Coaches keep focus on the fieldThe Paint Bucket is a valued trinket for the winner of today’s Jimmie/Viking game at Rollie Greeno Field. It will be hoisted near midfield by the winning team when the final horn sounds. The alumni of the victorious school will own bragging rights over the other, although only for 28 days until the two meet again Oct. 22 in Valley City. All the secondary things that go along with the rivalry are important, but not necessarily relevant to either head coach.
By: By Dave Selvig, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
The Paint Bucket is a valued trinket for the winner of today’s Jimmie/Viking game at Rollie Greeno Field.
It will be hoisted near midfield by the winning team when the final horn sounds. The alumni of the victorious school will own bragging rights over the other, although only for 28 days until the two meet again Oct. 22 in Valley City. All the secondary things that go along with the rivalry are important, but not necessarily relevant to either head coach.
Their focus is zeroed in on the field.
“All that stuff is great. There’s a buzz to the week when we play them, but it really is more about playing four good quarters of football in all three phases,” said JC head coach Shawn Frank said. “After you run out of the tunnel and play the first two or three minutes, it’s just another game and I’m pretty sure they feel the same way.”
As a matter of fact, they do.
“We’re not feeling really great right now. We’re happy to get a couple of wins, but we’re definitely not playing at a high level,” said coach Dennis McCulloch of his 20th-ranked Vikings. “Regardless of who we play, we just have to play better. That’s our main concern at this point.”
The Jimmies (1-3) are coming off their first win of the season, while the Vikings have won two straight after a lopsided loss to open the campaign against fourth-ranked Morningside (3-0).
The JC offense came to life last week, particularly on the ground. The Jimmies have to be able to run the ball to be effective. Lance Johansen ran for 160 yards last Saturday and Matt Mithaugen was near a 100. The offensive line of Jacob Strass, Sean Emry, Mike Findlay, Greg Rodriguez, Jared Steinberger and Shawn Jenner played its best game.
“When we’re able to run the football, like last week, good things happen,” Frank said.
The Vikings have over 350 combined yards rushing between Derek Elliot, the former Hi-Liner, and freshman Taylor Cino. But they also have an established playmaker at quarterback in senior Tommy Zinke, who has one of the top tight ends in NAIA football in senior Ken Eliacin (16 receptions, 317 yards, 4 TDs).
They remain a work in progress, however. The Vikings were hit hard by graduation, losing All-American types in defensive lineman Jordan Maher and receiver LeTheo Proctor amongst others.
“We had a good crew coming back, but you go through growing pains with your newer players, but that’s college football. You can’t escape graduation,” said McCulloch, in his 19th season at VCSU, 16th as head coach.
Today’s game will be the first of their five opponents the Jimmies are really familiar with, although McCulloch and his staff are well known for their game-day wrinkles.
“We don’t get too excited about what we see on film because they’re always going to throw new stuff at you,” Frank said. “It sounds cliché, but they’re going to do what they do, we’re going to do what we do, and whoever does it better is probably going to win the football game.”
The rivalry between the two teams is plenty of motivation for everyone involved, but the Vikings won both meetings last year after the Jimmies had held the Paint Bucket continuously since 2007. The two wins gave VCSU a 31-28 edge in head-to-head match-ups dating back to 1961 when the Paint Bucket Series began. McCulloch knows it throws extra fuel on Jamestown College’s fire.
“It’s going to be a very challenging game between pretty evenly matched teams,” McCulloch said. “We don’t need to do anything extra this week to motivate the players. It’s a game we all look forward to, and hopefully we play much better than we have up to this point. … We’ll have to.”
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at email@example.com