VALPARAISO | Stephen Simms tried to be humble after a career performance on Friday night, but the Valparaiso senior displayed a smile that drowned out any words that came out of his mouth.
Simms scored five touchdowns, four on the ground and one through the air, as the Vikings celebrated a 43-14 homecoming victory over Portage.
Simms finished with 118 of Valparaiso’s 337 rushing yards and had 73 receiving yards, including a 65-yard reception on the second play of the fourth quarter.
“I was just playing the game,” Simms said as he beamed from ear-to-ear. “Scoring touchdowns isn’t a big deal to me; it’s just about getting the win.”
It was a win that the Vikings (3-5, 3-3) sorely needed after giving up 56 first-half points to Merrillville last week. Valparaiso is facing a regular-season finale at Lake Central and will find out its sectional opponent Sunday night.
“After last week, this was nice to have,” Valparaiso coach Dave Coyle said. “We were starting to doubt ourselves a little bit, but this is a good group of guys who play hard.”
While Simms was scoring touchdowns all night long, fellow running back Andrew Kittridge was chewing up the field on every possession. Kittridge had 20 carries for 163 yards, highlighted by his final carry of the night when the senior tossed a Portage defender to the ground to gain more yards on a bruising 22-yard run. Simms scored on the next play.
“If it was Andrew scoring out there, I would’ve been just as happy,” Simms said. “We’re just running hard and doing the best that we can.”
As powerful as the Valparaiso offense was, the defense earned some stripes after a tough performance against the Pirates. The Vikings held Portage (2-6, 1-5) to under 100 total yards and bottled up Rashaan Coleman, limiting the senior star to just 52 yards on 13 carries.
“Take nothing away from Rashaan, he is a very good ball player,” Coyle said. “We knew he was a concern and that we needed to try and stop him. I hope he takes that as a compliment because he’s a good player and we sure don’t want to see him again.”
Regardless of what comes next Friday or in the postseason, it’s going to be a while until Simms wipes away his smile on a night that was built for a celebration.
“Everything about this was special tonight,” Simms said. “Nothing can top this right now.”