MICHIGAN CITY — On Michigan City’s first snap Friday, Michael Bradford raced 79 yards untouched for a touchdown.
It looked like it was going to be a long night for Valparaiso.
As it turns out, it was just the opposite.
The Wolves managed just 78 yards of offense and no points the rest of the game as the Vikings prevailed in a clash of elite Duneland Athletic Conference defenses, 14-7, at Ames Field.
“We couldn’t block their front four -- that was it,” M.C. coach Phil Mason said. “That’s all it came down to. We couldn’t do anything. That was a concern coming in, but we didn’t think it would be that big of an issue and it did. We couldn’t handle (sophomores Dylan Dingman and Cooper Jones). They ate us up.”
As a result, City (2-2, 1-1) didn’t break off another big play the rest of the game, its longest gain coming on a pair of 15-yard pass completions, two of only four throws Bryce Hayman was able to make good on in 19 attempts. Two were intercepted, including a Reece Crossin fourth-quarter pick that proved to be the clincher, and four were knocked down against the 5-foot-9 quarterback.
“He was throwing little dots and the coaches were preaching, keep your hands up,” said Valpo’s Troy Barton, who moved from linebacker to end for the game to help bolster the Vikings’ pass rush. “I had my first sack here two years ago, so it was like a homecoming for me. We had a good scheme. We just didn’t let them get outside. We kept (Hayman) in the pocket. We forced everything to the inside.”
The Wolves managed just seven first downs and didn’t seriously threaten to score a second time, despite a stout effort by its own defense.
“Our defense was great,” Mason said. “They were pretty balanced (the second half). I think they realized they wanted to pound the ball and if they could get a drive going and score, they knew they were going to win.”
The Vikings (2-2, 2-0) had a better than two-to-one time of possession advantage, running the ball 47 times and passing it 28, nearly doubling City’s snaps.
“We did some things up front and some different coverage things to open us up to put more pressure on (Hayman),” Valpo coach Bill Marshall said. “We told them at halftime, you grow up wanting to play in a game like this. It’s what dreams are made of. It was a phenomenal job by our defensive staff. We’ve given up some big plays but I have a lot of faith in our defense. We just stay positive in our approach.”
Valpo tied the game at 7 in the first quarter on a fourth-and-two run by Crossin out of the Wildcat set. The score remained the same until Jesse Harper broke loose on a cutback run for a 44-yard touchdown with seven minutes left.
“Our offense was struggling with the inside running game, which is why we go to a certain package and bring some defensive players (like Crossin) over,” Marshall said. “I’m just so proud of our kids with everything they’ve been through.”
City will need help now if it has any hope of a DAC title.
“We just have to grind it out every week, find a way to get better so we have an opportunity when we get into the playoffs,” Mason said.
Valparaiso 14, Michigan City 7
The Wolves’ Michael Bradford rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown.