**ARTICLE BY JOSH LONGSTRETH**
There might not be a team hotter right now than the Swan Valley Vikings. The Vikings, making their 11th straight playoff appearance, are winners of 6 of their last 7 with the lone loss coming by just a touchdown to Freeland. But the Vikings know it’s a new season in the playoffs, one in which they hope to make a long stay in in 2022. Essexville Garber would be the ones looking to end the Swan Valley season. Meeting in week 3 this season, Swan Valley was able to hold off the Dukes, 27-21. Garber would come into this one at 6-3 and hoping to head back home with another win, but the Vikings were intent on not letting it happen.
Garber would have some momentum early in this one. Forcing a three-and-out on the Vikings first drive, the Dukes would pay it off on the ensuing drive. Cade Coquillard and Ethan Burrows would play pitch and catch for much of the drive before connecting on a TD pass that would give the Dukes an early 7-0 lead. The Vikings would tie it up late in the quarter to make it a 7-all game where it would stand heading into the 2nd.
The Vikings defense would force a three-and-out on the next Garber drive. Swan Valley would strike shortly after on a double pass from Payton Guilbeaux to Sam Wickham. Wickham would make an outstanding catch over two Duke defenders giving the Vikings a 14-7 lead early in the quarter. Garber would punch back at the midway point of the quarter, a missed PAT would cut the Viking lead to 13-14. Swan Valley would put together a huge drive late in the half that would be capped off by a Lucionno Finley rushing TD. The home team would ride the momentum into the half with a 21-13 lead.
The Swan Valley drive to start the 2nd half would stall on a stand from the Garber defense. The tandem of Coquillard and Burrows would get rolling again. They would pay off the drive on a Coquillard TD run that would then cut the Vikings lead to 21-19 after a failed two-point try. We had ourselves a ball game after 3 quarters of play.
Swan Valley would ride the legs of Colten Klein and Tyler Drain early in the 4th. Finley again would be the man to pay it off on another TD run that would give the Vikings a 28-19 lead. The Garber offense would look to respond in a hurry on the next drive before the Swan Valley defense would come up with a big stand to end the drive. Late in the 4th Tyler Drain would put it away on his TD run. Swan Valley uses a big 4th quarter to take this one, 35-19.
The Vikings will now face Frankenmuth in a rematch for the district title next week. The Eagles were able to take the first matchup between the two, but a lot has changed since week 2. Frankenmuth comes in unbeaten, but Swan Valley has now won 7 of their last 8. In the last three games, the Vikings are putting up nearly 40 points per game while giving up just 10.3 per game. It’ll be a game to keep an eye on next Friday night.