming in that we couldn't do that and we had a few" turnovers, Troth said. "We kept bouncing back and putting ourselves in position."
That began on the Vikings' next possession when Reyes twice hooked up with Martinko, for 35 and 34 yards, the second providing a go-ahead touchdown with 1:59 left in the half. The Knights went three and out, but senior Stephen Rogers picked off a pass to give Josifovsky another try -- his 46-yarder missing as time expired.
A squib kick to start the second half gave Valley the ball near midfield. After a pair of first downs, Reyes found freshman Jacoby Bellard wide open near the left sideline for a 25-yard scoring strike and a 17-9 lead.
Martinko caught a 14-yard pass on the Vikings' next series, which was stopped on downs at the Marian 36-yard line.
"We had a chance to take control of the game and we couldn't do it," Troth said. "We just couldn't get over the hump."
Then the Knights came up with a play which turned the game around.
Sophomore Tevin Lake appeared to be stopped at the line of scrimmage, but reversed field for a 49-yard gain. A pass interference penalty gave Marian first and goal at the 7-yard line and on the second snap senior Nathan Jones went in from three yards out.
A potential game-tying pass on a two-point conversion attempt was incomplete, but Valley was flagged for roughing the passer. Lake ran in on the second chance.
The Vikings didn't pick up a first down during the fourth quarter, which began with senior Nathan Toon's interception at the MVC 10.
Following a Valley punt, the Knights went on a 14-play, 70-yard drive to consume half of the period -- overcoming a third-and-23 with a 25-yard Lake run. Senior Mike Hall and junior Andrew Huhman combined on a sack which forced a field goal, which Josifovsky missed from 37 yards out.
The Vikings were called for offsides, so Josifovsky got a do-over five yards closer, which he also pushed to the right.
With over three-and-half minutes remaining, Valley had its chance, but Toon came up with his second pick at the Marian 32.
"We needed to move down the field and get a score," Troth noted. "It was a tight ball game and we needed another play somewhere."
Jones caught a third-down pass for 27 yards to get into range for Josifovsky to win the game at the gun.
A year after coming up three points short, the fifth-ranked Knights (11-1) get the play in their first title game Dec. 13 at Roma, Ga. -- against No. 3 Morningside, which knocked off defending champion St. Xavier (Ill.), 47-19.
The Vikings (12-1) lost in the semifinal round for the third time since 2006 after claiming their second straight Heart of America Conference crown.
"I'd put this with any group we've had," Troth remarked. "There's been a lot of great teams at Valley. The bar is pretty high, but (these seniors) raised it."
In time, the Vikings may appreciate their accomplishments, but first the hurt must pass.
"It wasn't enough," Kelly said. "Not with this team."