Vikings come back to upset Peru State
NEBRASKA CITY, Neb. -- It may prove to be the play which saved the title for the Missouri Valley College football team.
Facing fourth down and three yards to go at its own 46-yard line and trailing by a point with only three minutes remaining Saturday at ninth-ranked Peru State, junior Bruce Reyes tossed the ball to junior Jarrell Davis for the yardage needed to move the chains -- and got a lot more.
Davis got behind the defense and sprinted 54 yards to the end zone to put the No. 12 Vikings in front and the defense held on for a 21-14 victory which kept alive the quest for a third straight Heart of America Conference championship.
After being held scoreless during the first half of the previous two games, Valley opened the contest with a 10-play, 90-yard drive. Junior James Tillman ran for 18 and 12 yards and Reyes tossed passes of 16 yards to Davis and 12 yards to sophomore Jacoby Bellard to set up Tillman's 2-yard touchdown plunge.
The Vikings scored again with one second left in the first quarter on Reyes' 57-yard pass to Davis, but the conversion kick was blocked by senior Zach Lempka.
The second period belonged to the Bobcats. Sophomore Tyler Audsley hooked up with freshman Erik Osborne for 25 yards to begin a 10-play, 67-yard series capped by junior Marcus Spearman's 2-yard TD run.
An interception by senior Jake Kelley deep in MVC territory led to Audsley's 10-yard scoring strike to senior Lance Steffen, with senior Levi Cockle tacking on the extra-point kick to give Peru State a 14-13 edge.
Tillman broke off a 35-yard run to get Valley to the Bobcats' 17-yard line, but nothing came of it because of a holding penalty and missed 42-yard field goal by freshman Lucas Guilfoil.
The Vikings had two scoring chances come up short, being stopped on downs at the PSU 20 following junior Michael Barnes' fumble recovery, a 9-yard loss on a Kelley sack ruining that series, and a 22-yard catch by sophomore Del'Von Franklin ending with a fumble recovered by sophomore Brian Burr at the 6-yard line.
Meanwhile, Valley's defense came up with a goal-line stand following Steffen's 36-yard reception midway through the third period. With first and goal to go at the Vikings' 5, Peru State couldn't punch the ball in. On two cracks from a yard away, Barnes and freshman Luke Fisher got in on gang-tackles that kept Audsley and sophomore Ethan Bray out.
The next time the Bobcats got past midfield, senior Tyler Davis picked off a pass.
Peru State got the ball one more time after losing the lead. Bray and Spearman split four carries for 39 yards after a major penalty against the Vikings. However, after getting a first down at the Valley 16, the Bobcats were called for a chop block, senior Andrew Huhman came up with a sack and senior Randolph Tribble broke up the fourth-down pass with 24 seconds to go.
Bray gained 114 yards on 29 carries as Peru State (7-2, 5-2 HAAC) ran for 175 yards on the NAIA's top-rated rushing defense.
Reyes completed 19 of 31 passes for 326 yards, his third 300-yard game of the season, and Jarrell Davis had a career-high six catches for 129 yards to lead the Vikings (6-2, 6-1).
Now it comes down to the ultimate showdown for Valley, which meets the league's only remaining unbeaten team Saturday when No. 4 Benedictine visits Gregg-Mitchell Field.
Contact Chris Allen at email@example.com