No. 3 MVC Claims a Least a Share of HAAC Title
MARSHALL, MO -- The No. 3 ranked Missouri Valley Viking football team came from behind Saturday to defeat No. 15 Evangel University 35-21, and claim at least a share of the Heart of America Athletic Conference regular season championship, giving MVC back-to-back regular season conference titles.
The Vikings found themselves in an early 14-0 hole against the Crusaders, before getting their first points on the board. Following an Evangel touchdown to put MVC at their deepest deficit, the Vikings put together an impressive 11-play drive that covered 80-yards. Capping off the drive was Sophomore Quarterback Bruce Reyes on an 11-yard touchdown run, to cut the Evangel lead in half 14-7.
The ensuing drive for Evangel would result in the Crusaders taking the ball deep into MVC territory. However the Viking defense would make a stand, and come up with their second interception of the day, as Senior Defensive Back LaQuentin Black would pick off a pass in the end zone, giving MVC the ball back. From there it took just four plays to cover 80-yards, finished off by a Reyes to Sophomore Wide Receiver Jonathan Bird III 64-yard touchdown connection to tie the game at 14-14, which was the score going into halftime.
Starting off the third quarter, both teams failed to do much with the ball, until MVC got a possession after Evangel's quarterback was sacked by Sophomore Defensive Lineman Ty Phillips on a fourth-down attempt. The Vikings took the ball near mid-field, and would drive 46-yards in six-plays, as Reyes would find Senior Tight End Chris Owens for a 33-yard touchdown, giving MVC a 21-14 lead late in the third quarter.
Evangel would answer back with seconds left in the third quarter to tie the game up at 21-21, but MVC would eventually take the lead for good early in the fourth quarter. MVC came up with another interception on Evangel's first drive in the fourth quarter, this time from Junior Defensive Back Tyler Davis, which would set up another touchdown. The Vikings went 53-yards in four-plays to score on another Reyes-to-Owens connection, this time a 38-yard pass play, giving MVC a 28-21 lead.
Evangel and MVC traded punts until late in the fourth quarter, when MVC took their last meaningful possession at their own 21-yard line. Leading by just seven points, the Vikings started their drive with just over four minutes left to play in the ball game, and would proceed to drive on Evangel for a touchdown. The Vikings went 79-yard in seven plays, and took nearly three minutes off the clock in the process. The Vikings converted a pair of third-down attempts, and capped things off with a Senior Running Back Zavier Steward 41-yard touchdown run, giving MVC their largest lead of the day at 35-21.
Evangel's late attempt at a comeback was ended quickly, as Junior Defensive Back Russell Neunie came up with an interception near midfield, securing the win for the Vikings.
Offensively for MVC, they accumulated up 395 total yard of offense. They were led by Reyes who finished 15 of 31 passing adding three touchdowns and one interception with 258 passing yards. Rushing wise Steward led MVC with 60-yards and a touchdown, while Bird II had 92-yards receiving and a touchdown, and Owens had 77-yards receiving and two touchdowns.
On the defensive side, MVC was very opportunistic coming away with five interceptions in the game, nine tackles for loss, and three quarterback sacks. Davis finished with eight total tackles and two interceptions, while Phillips, Black, and Neunie had the other interceptions for MVC. Phillips also lead MVC with one sack, and two and a half tackles for loss resulting in over 21-yards lost for the Crusaders. Junior Linebacker Danny Reyes also had one sack, while Junior Linebacker Rahfee McClee and Senior Linebacker Mike Hall split a sack for MVC. Meanwhile Hall and Sophomore Defensive Back Michael Barnes led MVC in total tackles with 14 apiece.
On Special teams, Sophomore Punter Jason Mayden finished with an average of just over 46-yards, including a 72-yard punt, while Senior Kicker Fabian Miramontes was a perfect 5 for 5 on PAT's.
The win gives MVC at least a share of the HAAC regular season championship, improving the Vikings to 9-0 overall and 8-0 in conference play. Evangel drops to 7-3 overall and 6-2 in the HAAC. The Vikings, who also won the HAAC championship in 2011, can claim an outright HAAC championship with a win November 10 against Central Methodist University. Game time is set for 1:30 p.m. at Gregg-Mitchell Field.