Ricks caps perfect football season

As the Ricks College players and coaches walked off the field following the Real Dairy Bowl Dec. 3, head coach Ron Haun perhaps was wondering if he would ever assemble another team as good as this one. His 1994 Vikings had just capped off a perfect 11-0 season with a convincing 40-21 win over 8th-ranked Nassau Community College at Idaho State University's Holt Arena.

"I'm just really proud of our kids," said Haun. "We beat one of the most talented teams in junior college football, so that shows the kind of caliber our team is."It was a perfect ending to a perfect season. The Vikings offense rolled up 469 yards, and quarterback Daren Wilkinson was named Dairy Bowl MVP. He was 25 for 40 passing for 346 yards and three touchdowns.

As has been the case for the entire season, there were several offensive standouts. Ben Cahoon caught eight passes for 114 yards, while Kameron McCluskey had 112 yards in running and pass receptions and two touchdowns. Mike Teal scored twice, and Greg Clark and Jeff Ward had 48 yards in pass receptions apiece, with Clark scoring once.

"It was a tremendous year," said offensive coordinator E.J. Caffaro. "They've been the team with the greatest heart, the greatest talent, the greatest desire to win. They've been the best team I've ever coached with."

Despite the high-powered offensive display, Cahoon and the other players and coaches felt that the play of the defense was the major factor in the Vikings' victory. Preparation was the key, according to defensive tackle Doug Beard.

"We knew everything they were going to run," Beard said. "Coach Walker did a great job preparing for us."

Nassau went into the game with one of the best-rushing offenses in the nation. Chad Bosch rushed for 1,400 yards this season, so he was the marked man. Ricks held him to just 86 net yards.

Because of the weekly fireworks that the Ricks offense has displayed throughout the season, it was easy for the defense to be forgotten. But not Saturday.

Another key for the Vikings to accomplish their game plan was to jump on the Lions early. They did just that, going up 14-0 in the first quarter.

"We got out, jumped on them early and put them away," said tailback Dion Chapman. "This was a big one."

Nassau gained some momentum in the second quarter, and cut Ricks' lead to 21-13. A key play came with a minute left in the half. After driving to the Lions' 35, Wilkinson rolled out to his left, then turned and threw crossfield to McCluskey, who scored on the play. That took the wind out of Nassau's sails, and Ricks had a 28-13 halftime lead.

Kicker Courtney Smith tacked on second half field goals of 28 and 39 yards to keep Nassau at bay. Teal also scored on a 20-yard reverse late to seal the Lions' fate.

"This will give us some national recognition," Haun said. "They played in the national championship game last year, and their coach said they're better this year. So we feel we drew a good opponent for this game."

For some of the Vikings, it was a record-breaking season. Wilkinson completed 57 percent of his passes for 3,104 yards, 28 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions in 10 regular-season games. He broke school records in career total yardage, career passes attempted and completed, career yards gained passing, career touchdowns passes, and touchdown passes in a season.

"He's the best I've ever seen at this level," said Caffaro, who also played quarterback for Ricks. "He sees everything on the field that we as coaches see on film and on the sidelines. He's another coach on the field."

Wide receiver Ben Cahoon, a sophomore from Orem, Utah, also had a tremendous season. Despite being just 5-foot-9, Cahoon was able to make plays usually reserved for guys named Rice, Largent and Monk. He finished the regular season with 70 receptions for 1,032 yards and seven touchdowns. He broke school records in career and season receptions, and career yardage.

The Vikings again swept Western Conference Football League honors with 11 players being named to the first team, and five on the second team. Wilkinson, Clark, McCluskey, Cahoon and offensive linemen Felise Muai and Rob Rogers were first teamers from the offense. On the defensive side, lineman Brent Nye and Gavin Hess took honors. Also selected were linebacker Junior Ioane, and defensive backs Mark Livingston and Sean Tufaga.

Named to the second team were safety Matt Doman, offensive linemen Patrick Augafa and Keith Rigtrup, defensive lineman Doug Beard, and linebacker Matt Hawkes.

In summing up the season, kicker Smith, who was one of the leading scorers in the nation, said, "11-0, what more could you ask for?"

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