Sep 1st, 2011 @ 10:13 am | Author: By Mark Potts
Vikings open season Thursday at home

By Mark Potts
Times-Record sports editor

After three weeks of pre-season practice, Valley City State head football coach Dennis McCulloch said he and his players are antsy for their first game of the season.

'We're definitely ready to hit somebody else,' he said. 'I think every coach would tell you that. When you've had that many days of practice together you get tired of going against each other.'

The Vikings don't have to wait much longer.

Valley City State is set to open the season Thursday with a rare home game at night. The Vikings host No. 5 Morningside College on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Shelly Ellig Field - VCSU's new artificial turf field that was just completed about a week ago.

For their part, McCulloch said the team is about as ready - or unready - as it can be going into a season opener.
'Until you go out there and play live competition, there's a lot of unknowns,' he said.

What isn't unknown is whether the crowds will show up. Valley City State is expecting a large crowd for the home opener. A Thursday night game means most of the students should be around, and with it being the first game on the turf, they expect people to show and check out the new and improved facility at Lokken Stadium.

And oh yeah, the opponent is pretty good too. Morningside College is ranked No. 5 in the preseason NAIA Coaches' Poll and returns eight starters from their 2010 defense, which was second in the nation in scoring after allowing just 12.7 points a game.

Last year's Dakota Athletic Conference champion, Dickinson State, lost to Morningside College 38-17 in the first round of the NAIA playoffs. A member of the Great Plains Athletic Conference, the Mustangs have qualified for the playoffs seven straight seasons and are 68-16 (.810) since the start of the 2004 season.

'They've been a very good football team for the last six or seven years,' McCulloch said. 'They have a pretty good nucleus of guys returning on both sides of the ball. It's going to be a real tough test for us.'
McCulloch said Valley City State's key going into the game is limiting mistakes. Last year, the Vikings had a minus-6 turnover margin, something McCulloch said needs to swing in their favor Thursday night.
'If we can play mistake-free football, limit our turnovers and hopefully get a couple from them, that's going to go a long ways toward us being competitive,' he said.

Notes: The Vikings have posted a 7-13 record over the past two seasons, going 4-6 in 2010 and 3-7 in 2009... VCSU returns seven starters on offense and seven starters on defense... On defense, VCSU plans to start six seniors Thursday night, including their entire defensive backfield... McCulloch has a 75-58 career record at VCSU... Morningside junior safety Jared Goforth was an honorable mention All-American last season.