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home : sports : regional February 26, 2015

Barrel Bowl: Vikings Look To Barrel Over NCU
Sports Writer

LYNDON CENTER -- It's the earliest it's ever been played over the last seven years.

Still, it will feel like late-September weather nonetheless, say the weather reports, when Division II Lyndon Institute and North Country Union renew the eighth annual Barrel Bowl game Saturday at Robert K. Lewis Field.

The Vikings lead the series 4-3 and are the clear favorites in this year's edition, in which the winning club hoists a keg-shaped maple barrel over its head after the game.

It was originally scheduled as the fourth game of the season, Vikings coach Dan Nolan said, but a scheduling issue with Rice Memorial along with a couple of other related hiccups caused it to be bumped up. It also resulted in the game being played at Lyndon for the second straight year, and Rice as well will play here as it did in 2012.

All this is far from what the Vikings are thinking about as they take their 1-0 record into the game. Complacency is another non-factor; it's their home opener, and LI was also where the Falcons are now just two short years ago. Motivation won't be hard to come by.

The Falcons were the class of D-II two years ago, going undefeated in the regular season and steamrolling the Vikes 62-22 in the 2011 Bowl game. NCU had a senior-laden team; that's now the case with the Vikings roster, while second-year Falcons coach Tim Simoneau brings a young team (just seven seniors) into Saturday's game. The Falcons' last win came in the final regular season game of that 2011 season.

So memories are still fresh of how quickly things can change in this game. Nobody knows that better than the Falcons, who haven't won since that 2011 season, which ended in a shocking 37-26 semifinal playoff loss to Burr & Burton.

All but five players on the LI roster are either juniors or seniors, so this is the year the Vikings want to make their own playoff impact.

"We preach over and over and over again that the team that plays the best will win," Nolan said. "Confident, yes; we'd be confident against anyone in the state. But cocky, no."

Nolan sees in NCU a team that's returned to a ground-oriented offense. "They are young, we have some film of them, but they're definitely improved," he said. "They were in the shotgun last year and throwing a lot -- now they're back under center with the option." In addition to O'Donnell, linebacker/running back Tyler Sanville is "probably their best all-around player," Nolan said.

With running backs Davis Guyer, Josh Guyer and Devon Switser behind quarterback James Shufelt, the Vikings will be looking for the same execution as in last week's 44-7 opening-day win over Burr & Burton.

"We concentrate individually [among all 11 players] on jobs we have to do, execute them the best we can and let the chips fall where they may -- that's the approach we've taken so far this season," Nolan said. "It's a huge game for North Country -- their stated primary goal this season is to beat us and St. J. We'll have to match that enthusiasm."

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