When the Valley City State University football team takes the field for its first game later this month, freshman wide receiver Alex Cundiff seemingly has one less thing to worry about.
Unlike his teammates, he's already gotten a win this fall on Shelly Ellig Field at Lokken Stadium.
It happened Thursday during the first ever Vikings vs. Deputy touch football game, which, along with a silent auction, raised money for the Barnes County Sheriff's Deputy Reserves. The Deputies, comprised mainly of local law enforcement and former area football players, beat the Viking freshmen 98-77, according to the scoreboard.
Cundiff joined the winning team midway through the fourth quarter, taking off his white number 43 practice jersey and replacing it with the maroon t-shirts sported by the Deputies.
"Coach (Ryan Cunningham, of KOVC) was giving me grief," Cundiff said. "Every penalty he decided I was the one he wanted to pick on, so the other team agreed with me that I should change jerseys and go with them and join the winning side."
He was proud of being the only player on the team right now with a 1-0 record, even if his teammates gave him a hard time after the game.
"It's an honor to know that everybody's going to look up to me," he said.
The team switch was merely among the theatrics of the game that led to the Deputies' win.
Early on, when the game started as a seven-on-seven affair, the Vikings got on the board quickly with long passes, hard jukes, and a few trick plays to consistently stay up by 21 points.
But as the game went on, the Vikings were called for picky infractions —an illegal formation here, an illegal substitution there — all while the Deputies, coached by Times-Record publisher Reed Anderson, subtly snuck extra players on the field to help turn the tide. By the final whistle, nearly the entire deputy team seemed to be on the field.
"I hate to blame the officials for the way this game went but from the opening snap of the game, it seemed like the law enforcement officers had more men on the field than we did," said Cunningham, who felt like his team largely matched up with the Deputies. "Really, what this game came down to what a handful of missed calls by the officials ... and I hope that in a rematch, they'll call it a bit more fair."
The Deputies rode behind the arm of former Valley City High School and VCSU standout Jason Beilke, who threw to every receiver he could find, whether it was event organizer Scott Crump or the VCSU mascot, which changed into a Deputy shirt and snuck into the endzone to make a catch.
Though Crump was unsure Thursday night about how much money the event had raised, he was pleased with how the first-ever event had turned out.
"It was an awesome community event," he said. "All of the players on both sides had a lot of fun."
The stands at Lokken Stadium were mostly full, with some supporters cheering on the Deputies as a college-aged crowd cheered for the Vikings.
Crump said he expects the game to become an annual event.
"This is not just going to be a one year thing, he said. "We're going to do this every year. We just had a lot of fun with it."