Butler Co. -- 22

Ricks -- 18POCATELLO, Idaho -- A Ricks College student held up a big poster during the Real Dairy Bowl Friday night proclaiming that he's looking for a wife.

While that isn't big news, it is a concept his school's football team can certainly relate to. Once again, the Vikings have been relegated to the role of best man.

And this time their championship left them at the altar.

In heartbreaking fashion, top-ranked Ricks College suffered a 22-18 loss in the junior college national championship game to second-ranked Butler County Community College at Idaho State's Holt Arena.

Ricks should have guessed destiny might not be on its side when learning "Rudi" was the name of the best player from the college from El Dorado, Kan.

And, indeed, Rudi Johnson was the one who caused Ricks coach Ron Haun and his defense all sorts of problems in the title tilt. Johnson, a beefy and quick freshman, ran roughshod over the Vikings for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

"He's a good back," said Ricks corner back Jared Lee of Johnson, who was awarded Real Dairy Bowl MVP honors. "He's tough to wrap up and bring down."

Johnson was especially elusive on a key run midway through the fourth quarter.

Holding an 18-15 lead with 7:07 left, Ricks punter pinned the Grizzlies on their 1-yard line with a line-drive squib kick. And on Butler's first play, the Vikings appeared to have pinned Johnson in the end zone for a safety. However, he wiggled and squirmed his way out of danger for a huge two-yard run.

"We felt real good," added Lee. "We had him for a safety and he just got out."

A few plays later it came back to haunt Ricks. The run-oriented Grizzlies caught the Ricks defensive backfield sleeping and Butler quarterback Josh Allen connected with wide receiver Damon Richardson for a 65-yard touchdown that proved to be the game winner.

"It's really disappointing," said Haun, whose team had finished second in the NJCAA four times before losing this one. "I thought our kids played hard, but we had too many mistakes. We had him doubled and our safety just fell down."

Ricks got a couple of chances to put together a winning drive, but the Grizzlies' defense clamped down on Viking quarterback Ryan Harris. He was sacked twice in a row and then had a beautiful long bomb dropped on Ricks' final, desperation play.

Overall, Harris, a native of Preston, Idaho, had a pretty decent outing playing on the same turf where he won an Idaho state championship as high school senior. The freshman threw for 207 yards on 17-for-35 passing.

Harris helped the Vikings rally from an early 9-0 deficit to take an 18-15 lead on his diving plunge into the end zone after a four-yard scramble in the third.

Fullback Steve Later, from Brighton High, scored Ricks' other touchdown.

The Vikings, who won their seventh Western States Football League championship this season, finished with a 10-1 mark. Butler improved to 12-0.