VCSU wins DAC: Vikings win, in good shape to make postseasonValley City State University quarterback Tommy Zinke didn’t need reminding of what was at stake on Saturday against Jamestown College, but he didn’t want to let those implications alter his game plan.
Valley City State University quarterback Tommy Zinke didn’t need reminding of what was at stake on Saturday against Jamestown College, but he didn’t want to let those implications alter his game plan.
With the Paint Bucket, a Dakota Athletic Conference championship and a favorable road to the postseason on the line, the junior quarterback wanted to keep it business as usual.
“It wasn’t really anything too different,” said Zinke on his mentality going into the Vikings’ biggest game of the season. “We can’t overlook anybody, it’s the same thing every game. Coach preaches to us that we have to play our best game no matter who we play.”
If Zinke wasn’t at his best on Saturday, he wasn’t far off.
The Rolla, N.D. native completed 15 of 24 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns as the Vikings rolled to a 28-9 victory over the Jimmies at Rollie Greeno Field.
“Give them credit, they played a complete game,” said JC coach Bud Etzold. “They were determined to run the ball — something they weren’t able to do the first time — but you have to credit the guys up front. You just have to congratulate them, tip your hat and move on.”
Zinke showed off his arm strength with his second scoring strike by hitting receiver LeTheo Proctor in stride for a 37-yard touchdown off a flea flicker to start the second half.
“It was good to have that one work for us,” said Valley City State University coach Dennis McCulloch. “That was huge for us. We didn’t want them to get any momentum.”
And McCulloch knows how important momentum can be.
VCSU nearly rallied last season from a 17-3 halftime deficit, so keeping aggressive was essential to start the second half.
“We talked about it with the coaching staff, about staying aggressive,” said Zinke. “We needed to stay aggressive and not be complacent. We wanted to get our first downs and keep the clock rolling.”
Zinke’s connection with Proctor put the Vikings up 28-3 and the Jimmies were never able to recover.
JC quarterback Tyler Notch made his first start of the season and never really found a rhythm.
The 6-foot senior connected with receiver Tyler Spanton for a 40-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter to cut the score to 28-9, but that was as close as the Jimmies (3-5 overall, 2-3 DAC) would get.
“He had a couple of good drives,” Etzold said of his quarterback. “I thought, overall, he did some very positive things. You certainly don’t want to pinpoint our lack of production on him. When you lose, there’s plenty of blame to go around.”
Notch finished the game 11 for 33 for 136 yards and a touchdown. The Eagle Bend, Minn. native also threw two interceptions, including one early in the third quarter that set up Zinke’s second touchdown.
Running back AJ Pfeifer helped open up the passing game for the Vikings by rushing for a game-high 148 yards and one touchdown.
“AJ has done a great job,” McCulloch said. “He’s the workman of the group. … We hand the ball a lot to him, but he will be the first person to say that the offensive line played very well.”
Pfeifer scored the first points of the game in the first quarter on a 3-yard run that was set up by a 60-yard pass from Zinke to Nick Schoenecker.
“That was great,” Zinke said. “It’s Jamestown’s home field and we knew they were going to come out aggressive right away. So, when we can go out and score the first points of the game, we’re able to keep feeding off of it.”
The drive nearly sputtered deep in Jimmie territory, but the Vikings converted on 4th-and-2 to keep the drive alive.
“Our kids thought they had them stopped,” Etzold said. “It went from our guys being happy to all of a sudden they have 1st-and-goal.”
Schoenecker finished with five catches for 103 yards, while Proctor made three grabs for 68 yards. Proctor also had a 4-yard rushing touchdown midway through the second quarter out of the wildcat to put the Vikings (7-1, 5-0) up 14-0.
“In the second quarter we just kind of came apart at the seams,” Etzold said. “We didn’t move the ball and they had two long drives. … It just kind of snowballed on us.”
VCSU built its lead to 21-0 on its next offensive possession when Zinke capped off a three-play, 55-yard drive with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Ken Eliacin with 3:37 to play in the first half.
