Maher enjoying big year: Bowman County product 2nd in NAIA in sacks
Jordan Maher knew if he and his Valley City State football teammates put in the time, someday it would pay off.
Saturday is that day.
Maher and the No. 12-ranked Vikings (9-1) visit No. 2-ranked Carroll College (9-1) at noon Saturday in Helena, Mont., for the first round of the NAIA playoffs.
"We're waking up at 5, 6 in the morning, every morning," Maher said. "It's bound to happen some year that you're going to start doing good. Everyone just came together as a team."
Maher, a 2007 graduate of Bowman County High School, has been the driving defensive force behind the Vikings' march to nine consecutive victories and their first postseason appearance since 2001.
"In every game, he's a major impact player for us," VCSU head coach Dennis McCulloch said. "You can tell by his stats -- his tackles for loss, his sacks -- he's a tremendous player."
Maher, a 6-foot-4, 264-pound senior defensive tackle, has been a beast in the trenches this season.
He was named the Dakota Athletic Conference's Most Valuable Senior after logging team highs of 11½ sacks and 16 tackles for a loss to go along with 74 tackles. He ranks second in the NAIA in sacks.
Maher is leaving an impact on the Vikings' record books, too. He ranks second in career tackles for a loss (39) and eighth in sacks (16½). He needs nine tackles Saturday to reach 200 for his career.
Maher said becoming an every-down lineman this season helped him become more consistent.
In years past, he split time on the defensive line with Ronald Buck.
"He would normally be out there on passing downs," Maher said. "This year, I was an every down player."
It didn't take Maher long to realize he could be in for a career season.
VCSU lost its opener to Morningside College, but Maher felt he had a good game against a talented offensive line.
The next week, he had a season-high 11 tackles against in a 28-26 victory at Dickinson State on Sept. 10, a game won on a last-second touchdown pass that started the Vikings' win streak.
In the Vikings' regular-season finale at Robert Morris (Ill.) on Nov. 5, Maher had a career-best three sacks for 20 yards.
"You've got to go into every game thinking you're going to win," Maher said. "You've just got to learn how to win the close ones."
VCSU knows that if it wants to beat Carroll, it's going to be close.
McCulloch said Maher will definitely be relied upon to help slow down a Saints offense that averages 407 yards and 34 points per game.
Carroll junior running back Chance Demarais leads the NAIA with 1,422 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns.
"We have to do a good job of slowing their run game," McCulloch said. "You're not going to stop it, but as best we can, we've got to eliminate those huge, gashing plays that break your back."