COLFAX – The game couldn’t have started any better for the Colfax football team, when they hosted Spring Valley Sept. 14, but it sure could have ended better. After Cody Zivcic, playing in his first game of the season, took the opening kickoff back 70 yards to pay dirt for a 6-0 lead, the Viking’s offense went stagnant for most of the game and they came a yard short of keeping a last minute drive going, resulting in a 13-6 loss to the Cardinals. After scoring 53 points in a win over Ladysmith their first game of the season, the Vikings have mustered just 26 points in the last three games–all in a losing effort, bringing their record to 1-3 as they reached the halfway point of the regular season.
Zivcic’s run took all of 17 seconds, barely giving the fans time to get some popcorn and get to their seats, and for the local reporter to get her camera out of the case. Colfax then held the Cardinal’s option offense in check on it’s first two possession, but they let a golden opportunity to add some points slip away late in the quarter. A five yard run by Michael Hover was followed by a 29 yard sprint by Noah Pretasky to the Cardinal 42 yard line, but after Pretasky reeled off another long run, it was called back for a holding penalty. Jeremiah Wait picked up five yards on a run but a pair of incomplete passes forced a punt as the quarter ended.
The booming punt by Dillon Lloyd pinned the Cardinals back on their own four yard line and they proceeded to march 96 yards in 17 plays, 16 of them running plays by Jaron Turner, Gabriel Verges and quarterback Zach Newton. The Vikings gave them some help however, as they were called for an offsides and a facemask penalty during the drive, and Verges finally took it in from six yards out. The kick attempt was wide and it was 6-6 with 4:20 left in the half.
The Vikings were forced to punt after a penalty for a false start on third down on their next possession, but they held the Cardinals in check when Trevor Olson and Sawyer DeMoe sacked Newton on a third and 20. Colfax coach Mark Maloney took a timeout as he anticipated getting the ball back with just over a minute to go, but a roughing the kicker penalty on Colfax on the punt kept the ball in the Cardinals hands at the 50 yard line. The Viking’s D stepped up with Austin Lee, (also playing in his first game of the year) stuffing a Cardinal runner, and after an incomplete pass, Colfax finally got the ball back via a Cardinal punt. With 31 seconds left, a 10 yard loss on a running play forced them to just end the quarter in a tie.
“We had opportunities to get some more points on the board, but we kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” Maloney said. “Our defense was playing pretty solid but we couldn’t sustain any drives.”
Colfax held the Cardinals as they started with the ball in the second half with Devon Rice and Lee coming up with big tackles, and the Vikings went on a short roll with Lloyd hitting Ethin Kiekhafer on a slant route for eight yards, then Lloyd ran for ten yards and Wait picked up seven. But negative yards on the next two plays resulted in another punt. The Vikings dodged a bullet when the Cardinal punt returner took off on a 60 yard run that was called back on a holding penalty. They forced a three and out but on their next turn with the ball, they got as far as the Spring Valley 20 before a halfback option play with Hover throwing a pass that was picked off in the end zone, ending another chance to score. Colfax stopped the Cardinals yet again as Lee sacked Newton for a three yard loss and the third quarter ended still knotted at 6-6.
On a third down play, Lloyd was intercepted and the Cardinals took over on the Viking’s 37 yard line, and in just four plays, they took the lead when Newton ran right through the heart of the defense for a 24 yard TD. With the kick, Spring Valley had a 13-6 lead with 9:44 left in the game.
But it wasn’t like the Vikings didn’t have chances to tie the game or take the lead. On a third down play, Pretasky took the hand off and started on the left side of the field, then zig zagged his way across to the right side and took off down the sideline for a long gain, but it was all for naught as an illegal block in the back penalty was called on a teammate. And after giving the ball back to the Cardinals, Zivcic picked up a fumble and began to trot toward the endzone. The referees stopped the play, and after a conference, it was called a fumble recovery for the Vikings but the play was blown dead, still giving them a chance at their own 38 with 6:34 left.
The offense began to click finally with runs for positive yardage by Wait and Pretasky, but another fourth down came up and this time things went in the Viking’s favor as the Cardinals were called for pass interference when they knocked Kiekhafer down on his pass route. It was first down at the 22 with 2:14 left and the Vikings went to a no huddle offense. After two running plays netted two yards, Colfax was called for an offsides penalty, making it third and 13 instead of third and eight. Lloyd threw an incomplete pass in the endzone, but on fourth down he hit Kiekhafer on another slant. After a measurement, the Vikings were a yard short of a first down at the 14 yard line and the Cardinals ran out the clock for the win.
“More chances to score and we let them slip by us,” Maloney said. “We talk about being disciplined all week in practice and we just don’t show it in games. I couldn’t ask for much more from our defense but we have to find ways to finish drives and get our guys into the endzone,” he added.
Colfax finished with 132 yards of total offense as Pretasky led the way in the rushing department with 51 yards on 10 carries, while Wait ran 11 times for 27 yards. Lloyd completed six of 14 passes for 29 yards with Kiekhafer catching three of those passes for 28 yards. Newton completed just two of nine passes for the Cardinals for zero yards but he was the leading rusher with 91 yards on 18 carries.
Things don’t get any easier for the Vikings as they travel to Glenwood City this Friday.The Hilltoppers have only one loss this season, to the undefeated Elk Mound team.