(VCSU) VALLEY CITY – The Valley City State University football team remained undefeated this season as the Vikings held off Waldorf University in the conference opener Saturday.
Justice Bice scored the go-ahead touchdown with 8:22 remaining and the Valley City State defense shut down two late Waldorf drives deep in Viking territory Saturday afternoon, securing a 14-7 win for the No. 21-ranked Vikings.
Second-half interceptions by Jahidi West and Martin Jones ended Waldorf scoring threats, and then Sal Avila recorded a game-changing sack as Waldorf threatened to tie the game in the final minutes.
“We needed some big plays today,” said McCulloch. “The defense played extremely well today and they found a way. We bent a little bit, Waldorf found some rhythm in the second half… but Jahidi (West) had a great pick to end a drive, and then Martin Jones with a huge pick when they’re on the 20-yard line. Those two plays were huge plays.
The Vikings are now 3-0 overall this season and 1-0 in the North Star Athletic Association. Waldorf drops to 2-1 overall and 0-1 in conference play. The Vikings and Warriors are both expected to contend for the NSAA conference title with Dickinson State.
“When you have a bunch of goals and you set high aspirations, it’s hard if you lose in the early season,” McCulloch said of being 3-0. “This is so great for our guys right now, and where we’re headed. We still have some issues, but being 3-0 it’s a lot easier to go fix those issues, continue to improve and go play the next game.”
The Vikings and Warriors looked to be evenly matched through most of the game Saturday. Valley City State ended with 295 yards of offense and had the ball for about 33 minutes. Waldorf gained 279 yards of offense and had the ball for 27 minutes.
The teams were scoreless until the Vikings went up 7-0 midway through the second quarter on a 20-yard pass from Jalen Pfeifer to Benjamin Dumond. The score would remain that way until early in the fourth quarter when Waldorf’s Jatoviay Hill tied the game at 7-7 with his 15-yard touchdown run around the right side.
Valley City State had the answer though. The Viking put together an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that chewed up six minutes on the clock and ended with Justice Bice plunging in from two yards out. Nico Magana added the extra point to make it 14-7 with 8:22 remaining.
Waldorf looked ready to answer as well, driving down to the Vikings 23-yard line, but Martin Jones made a diving interception at the 14-yard line to end the drive and give Valley City State possession with 5:15 to go.
After the interception by Jones, VCSU was in position to either run out the clock or put the Warriors deep in their own territory. But facing a 3rd-and-13, miscommunication on the snap led to a fumble that Waldorf recovered at the VCSU 14-yard line with 2:14 remaining. The Warriors picked up a first down at the 4-yard line, but on the very next play linebacker Sal Avila broke through the line for a sack and a loss of 10 yards.
Backed up to the 14-yard line, Waldorf threw three straight incomplete passes – including one broken up by Anthony Russell in the end zone. The Vikings regained possession on downs and used two kneel downs to end the game.
Avila ended the game with a team-high 12 tackles and the late sack for VCSU. Jerrod Williamson finished with 11 tackles and broke up two passes, and Riley Gerhardt had nine tackles. The Vikings finished with five sacks, including 1.5 sacks by Marshaun Jones.
VCSU quarterback Jalen Pfeifer was 12-for-27 for 200 yards and a touchdown. Dumond hauled in four passes for 78 yards and a score, and Michael Cornelious had four catches for 71 yards. Justice Bice led the ground game with 83 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
Waldorf quarterback Jordan Cooper went 19-for-36 for 163 yards and two interceptions. Cooper also gained 31 yards on the ground. Dominick Watt pulled in seven catches for 65 yards, and Jatoviay Hill rushed 18 times for 83 yards.
Valley City State travels to play at Iowa Wesleyan on Saturday, Sept. 25. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. from Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Iowa Wesleyan (0-4) is playing its first season in the North Star Athletic Association.