Jake Riedel (South Milwaukee, Wis./South Milwaukee H.S.) scored from two yards out in overtime and Anthony Curry (Merrillville, Ind./Merrillville H.S.) intercepted a Davidson pass, his second pick of the game, on the Wildcats’ possession as Valparaiso came from 18 points down to earn a 35-29 victory in front of 4,178 at Brown Field on Homecoming.
Ross Wiemer (Burlington, Wis./Burlington H.S.) totaled a career high 170 yards on 22 carries and scored three touchdowns as Valpo rushed for 351 yards on the afternoon to rally from a 21-3 deficit late in the second quarter. Riedel also ran for a career best 75 yards on 14 carries.
“Ross had a great running game for us today,” head coach Stacy Adams said. “He came out and ran hard while Jake gave him breathers and produced himself running hard inside.”
Davidson (2-3, 1-2 PFL) opened the game by marching down field in eight plays and finding the end zone as Kenny Mantuo scored around the left side from nine yards out. After the Crusaders went three-and-out on their first possession, the Wildcats against drove in Valpo territory. The Brown and Gold appeared to get a stop on a fourth-and-seven, but back-to-back offside penalties kept the drive alive. A Chad Barnes nine yard run up the middle made it 14-0 Davidson after one quarter.
Valpo found the scoreboard with 12:31 to play before halftime as David Hamaker (Plano, Texas/West H.S.) kicked a 32-yard field goal to cap a 14 play drive that took nearly eight minutes off of the clock.
Ryan Alexander extended the Davidson lead to 18, 21-3, with 5:20 to play in the second quarter as he connected with Justin Williams on a screen pass that went for a 32-yard touchdown.
The Crusaders put three more points on the scoreboard just before halftime and then dodged another bullet. Hamaker made a 40-yard field goal with 17 seconds remaining in the stanza. Davidson returned the kickoff to the Valpo 48-yard line and Alexander’s desperation heave was caught in the end zone by Kirk Konert for a touchdown. However, a penalty of an ineligible receiver down field negated the score and kept the Crusaders within 21-6 at the break.
“We challenged our kids at halftime to come out and play four quarters,” Adams said. “They could have come out the second half and gave up but they didn’t. That’s a large testament to the character of this football team.”
Play hard is what Valpo did in the second half. The Crusaders took the second half kickoff and moved down field, scoring on an eight-yard touchdown run up the middle by Wiemer to close within eight.
On Davidson’s third play of the third quarter, Alexander had his pass intercepted by Kyle Himmelwright (Coplay, Pa./Whitehall H.S.) at the Wildcats’ 41. The Crusaders utilized the field position, and moved into Hamaker’s range, where he connected on a career-long 43-yard field goal with 5:36 to play in the quarter and cut the deficit to 21-16.
The Wildcats drove to the Crusader 32 on their next drive and Konert, who doubles as the punter, pinned Valpo back at its own one-yard line with a punt and Davidson went to the fourth quarter with a five-point lead.
Valpo went 99 yards in eight plays, capped as Wiemer took a pitch through a hole on the right side and scampered into the end zone from 49 yards out to give the Crusaders the lead. The two-point conversion failed, but Valpo held a 22-21 advantage with 13:31 to play in the game.
After another Davidson punt, Valpo moved 80 yards in 4:20 to add to its lead. Warren Arnold (Mundelein, Ill./Mundelein H.S.) found Matt Dorow (Fond du Lac, Wis./Fond du Lac H.S.) over the middle for 33 yards and Riedel, Wiemer, and Arnold rushed the rest of the way. Wiemer took a pitch up the middle from 17 yards out for his third score of the day to increase Valpo’s lead to eight with 6:11 to play in regulation.
Davidson responded with a 10-play drive, converting a fourth-and-four to stay alive. Mantuo scored from a yard out and Alexander connected with Konert on the two-point conversion to tie the game at 29 with 1:47 left to play.
Valpo moved down field without any timeouts remaining and got in position for a field goal at the Davidson 26, but time expired before the snap, sending the game to overtime.
The Wildcats won the toss and elected to go on defense first. Wiemer carried twice and Arnold connected with Dorow for 13 yards on third down to set up a first and goal at the five. Two plays later Riedel went off the left side of the line for the touchdown, but the point after attempt was wide.
The Crusader defense needed to step up after Barnes rushed for 14 yards on Davidson’s first play. On third and eight at he nine, Curry stepped in front of the pass for the interception to seal Valpo’s Homecoming victory.
“Curry has been our most consistent defender all season and is a stand out for us,” said Adams. “He made that big interception to secure our win.”
Valpo finished the game with 441 yards of total offense, 317 of which came in the second half and overtime. Davidson had 293 yards of total offense, but just 116 after intermission.
Alexander finished the game 14-of-26 passing for 142 yards but through three interceptions for the Wildcats while Barnes had 75 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Valparaiso (2-3, 1-1) will remain home next Saturday after against Butler in the Battle for the Hoosier Helmet. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. with all the action carried live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network.
Game Notes: The win was Valpo’s first ever against Davidson in six games … a dedication of the newly renovated Brown Field took place prior to the game and included former Crusader and Green Bay Packer Fuzzy Thurston … Valpo was +3 in turnovers on the afternoon and is now +9 through five games this season … with 75 yards passing, Arnold moved into 10th place on Valpo’s career passing list with 2,705 career yards, passing Jon Dimitri (1965-1967) … Curry now has four interceptions on the season … his picks against Davidson came on the final play of the first half and the final play of overtime … Hamaker had one career field goal before making three on Saturday … Dorow had a career-high 46 yards receiving … Himmelwright and Sean Dillon (Oak Lawn, Ill./Mount Carmel H.S.) led the Crusader defense with eight tackles.