For a traditional football fan, Saturday's season ending game between Valley City State University and Robert Morris had weather that couldn't be beat.
Temperatures were in the thirties, the air crisp and calm with a light snow falling. Shelly Ellig Field was cleared, and a short berm of snow surrounded.
Though the Vikings' play early in the game left much to be desired, they finished their season on a strong note, scoring 21 unanswered points in the second half to beat Robert Morris 21-20.
In the first half, things seemed woeful for Vikings fans. Each play from scrimmage seemed to consist of fumbles or plays that went nowhere, Robert Morris had plays that went everywhere, and the few opportunities given the Vikings were squandered immediately. The snow kept falling, the weather was cold and wet, the breeze had a bite. And the first half clock seemed interminable.
The Eagles scored first with a miraculous catch by Deshawn Weaver. The second Eagle drive was stopped on the Viking 37. Eagle punter Jason Olson put the ball on the Viking two yard line, and the Vikings, on third and eleven from the one, barely kept a safety from the going on the boards. The Vikings punt started the Eagles pretty much were they left off, on the Viking 34.
The Eagles pushed down to the Viking 11, and Matt Westerkamp went for Sean Zingsheim, who had the ball bounce right off his hands in the end zone. Weaver leaned into the goal line, stretched out his right hand, and came down with the Eagles's TD. The PAT went wide.
The Vikings got a big opportunity on their next possession when, off a deep punt and a fair catch signal, Eagle Michael Mallet muffed. Viking James Gaynor caught the ball instead, and the Vikings were sitting on the Eagles nine. The Eagles were up 6-0, and the Vikings were first and goal. And then fumbled.
The Eagles recovered and on the very next play Lamont Wims went 88 yards, and with a horse collar penalty, put the ball on the Vikings five yard line. Two plays later, Westerkamp took the ball himself for the second Eagles TD. This time the PAT was good, the Vikings were down 13-0. The Eagles put another seven on the board with six minutes left in the half.
The Eagles had controlled both sides of the line, the middle of the field, and anything deep, on both sides of the ball, was theirs, too. The Vikings, in the first half, didn't look like they were anywhere near the field, let alone the game. Quite a few fans left the stadium with the end of the half, looking for more comfortable environs. The prospect of 24 more minutes as painful as the previous 24 was not desirable. And so it was a shock. The fans who remained were given to astonishment and incredulity as they looked out on the third quarter and asked, Who is this team?
The Valley City State University Vikings played as fans knew they could, and had waited all year for them to play. In the first half, the Vikings managed only 63 total yards, and the Eagles 310. In the second half, the Vikings put up 206 yards to the Eagles 93. But it was in the third quarter that the Vikings won the game.
The Vikings put up three TDs in the third quarter. Tommy Zinke hit Colby Lum, with only 29 seconds gone in the third quarter, for the Vikings first TD. He then hit Ken Eliacin with the quarter just over half-gone. And finally, with 36 seconds left in the third quarter, Taylor Cino ran for a two-yard TD. All the PATs were good.
After that, it became a defensive game.
The Eagles did mount two last drives against the Vikings in the fourth quarter. The first, the Eagles began at their own 25 and were steadily moving down field. Chris Cross ended the drive intercepting a Westerkamp pass at the Viking 15. The Vikings went three and out, and punted with just over a minute in the game.
The Eagles took over on their 45, and started moving down field again, this time reaching the Viking 8, on a 30-yard catch by Michael Carev. The Eagles were sitting at second and goal with 42 seconds left on the clock and went for the win with field goal attempt.
The kick went wide, giving the Vikings the ball on their 20, and the win, 21-20.