Vikings return home in search of victory

Friday, October 30, 2020
The Vikings are hoping sophomore guard Cody Hohenberger and the offensive line can provide a lift for their struggling offense.
Chris Allen/Democrat-News

Two teams looking for their first wins in Heart of America Conference South Division competition meet Saturday when the Missouri Valley College football team hosts Evangel.

Neither was expected to challenge Baker or Benedictine for the division crown, but both had hoped for more entering the season — especially the Crusaders, who tied for second place in the league a year ago. The Vikings are currently in the midst of a seven-game losing streak in the South, the longest since conference split into two divisions in 2015.

Evangel (1-4, 0-2 South) is coming off a 28-21 home loss to previously-winless MidAmerica Nazarene a week ago, giving up the decisive touchdown with 43 seconds left in the game.

The Crusaders haven’t been strong on either side of the line of scrimmage. They’re 11th in the 12-team league in scoring offense with an average of 17.0 points per game. Behind junior quarterback Dyllan Decker, they’re third in passing offense with 237.0 yards per game, but are 11th in rushing at 71.6 yards.

Evangel has given up 26.8 yards per game, opponents averaging 443.6 yards per game against it. The passing defense is the league’s second-worst at 264.4 yards and 10th at 197.2 yards.

Sophomore safety Koel Orchard has been a solid run-stopper, leading the Crusaders with 49 tackles, but it’s never a good sign when a defensive back — rather than a linebacker — is tops in tackles.

Valley (1-3, 0-2) has had most of its difficulties on the offensive side, where its eighth in scoring (18.5 points per game), ninth in rushing (90.3 yards per game) and seventh in passing (205.3).

The Vikings have averaged fewer rushing attempts than any team in the loop, 27.3 per game, and is among the most likely to pass (33.5 attempts per game). However, they have only completed 47.0 percent of their passes and have the second-highest number of interceptions (9) as neither juniors Ryan Albiani and Cole Darrion have been able to replace four-year starter Jake Bridges at quarterback.

Valley’s defense has been adequate, despite last week’s 55-14 loss to defending champion Baker. It’s seventh in points allowed (25.3) and eighth in total yardage (314.3) — although fourth-best against the pass (118.5). Yet, the Vikings have only one pick to show for it.

A win for either team wouldn’t get them back into the race, but would begin to right the ship. For Valley, that would mean the end of a four-game losing streak after its promising 35-0 victory over hapless Graceland to open the season.

Contact Chris Allen at callen@marshallnews.com

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