Valparaiso’s defense intercepted four passes, including one that was returned for a touchdown, and the Crusaders scored 24 points in the first 8:09 of the second half on the way to a 47-14 victory over Campbell on Saturday afternoon in Buies Creek, N.C.
Ross Wiemer (Burlington, Wis./Burlington H.S.) rushed for 148 yards on 21 carries as the Crusaders rushed for 346 yards on the afternoon.
“We played very well today,” head coach Stacy Adams said. “Wee got good play from a lot of different guys. Other than the opening kickoff, all three sides of the game (offensive, defense, and special teams) did well.”
Campbell found the scoreboard just 13 seconds into the game as Brandon Chandler returned the opening kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown.
The Crusaders responded, moving down field in eight plays before settling for an Andrej Skiba (Homewood, Ill./Homewood-Flossmoor H.S.) 23-yard field goal at the 10:59 mark to cut the deficit to 7-3.
The Valpo defense forced a three-and-out on the Camels first offensive possession of the game, and Eli Crawford (Bogart, Ga./North Oconee H.S.) intercepted a pass late in the quarter to end another Campbell possession.
The ensuing Crusader possession saw Valpo march down field. On the second play of the second quarter, Wiemer took an inside hand off and went nine yards up the middle for his 10th rushing touchdown of the season to give the Brown and Gold the lead.
The Camels drove late in the half down to the Valpo six-yard line, before Kyle Himmelwirght (Coplay, Pa./Whitehall H.S.) made an acrobatic interception in the back of the end zone with under 30 seconds to play to stop the drive and give the Crusaders a 10-7 lead at the break.
Valparaiso held Campbell to just 89 total yards in the opening 30 minute while accumulating 204 of their own, including 187 on the ground. Wiemer had 12 carries for 82 yards before the break.
The Crusaders added to their lead on the opening drive of the second half. Wiemer carried the ball six times for 48 yards, moving Valpo down to the Campbell nine-yard line. Valpo had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Skiba though, increasing the lead to 13-7 with 11:42 to play in the third quarter.
Anthony Curry (Merrillville, Ind./Merrillville H.S.) intercepted his Pioneer Football League-leading sixth pass of the season and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown just three plays later as the Brown and Gold built a 13-point advantage.
Himmelwright picked off his second pass of the game just two plays later and returned the ball inside the Camels 10-yard line. A third-and-goal penalty against Valpo was accepted, and instead of kicking a field goal for a fourth down play, the Crusaders took advantage of replaying third down. Matt Upshaw (Indianapolis, Ind./Warren Central H.S.) scrambled and found Desmond Lewis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Homestead H.S.) open in the back of the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown pass and Valpo had 17 points on the board in the first six minutes of the second half.
A Valpo three-and-out led to a Campbell punt and John Popper (Dublin, Ohio/Coffman H.S.) fielded a punt at the Camels 48 and ran straight up field, diving into the end zone for his first punt return touchdown of his career, giving the Crusaders a 34-7 lead with 6:51 to play in the quarter.
Jake Riedel (South Milwaukee, Wis./South Milwaukee H.S.) added to the scoring for the Crusaders with 10:41 to play scoring from two yards out for his fifth rushing touchdown of the season and increasing Valpo’s lead to 41-7.
Campbell (1-9, 0-7 PFL) found the end zone again with 8:46 to play, ending Valpo’s run of 41 unanswered points as C.J. Oates scored on a 14-yard run.
Valpo added on late touchdown as fifth-year senior fullback Josh Regent-Smith (Brookfield, Wis./Pius H.S.) scored from 10 yards out for the first time in his career.
Valpo finished the game with 381 yards of total offense while limiting Campbell to just 158 for the game. The Crusader defense recorded 11 tackles for loss in addition to forcing five turnovers.
“The offense managed the clock well today,” Adams added. “The defense has done a great job all year of creating turnovers. It was good to put pressure on the quarterback to make him make mistakes.”
Valparaiso (3-7, 2-5) will wrap up the 2008 season next Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders entertain Drake on Senior Day. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. at Brown Field, with all the action carried live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and online at www.valpoathletics.com.
Game Notes: This was the first meeting ever between the two schools … Upshaw made his first collegiate start against the Fighting Camels … the opening field goal marked the seventh time in 10 games Valpo has scored on its first drive of the game … Skiba’s field goal in the first quarter was his first collegiate attempt … Crawford’s interception in the first quarter was his third of the season and fifth of his career … Himmelwright’s two picks give four on the year and eight for his career … Curry has nine career interceptions and the touchdown was the first of his career … Lewis’ touchdown grab was the second of the season for the redshirt-freshman … Wiemer recorded his second career 100-yard rushing game … temperatures reached near 80 degrees with winds blowing from 20-30 MPH … the 47 points were the most by a Valpo team since the 2006 season opener against Wisconsin Lutheran.