Valparaiso hung with preseason Pioneer Football League favorite Dayton for 30 minutes, but the Flyers pulled away in the second half to defeat the Crusaders 48-14 on Saturday afternoon at Welcome Stadium in Dayton, Ohio.
Dayton struck first as Taylor Harris found the end zone on its third drive of the game, rushing into the end zone from 19 yards out to put Flyers on top 7-0 with 9:08 to play in the opening quarter.
The Crusaders wasted little time answering the Flyer score. Nate Goergen (Golden, Colo./Golden H.S.) found Sean McCarty (Waukesha, Wis./West H.S.) wide open deep over the middle on third down for a 58-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at seven just 1:16 after Dayton’s score. It is the second time the duo has connected with one another for a touchdown this season.
Gary Hunter took the ensuing kickoff back 82 yards for a touchdown to put the Flyers back on top. Dayton took the lead into the second quarter and added to its advantage when Steve Valentino scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak, giving the Flyers a 21-7 lead at the half.
Valpo had its chances in the second quarter, driving inside the Dayton 10-yardline before turning the ball over on downs. The Crusaders also failed on a fourth down conversion at the Flyer 35-yardline and missed a 45-yard field goal attempt just before intermission.
“You have to be able to finish drives,” head coach Dale Carlson said. “We got into their territory several times but did not make the plays we needed to in order to finish.”
The Crusaders tallied 151 total yards in the first half after entering the game averaging 188 yards per contest.
The third quarter was all Dayton. Harris scored his second and third touchdowns of the game with runs of five yards and a yard, extending the lead to 35-7 heading into the fourth. The Flyers forced Valpo into -8 yards of offense in the third quarter.
“We didn’t come out the second half and play like I thought we should have,” Carlson added. “Dayton stepped up and we didn’t respond.”
Andrew Zapinski scored on a two-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter before Valpo put together one more scoring drive. A 12-play, 68-yard drive was capped by Bobby Wysocki’s (Calumet City, Ill./Thornwood H.S.) one-yard run for his second touchdown of the season.
The Flyers added one more late score on a 69-yard run by Zapinski.
Dayton (4-1, 2-0 PFL) finished the game with 443 yards of total offense, as Valentino completed 14-of-25 passes for 166 yards. He also rushed for 60 yards.
The Crusaders finished with 200 yards of offense, with Goergen connecting on 21-of-30 for 167 yards. McCarty had four grabs for 82 yards.
Valparaiso (0-5, 0-2) will return to Brown Field next Saturday as the Crusaders host Marist on Parents Day. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
Game Notes: Antonio Lovelace (Akron, Ohio/Buchtel H.S.) had his first five collegiate receptions for 32 yards … punter Greg Wood (Libertyville, Ill./Libertyville H.S.) had seven punts for a 46.7-yard average, including three of 50+ yards … Grant Buschong (Ionia, Mich./Ionia H.S.) had his first career interception … Dayton leads the all-time series 18-2 and has won seven straight meetings.