By John C. Longton III
The Hudson Valley football season got off to a shaky start, but is looking as if they’re righting the ship after a win at Erie on Saturday. After losing their last two games and giving up a combined 78 points, the football team hit the road and came out with a must needed win.
“We just have to take it one game at a time,” said head coach Mike Muehling as the team was packing up to hit the road and face a .500 Erie team.
In the Erie game, wide receiver Craig Hardgers, from Rochester, scored on the first play of the Viking’s opening possession for the second straight week. He scored on a 53 yard pass from Rafael Hidalgo, from Woodhaven. Last week vs Dean, Hardgers scored on a reverse that he ran for 75 yards. Not like last week and the week prior the Vikings would close out their opponent and go on to win.
On the first Erie possession, Chandler Foster, from Stamford, CT, forced and recovered a fumble taking it 19 yards for a touchdown. Foster added an interception and eight tackles to lead the Vikings over the Cats.
Also contributing for Hudson Valley in their key win over Erie were Rafael Hidalgo with two passing touchdowns; Darrius Bryant, from Indian River PA, who had a rushing touchdown and averaged 5.8 yards per carry; and Drew Birdsall, from Pennsville PA, added a receiving touchdown.
The Vikings played a decent game at the right time as it seemed their season was slipping away. Last year the team went 8-1 in the regular season and represented the college as the #19 team in the nation in the Salt Lake Bowl. This season hasn’t been quite up to par, but that’s because of a few different issues.
“The biggest difference is where we’re at mentally,” said Muehling. “We’re really working to come together as a team. Last year because so many people doubted us and underestimated us, it was a little bit easier to galvanize.”
In 2013 the team only won two out of their nine games and the program wasn’t really seen as a threat to teams that were on the schedule. This year, with such high expectations, teams are taking Hudson Valley more serious than the Vikings have been taking themselves.
Because of last year’s success, the football team has been more successful recruiting from different areas in the nation. The school has always had players from throughout the nation, but now more players in different areas are interested in joining the Hudson Valley football team. “Because we were more successful last season, kids are making a stronger effort to get into school here,” said Muehling.
It’s marginally more expensive for an out of state student to attend HVCC, but with last year’s success it seems that the players will pay the extra money to play for a successful team.
With all of the rise in success the team’s schedule has reflected as much. “This year’s schedule is much more difficult than last years,” said Mueling. The combination of getting more recruits from throughout the nation and playing in a bowl game has led to the decision of scheduling harder teams that the Vikings didn’t really play in the past. “We went away from playing JV teams. Last year we had three and this year we have one,” said Mueling. They also added more perennial powerhouse teams such as ASA and Lackawanna.
Now that the team is back to being .500 they have a chance to turn a once abysmal season into a somewhat positive one. This is a tough task and even though it has looked as if the program has taken a step back record wise they have made a huge leap from past teams and where they’re heading.
They host East Coast Prep this Sunday (10/4) at 1 p.m. ECP is 2-1 on the season and this is a big game for both teams. Sunday’s game is could hold the key in how the rest of the season will go for the Vikings.