Friends celebrated, fans cheered in excitement, and families hugged at the Regional Championship between the Valparaiso Vikings and the Crown Point Bulldogs. In one of the most memorable and exhilarating games in the Region’s history, the crowds leapt from their seats at Valparaiso High School’s football stadium to watch the Vikings take the title of Regional Champions.
The Vikings entered the arena with an impressive 9-game winning streak. Their recent 55-7 victory over Chesterton and remarkable 21-0 win over Penn gave players and fans alike a surge of excitement and confidence as the Vikings walked onto the field at the Regional Championship. From the first moment of the game, the Vikings were ready to give it their all and to leave their hearts on the line to represent the town of Valparaiso.
“We’re going to state, no matter what,” John Mudd, a student at Valparaiso High School said. “I know our team has that heart.”
Alongside blanketed friends, Mudd not only braved the cold winds and below-freezing temperature, but he demonstrated his support for the Vikings by chanting while shirtless, a tradition that Mudd has continued throughout the Viking’s season.
The Crown Point Bulldogs were tough competition for the Vikings, bringing with them an impressive season and hitting the field with high energy and a strong support system in the stands.
“I take my hat off to Coach Enright and his defensive staff because they did a phenomenal job,” Bill Marshall, head coach of the Vikings, said.
With a final score of 23-6, the Valparaiso Vikings became the official winners of the Class 6A Regional Championship. They will advance to the semi-state game against Carmel next week.
“It feels good knowing that we have another game at home for semi-state,” Jesse Harper, running back and wide receiver for the Vikings, said.
“This is just a surreal experience,” said Antonio Bravo, offensive guard for the Vikings. “I hope we keep winning all the way to state. I am proud to be a part of this team, and we keep going one week at a time.”
As the two Northwest Indiana teams battled for the title of Regional Champions, the game showcased the Region’s exceptional talent and the profound support that the community offers its players.
“It’s such a good sight,” CJ Opperman, quarterback for Valparaiso Vikings, said of the packed bleachers. “We knew it was cold and still, the bleachers were all full.”
“It just lets us know that they support us the whole way,” Harper said in response to the fan turnout. “They’ve been there for us since we were little kids. They love us, and we love them back. It’s fantastic.”
Fans came prepared with hand warmers, blankets, heavy coats, and their favorite Vikings gear, showing that the cold was not going to stop them from seeing the Vikings’ victory.
“It’s really heartwarming thinking that no one wants to be out here in this weather, and they’re here to see us, to see us win, and to see us make history,” Bravo said.
Coach Marshall was floored with the community’s response, noting the major encouragement that it had on the team.
“Couch Bernardi played on the ’85 team as the Defense Coordinator,” Marshall said. “He turned around and looked behind him, and he could see how it was packed just like it was in the ’85 game. It’s just a great community. They support us, they back the heck out of us, and hopefully, we can keep coming out to the games for at least a couple more weeks.”
As the players huddled together after clinching the Regional Championship, Coach Marshall expressed great pride in his team and in the community during his post-game talk with the Vikings.
“I can’t be more proud of this group of young men, the support staff, and the community who has come together and has really backed us since the beginning, since you guys were this big,” Marshall said, holding out his hand to show how young many of the team members were when they began playing football.
As they look ahead to the next week of hosting semi-state, the Vikings know they will have the support of the community as they face the Carmel Greyhounds.
“We’re ready,” Opperman said. “We’re going to come in this week ready to play, and it’s going to be really exciting.”
If the Vikings advance through the next week, they will be in the running for State Champion.
“We’ve got two more left in the tank,” Marshall said.