“AJ helped tremendously,” Zinke said. “If we can run the ball, it just opens up the passing game big time.”
The Jimmies started the game pounding the ball with running backs Lance Johansen and Matt Mithaugen. Johansen ran the ball four times for 30 yards in the first five offensive plays for the Jimmies, but after moving the chains twice and getting the ball down to VCSU’s 23-yard line, the JC offense stalled and eventually turned the ball over on downs.
“It would have been a long field goal attempt so we decided to go for it, and we came up a half-yard short,” Etzold said. “One of the bugaboos that happened was when we fumbled the exchange on 3rd-and-1 and ended up being 4th-and-3.”
Johansen finished with 50 yards on 13 carries, while Mithaugen ran for 26 yards on eight attempts in his first game back from a concussion.
“I thought our kids pulled it together and played really hard at the end,” Etzold said. “I think that showed some character.”
The Jimmies built a little momentum late in the first half after the special teams recovered a fumble deep in VCSU territory after a bouncing punt hit off a Viking player with 2:33 to go in the half.
JC turned the VCSU miscue into points when Ryan Benke converted on a 23-yard field goal to make it 21-3 going into the break.
“The fact that we scored was important,” said Etzold. “Obviously you would like to get into the end zone, but we got some points and that was the big thing.”
The Jimmies will close out the season on the road with their next contest coming next week in Dickinson.
“The biggest tragedy would have been if that was their last ball game ever,” Etzold said. “But we’ve got two ball games to come back and try to get whatever we can out of the year.”
VCSU will continue its playoff push next week as hosts to Mayville State before finishing the regular season on the road against Robert Morris — a first-year football program.
“If we’re going to make the playoffs we’re going to have to win our last two games,” McCulloch said. “All we can do is continue to get better. We have to play better football than we did today.”
Valley City State 28, Jamestown College 9
VCSU 7 14 7 0 — 28
JC 0 3 0 6 — 9
VCSU—AJ Pfeifer 3 run (Thomas Cortez kick good), 4:04.
VCSU—LeTheo Proctor 4 run (Cortez kick good), 7:17.
VCSU—Ken Eliacin 23 pass from Tommy Zinke, (Cortez kick good), 3:37.
JC—Ryan Benke 23-yard field goal, 1:12.
VCSU—Proctor 37 pass from Zinke, (Cortez kick good), 11:18.
JC—Tyler Spanton 40 pass from Tyler Notch, (Notch pass no good), 6:37.
First downs 22 11
Rushing 53-169 29-130
Passing (comp-att-int) 15-24-0 11-33-2
Passing yards 281 136
Total offense 450 266
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-0
Punt returns 3-10 2-27
Kickoff returns 1-0 4-84
Interceptions-yards 2-15 0-0
Punts 6-30 6-40
Penalties 5-31 3-14
TOP 36:24 23:18
Sacks 2 1
Rushing: VCSU—AJ Pfeifer 45-148, Tommy Zinke 3-16, LeTheo Proctor 1-4, Trevor Goerts 3-2. JC—Lance Johansen 13-50, Tyler Notch 7-49, Matt Mithaugen 8-26, Josh Ewalt 1-5.
Passing: VCSU—Zinke 15 for 24, 280 yards, 2 TDs. JC—Notch 11 for 33, 136 yards, TD, 2 INTs.
Receiving: VCSU—Nick Schoenecker 5-103, Proctor 3-68, Bernardo Marte 2-41, Ken Eliacin 2-39, Pfeifer 1-20, John Ziemba 2-10. JC—Ewalt 3-45, Tyler Spanton 1-40, Matt Wilson 2-35, Johansen 3-9, Max Boe 1-4, Derrick Dohmann 1-3.
Interceptions: VCSU—Cody Kilthau 1-15, Jermaine Mercellus 1-0.
Records: VCSU 7-1, 5-0; JC 3-5, 2-3.