Valparaiso led through three quarters on Saturday afternoon in Deerfield, Ill. but Trinity International scored a touchdown early in the fourth and made several defensive stands as the Trojans defeated the Crusaders 17-13.
The game was a defensive struggle for nearly two quarters before Trinity International broke the ice with a Mark Wilcox 22 yard field goal with 2:06 left before halftime. A Valpo fumble set the Trojans up in Crusader territory again late in the half, but Eli Crawford (Bogart, Ga./North Oconee H.S.) picked off a pass from Kyle Bennett and returned it 74 yards to the Trojan 10-yard line with 25 seconds remaining in the half. Two plays later, Warren Arnold (Mundelein, Ill./Mundelein H.S.) found Jeff Horton (Saint Louis, Mo./Lutheran North H.S.) over the middle for a 10-yard scoring strike. The extra point attempt was blocked and Valpo led 6-3 at intermission.
Another Crusader fumble, one of four on the afternoon, to start the third quarter helped put Trinity International (1-1) back in front. Deon Dukes caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Bennett just 2:21 into the second half, making it 10-6 Trojans.
An eight-play, 62-yard drive by Valpo late in the third quarter put the Brown and Gold back in front. Arnold scored from three yards out on a quarterback keeper and the Crusaders took a 13-10 lead into the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Brennan Smith hauled in a 13-yard scoring pass from Bennett to cap a nine-play, 59-yard drive by the Trojans, with what proved to be the final points of the game.
Valpo had several chances late, but a missed field goal and a fumble on the Crusaders next two possessions hampered the comeback efforts.
“It was good to see the defense play well,” head coach Stacy Adams said. “But our offense needs to add support as well for us to succeed.”
Arnold finished the game throwing for 144 yards while rushing for a game-high 92 yards on the ground. Horton added 67 yards on the ground and the Crusaders finished the game with a 316-223 advantage in total offense. Penalties hurt Valpo as well, as the Crusaders committed nine for 94 yards in addition to the four turnovers.
“We need to get back at it this week to reach our goals of having a winning season,” Adams added.
Valparaiso (1-1) will continue its four-game road trip next Saturday as the Crusaders head to Kalamazoo. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. CDT.