Ricks football team swamped in bowl game

Hopes of Ricks College repeating last year's high national ranking were dashed Dec. 4 when its football team fell, 42-13, to Trinity Valley Community College of Texas in the 7th annual Real Dairy Bowl here. The loss was only the second this season in 11 games for the Vikings of the Church- owned junior college.

Ricks, ranked 4th nationally at the end of the regular season by the National Junior College Athletic Association, had been ranked 1st in the nation in the NJCAA preseason poll and held the top position for the first six weeks of the season. Trinity Valley, ranked 7th, completed its season at 8-1-2."It's a double-edged sword," Ricks head coach Ron Haun said at the beginning of the season. "It's always an honor to be ranked No. 1; you just wish it was after you were 11-0."

The loss was a setback in a season full of accomplishments. "It will give us the incentive to work harder in the off-season," said freshman quarterback Daren Wilkinson of Santa Clara, Utah. Formerly of Escondido, Calif., he is a returned missionary from the Italy Catania Mission and a pre-physical therapy major. "Winning nine games (in one season) is a great accomplishment."

Ricks was riding a 24-game win streak, the longest in the nation, when the Vikings were upset 34-28 by Dixie College on Oct. 16 for their only regular-season loss.

The loss to Trinity Valley "wasn't indicative of the season we've had," said Jason Strickland, a 6-0, 200-pound defensive back from Platte City, Mo., and a returned missionary from the Korea Seoul West Mission. "I hate to lose, but I don't depend on football for everything in my life."

Though the bowl loss dampened spirits, Viking players and coaches agreed the season was successful. Ricks is the first team to win back-to-back Western States Football League championships since the league was formed in 1985. Ten teams from Idaho, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico comprise the WSFL.

"Losing is frustrating, but it is also a learning experience," added Marty Duffin, a 6-3, 255-pound defensive tackle from Idaho Falls, Idaho. "We kept our feelings in. There's no use taking them out on the other team," the returned missionary from the Brazil Brazilia Mission said.

Ricks was penalized 45 yards on nine infractions during the game, but the inability to run effectively was the big factor.

"We just couldn't get our running game going," Haun said. Trinity Valley held Ricks to 18 yards rushing. The Vikings averaged 147 yards during the regular season.

Haun, who celebrated his 100th career win this season after 12 years as head coach at Ricks, ended the year with a 103-26-2 career record.

Ricks College has the fourth most successful junior college football program in history in terms of wins and losses, according to information released by the NJCAA.

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