The Victory Sports Network splits this week to cover two games that have postseason and conference championship implications written all over them. MidAmerica Nazarene hosts Missouri Valley in one of the top ten battles this week. The Pioneers defeated Lindenwood earlier this season and are in the driver’s seat to win the Heart of America Athletic Conference. One scenario is pretty simple; if the Pioneers win they are conference champions. If Missouri Valley is victorious in this game and the Vikings and Lions win out there would be a three way tie at the top of the conference.
Rewind to last season the two teams we in a similar situation with Missouri Valley as the higher rated team and hosting the lower rated Pioneers. With the conference championship already decided the two teams were playing for the right to host a game in the first round of the NAIA Championship Series. Missouri Valley controlled much of a game, but a late run and long field goal led MNU to the upset win.
This season the Vikings will be looking for a sense of revenge. Missouri Valley can cost MNU the outright conference championship and could end the hopes for the Pioneers to host in the first round. There will be plenty to play for when these two teams meet.
Here is a position-by-position breakdown of the game:
MidAmerica Nazarene has been led this season by trio of backs. Greg Gates has had the bulk of the carries this season with 113 attempts. He has also scored eight touchdowns. James Tillman has found the end zone nine times, while quarterback Sean Ransburg is another option to run the football. Ashford Johnson is an option for the Pioneers as well. Tillman and Gates are both averaging five yards per carry this season.
Rahfee McClee and Sterling Hardin lead the rushing attack for Missouri Valley. The two have 97 and 107 attempts, respectively and have combined for 11 touchdowns. Hardin has more carries on the season, but McClee averages a yard and a half more per carry.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
Darrell Madry leads the Vikings with 359 yards on 30 receptions and four touchdowns. Tommi Pinta has duplicated the touchdown performance with four of his own in six games. Josh Reid and Paul Aubin have 16 receptions a piece this season as well. All four are averaging more than 11 yards per reception in 2010.
Juan Redmon is the leading wide receiver for MNU. He was held to two catches for 32 yards against Lindenwood and the entire passing game mustered just 94 yards. If Missouri Valley is going to slow down MNU they have to slow down Redmon. Four other receivers have 10 or more receptions this year for the Pioneers.
Sean Ransburg has proven success. Not just with the Pioneers, but he put together a couple of undefeated seasons in high school as well. He is a dual threat quarterback, but one of the knock’s on him coming out of high school was his passing ability. What he can’t do through the air he has made up for on the ground. Ransburg joined Jed Stugart’s, now with Sioux Falls, recruiting class as a transfer from Kansas and now Coach Quinn and the Pioneers have made the most of having him aboard. Ransburg has thrown 14 touchdowns and just five interceptions this season, while rushing for over 500 yards.
His counterpart is Chris White, who was picked my many to be a quarterback to watch this season. Last year he led the Vikings into the first round of the NAIA Championship Series. White has thrown for 1,505 yards this season and has also connected for 14 touchdowns and five interceptions this season. White is more of a pocket passing quarterback as opposed to his scrambler-type counterpart. He has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes this season.
Missouri Valley is led up front by Rod Thomas and Richard Wick. The two have combined for 19.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks this season. The two have been a force this season and they will make it tough on the Pioneer running game up the middle.
Brandon Smith and Hagen Rose are the dominant fellas up front for the Pioneers. Smith is third on the team in tackles and leads the team with nine tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Hagen Rose is right behind Smith with four sacks this season.
MNU is led by All-American Jake Duran. The Pioneers topped Lindenwood earlier this season without their leading tackler. Dantren Anderson is the “buck” for the Pioneer defense and very good. Joe Camacho is a nice addition off the sideline for the Pioneers along with Steve Kiburz and Brady Croucher in the game. This group is important to the success of the Pioneers on defense.
Missouri Valley has a talented group as well. Ryan Buster and Adam Maher are the guys in the middle that will disrupt the Pioneers offense. The two lead the team in tackles this season and have also spent a lot of time in the opponents backfield. The Pioneers need to find a way to stop these guys and they will be successful.
The Viking secondary has done their part this year with seven interceptions this season. The group is led by Ryan Smith, Cantrell Andrews and Willie Williams. These guys will have a task at handing in shutting down tight end Juan Redmon. If they can keep him and the other wide receivers contained it will give the defensive front an opportunity to get to the quarterback and disrupt the play.
J.D. Wood leads the Pioneer secondary with six interceptions this season, Will Griffin adds four, while Taylor Lasiter and A.J. Rodriguez add three and two interceptions, respectively. This is a good group of players for the Pioneers and Chris White will have no
room for error in the game. If he makes an error this secondary will make him pay and could turn it into points.
A field goal decided the game last season and it could this season as well. Cody Morrow is the Pioneer kicker and has struggled this season making just 52 percent of his attempts. He is 13 for 25 this season, but does have a long of 53. His long miss of the season is 56 yards. If it comes down to it Morrow has proven he has leg strength, but his accuracy is questionable.
Fabian Miramontes has had a much better season for the Vikings. He is 14-18 on the season for a 77.8 percentage. His longest attempt of the season was 51 yards which he missed. The longest made field goal of the season for Miramontes is 49 yards.
Morrow stepped up against Lindenwood and was perfect to help the Pioneers to the upset win. The kicker who steps up in this game could lead his team to a win.
These two teams look pretty even on paper. MidAmerica Nazarene appears to have the slight edge in most categories, but you can never rule out an opponent in a rivalry game. If the Vikings don’t win this game they may miss the NAIA Championship Series. It is a very important game in that respect. MNU went to Marshall last season and knocked off Valley to keep MVC from hosting in the first round. A Valley win this week could knock MNU from the top eight. There is a lot riding on this game for both teams it should be a good one.
One thing is for sure, weather shouldn’t be a problem with sunny skies and upper 50s expected on Saturday in Olathe.