Nov 28th, 2011 @ 2:17 pm | Author: Dr. Steve Shirley
The Valley City State University football team had a special season in 2011. The team finished with a 9-2 overall win-loss record, matching its most victories in a single season since 2001 and reaching the NAIA national playoffs for the first time in a decade. The season was filled with memorable highlights and milestones accomplished by this group of student-athletes and their coaches.
The remarkable season actually began before the players showed up for the first day of practice. This is, of course, because new artificial turf was installed at Shelly Ellig Field in Summer 2011. The new turf field was beneficial to this year's team in both practice and game situations, and will be an asset for VCSU, the Athletic Department, and the football program in the years ahead to help recruit and retain the very best student-athletes. It is a first-class turf facility appreciated by our students, coaches, and fans alike. A big word of thanks goes to all of the businesses, individuals, and local entities that helped make the installation of this field a reality.
As the season unfolded, there were aspects making 2011 a landmark year in the tradition-rich history of VCSU football. The team lost its opening game of the season against top-5 nationally-ranked Morningside College, and then rattled off nine consecutive victories. In the final year of the Dakota Athletic Conference, the VCSU Football team was 6-0 with home and away victories against long-time rivals Jamestown College, Dickinson State, and Mayville State. The perfect conference season secured VCSU's 26th overall conference title and the very last DAC championship. The team also had road victories in Rapid City, SD and Arlington Heights, IL (vs. South Dakota School of Mines and Robert Morris University respectively), thereby completing a perfect 5-0 away record during the regular season. VCSU was ranked #12 nationally in the final regular season coaches' poll among all 85 NAIA colleges and universities with football programs.
There were individual accolades for VCSU football this season as well. The Vikings swept the major awards with senior wide receiver LeTheo Proctor being named the DAC Most Valuable Player, defensive lineman Jordan Maher chosen Most Valuable Senior, and Dennis McCulloch voted Coach of the Year. The Vikings also led the four-team conference with the most players (eight) named to the All-DAC Team.
The spectacular season ended perhaps a bit more abruptly than any of the players, coaches, or fans would have liked with a first-round playoff defeat in Helena, MT against perennial power Carroll College. Carroll has won six of the last nine national NAIA titles, and has an overall record of 104-7 the past eight seasons. Their program is certainly one of the most successful at any level of college football in the nation. I traveled to Helena for the game and watched as our VCSU Vikings competed hard with great effort the entire 60 minutes; they represented our University with great class, sportsmanship, pride, and dignity.
It is indeed exciting news that VCSU football is back on the national map. The program has been absent from that picture for several years, and so it is thrilling to have VCSU once again in the national conversation. I join all fans and supporters of VCSU football in saying Congratulations to all of the student-athletes, student-assistants, and coaches for a great 2011, and we cannot wait for the 2012 Season to begin! GREAT JOB and Go Vikings!
Dr. Steve Shirley is President of Valley City State University