The Vikings played their season finale this Saturday against longtime rivals Ripon at the Banta Bowl. Several Redhawk fans made the short trip up to Appleton, as did several Viking alumni. Less than five minutes into their 106th meeting, the Vikings found themselves fending off Ripon’s offence deep in Lawrence territory. The proven Viking defense made the stop on a fourth-down rush attempt from five yards out to bring the offensive unit back onto the field. The Redhawks had the first points of the game on the board a play later, however, as quarterback Nick Maxam was unable to get rid of the ball before Ripon’s blitzing-strong safety tackled him to the ground for the two-point safety. Ripon milked their rushing game on their next drive, before extending their lead with a 22-yard pass play. A fumbled punt return by standout roverback Billy Bodle at the end of the first quarter gave the Redhawks the ball back, and they converted for seven points on that turnover to take the score to 17-0. The Vikings did manage to get one back before the first half came to a close, as two consecutive pass plays to Larks-Dominique and Jared respectively-capped off a 40-yard possession that was gained through a fumble recovery by Matt Frelich. Hoping that the offense had started to figure things out, Viking fans looked optimistic as the second half got underway, looking for things to swing in Lawrence’s favor. Viking fans thought they’d guessed right as Tim Basset picked off a Ripon pass early in the quarter and returned it for a touchdown. A defensive off-sides penalty on the play, however, brought the ball back to midfield and kept the Vikings from cutting the lead to three. The third quarter would go on to see no changes on the scoreboard, but Ripon managed to drive down to the Viking 5-yard line by the time the team’s switched sides. The Redhawks scored on the first play of the final quarter to extend their lead to a daunting 17 points. After turning the ball over, by way of interceptions, on two consecutive drives, the Vikings put some life back into the crowd as they narrowed the Ripon lead with a Jake Tewalt touchdown with under four minutes left. Ripon managed to recover the onside kick, however, to end hopes of a last minute rally. Ripon then moved the chains three times and chose the unsportsmanlike but Ripon-esque “rub it in your rivals’ faces” option over taking a knee to end the game with a 31-14 scoreline. The Viking offense was limited to just 136 yards, whereas the Redhawks piled on 306, keeping Lawrence’s defense on the field for all but 20 minutes of the contest. Tyler Krzewina, Billy Bodle and Matt Frelich all recorded career-high tackle tallies-18, 14 and 12 respectively. The Viking defense ended the season at the top of the league in two categories: sacks and red zone defense, and senior Kenny Alvord led the league in total punt yardage as well as average yards per punt. The loss sees the Vikings end their season at 5-5 (4-5 MWC). Despite ending just a game short of its first winning season in almost two decades, this year did see the Vikings’ compile their first non-losing record since 1987. A glance at recent Lawrence football history points out that this was no baby step, but rather a huge stride in regaining past glory in the Midwest Conference. With the Vikings compiling more wins in the past two years than they did in the five years prior combined, they have earned the respect of even the best teams in the conference and will, undoubtedly, aim even higher in 2007. The seniors have been part of would could turn out to be the season that turns Viking football around and we’ll wait ’til next year to see how well the Vikings capitalize on the gains they’ve made. On a personal note, I have thoroughly enjoyed covering the Vikings, in this my last year, and would like to take this opportunity to extend my appreciation to the seniors who I have watched for four years. Tyler, Billy, Joe, Timmy, Vegas, Joel, Jake and Kenny: It’s been a pleasure.