By Eric Montgomery, Heart of America Athletic Conference Director of Sports Information and Marketing
NEBRASKA CITY, Neb. - Bruce Reyes threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Darrian Turk with 2:48 remaining to lift No. 12-ranked Missouri Valley to a 21-14 victory over ninth-ranked Peru State (Neb.), Saturday afternoon in the NAIA Football Game of the Week at Nebraska City High School.
Missouri Valley (6-2, 6-1 HAAC) kept its postseason and conference championship hopes alive heading into a showdown with league-leading Benedictine next week at Gregg-Mitchell Field. Peru State (7-2, 5-2 HAAC) had its four-game winning streak snapped and drops two games back of the Ravens in the Heart of America Athletic Conference standings.
Reyes finished the game 19-of-31 for 326 yards and two touchdowns with one interception, but no throw was more important than his connection to Turk on 4th-and-3 at the Vikings' 46-yard line. Turk ran a skinny post pattern to get behind the secondary and caught the pass from Reyes in stride to score the go-ahead touchdown.
"We hadn't run that play the whole game and when that play was called, we were all surprised," said Reyes. "It worked just like it does in practice and it couldn't have been more perfect."
Turnovers plagued the Vikings throughout the game as they gave the ball away four times, but the defense provided a takeaway of its own to turn the momentum after Peru State had dominated play since late in the first quarter.
"I thought we left a lot of points out on the field today, especially in the first half," said Missouri Valley head coach Paul Troth. "We've done a pretty good job all year with turnovers, but today we did not and you can't turn the ball over against a good team like Peru State."
Peru State fumbled the kickoff to start the second half, but held the Vikings on four-straight plays to take over at its own 20. The Bobcats needed nine plays to set up 1st-and-goal, but following a three-yard run by Ethan Bray inside the 1-yard line, the Vikings stopped the Bobcats on back-to-back plays to force the turnover on downs.
The Vikings had a chance to go ahead early in the fourth quarter, but Del'Von Franklin coughed the ball up at the 10-yard line and Brian Burr recovered the ball at the Bobcats' 6-yard line.
A short kick and 25-yard return by Nate Tromblee was aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Vikings to set Peru State up at the Missouri Valley 40-yard line with 2:30 to play. The Bobcats picked up a pair of first downs, but a 15-yard chop block penalty and sack by Andrew Huhman pushed the ball back to the 32-yard line. Tyler Audsley's last-chance throw into the endzone was broken up to secure the win for the Vikings.
The first quarter was dominated by Missouri Valley, who drove 90 and 93 yards, respectively on a pair of touchdown drives to grab a 13-0 lead. The Vikings had 215 yards in the first quarter and limited the Peru State rushing attack to just 37 yards in the opening 15 minutes.
A drive that started late in the first quarter sparked the Bobcats, who turned the momentum in their favor with a 10-play, 67-yard drive capped off by a 3-yard scoring run by Marcus Spearman. The drive proved to set the tone for the rest of the quarter, which was dominated by the Bobcats.
Missouri Valley turned the ball over three times in the quarter, including a late interception that gave Peru State the ball at the Vikings' 13. Tyler Audsley connected on a 7-yard slant pattern to Lance Steffen with 3:01 until intermission to take a 14-13 lead.
Missouri Valley claimed a 479-269 advantage in total yards and limited Peru State to 175 yards rushing after entering the game averaging 306.6 on the ground per contest. James Tillman carried 15 times for 117 yards and a touchdown while Turk had six catches for 129 yards and a score for the Vikings. Audsley completed 6-of-11 for 88 yards and a touchdown while Bray carried 29 times for 114 yards.