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Greenway against Reiff on Sunday

Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Chad Greenway, a Mount Vernon native, stands on the sideline during the first half of a game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 15 in Minneapolis. (AP photo) 1 / 2
Detroit Lions offensive tackle Riley Reiff (71) blocks Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews (52) during the second quarter of an NFL football game on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. (Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)2 / 2

MINNEAPOLIS — Riley Reiff’s Lions and Chad Greenway’s Vikings opened the season against each other with optimism. They’re finishing against each other in frustration.

“It’s been a tough season, and there have been a few things that haven’t gone our way, but you want to finish strong,” Greenway said Friday in an interview with The Daily Republic. “It’s important to take some pride and try and go out there and finish strong.”

This weekend, Reiff, a native of Parkston, and Greenway, a native of Mount Vernon, will play their final game of the season in a matchup that pits them against each other in an NFC North Division battle. At noon Sunday, the Lions (7-8) and the Vikings (4-10-1) will both try to finish the season on a high note, despite disappointing seasons in which both failed to qualify for the playoffs.

In terms of wins and losses, this season has been tough on Reiff and Greenway, who were both named high school South Dakota Gatorade Players of the Year. They also both chose Iowa for college, were named All-Americans and became firstround selections in the NFL Draft.

But as Reiff lines up at his offensive tackle position across from Greenway at linebacker on Sunday, football fans across South Dakota will be watching the game with an extra sense of pride. In what is the last week of the regular season, their teams match up for the second time this year, this time on Mall of America Field in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. It is also the final NFL game in the Metrodome’s 31-year history, giving the Vikings extra incentive to win as they look forward to eventually inhabiting a new stadium.

“It’s been a tough place to play,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said at a press conference earlier this week. “I know this, their fans are going to want to close that stadium out with a win. The Vikings are going to want to close it out with a win and it’s our job to make sure that the last game played there is a Lions victory.”

Reiff declined an interview request from The Daily Republic this week. Staying out of the limelight is nothing new for Reiff, who was also a three-time all-state football player and three-time Class B state high school wrestling champion for Parkston. He was invited to New York to attend the 2012 NFL Draft, but instead chose to be at home in Parkston near family and friends. The Lions’ media relations staff told The Daily Republic, through a message from Reiff, that he would be willing to talk about the season and the matchup against the Vikings after Sunday’s game.

Reiff’s Lions were considered the favorites to win the division at the beginning of the month, holding a 7-5 record after a 40-10 win over the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving afternoon. But December has been anything but merry for Detroit. The Lions are on a threegame losing streak, dropping games to Philadelphia, Baltimore and the New York Giants during the month. Detroit was eliminated from playoff contention after last week’s 23-20 loss to New York.

The Lions opened the season winning three of their first four games. That included their 34-24 win over the Vikings Sept. 8 at Ford Field to open the season. Reiff was commended after the game by Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan for his work on Vikings All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen.

During a press conference leading up to this week’s game, Schwartz was asked about Reiff’s ability to finish the year strong against Allen with another performance like he had in the first week.

“I think that you have to look at the individual games, trends, highs and lows and that just doesn’t come from just one opponent,” Schwartz said. “I think Riley’s had a good year for us. Our offensive line has protected well. We have run the ball well. Riley has a lot to do with that. He has tough matchups every single week and Sunday will be no different.”

While Reiff’s team has missed the playoffs both years he’s been in the league, Greenway and the Vikings qualified last year but lost in the wild card round to the Packers. As a league veteran, Greenway — an eighth-year pro — said accepting the highs and lows of the NFL is important to becoming a successful player.

In high school, Greenway led thencooperative Stickney-Mount Vernon to back-to-back state titles. He was a threetime all-state football player and also won titles in track and field.

Greenway started his 100th career game in the NFL this year. Other achievements on the season include matching his single-season high for interceptions with three, leading the team in tackles (129) and starting all 15 games, all of that despite playing games this year with a fractured wrist.

After the season is over, Greenway could be selected to his third straight Pro Bowl. He was also an All-Pro selection last year. Despite the individual achievements, he’d love to be playing in the postseason.

“The NFL is a tough business,” Greenway said. “To be able to beat a divisional opponent in the final week would put icing on the cake. There is motivation in this game.”