Valparaiso was within three points of host San Diego at halftime on Saturday afternoon, but two big plays by the Toreros in the second half turned the momentum of the game as the Crusaders fell 30-10 at Torero Stadium in San Diego, Calif.
“We challenged the kids to keep fighting after last week’s game and I think they responded well,” head coach Dale Carlson said. “I was pleased with our effort today as we competed for four quarters.”
San Diego took advantage of a short field on its first drive of the game to score a touchdown on a seven-yard pass from Mason Mills to Nick Scudellari, jumping in front 7-0 less than four minutes into the contest. After the Crusaders went three-and-out for the second straight time the Toreros increased the lead to 10-0 on a 36-yard field goal by Stanley Shurson.
Valpo’s defense then stiffened the rest of the half, keeping the Crusaders in the football game. Six tackles for loss, including three quarterback sacks, in the opening 30 minutes shifted the momentum and the Crusader offense responded.
Eric Lemon (Stevensville, Mich./Lakeshore H.S.) connected with Kevin Becker (Cincinnati, Ohio/Anderson H.S.) in the back of the end zone from seven yards out with 2:53 remaining before halftime to pull Valpo within three.
“Lemon’s touchdown throw was an excellent pass under pressure,” Carlson added.
The Brown and Gold’s defense stayed strong on the final drive of the half, and Shurson missed a field goal as time expired, keeping within 10-7 at the break.
San Diego extended its lead a minute into the third quarter, with its first big play of the game. Mills found Godfrey Smith on the sideline and the receiver made a defender miss and raced 59 yards for a touchdown, increasing the lead to 17-7.
An interception on the Crusaders’ first offensive play of the half gave the Toreros good field position again, but the Valpo defense held the hosts to a field goal, making it 20-7.
Mike Pando (Hamilton, Mich./Hamilton H.S.) converted his first collegiate field goal, a 29-yard attempt, with 3:45 to play in the third, bringing Valpo within ten.
San Diego drove again, and, on fourth-and-20 at the Crusader 31 Mills found an open Colin King for a 31-yard touchdown pass late in the quarter to push the advantage to 27-10.
“We can’t give up the big plays,” Carlson concluded. “Those two touchdown passes were the difference.”
Shurson added his third field goal of the game, a 34-yarder, in the fourth quarter to close the scoring.
Valpo finished the game with 261 yards of total offense, including 212 threw the air. Lemon completed 19-of-33 passes for 182 yards. Sean McCarty (Waukesha, Wis./West H.S.) had seven grabs for 80 yards while Becker hauled in four passes for 67 yards.
San Diego (3-5, 3-2 PFL) finished the day with 430 total yards of offense, including 327 through the air. Mills completed 27-of-35 passes, including 10 to Smith for 151 yards.
Adrian Gober (Gary, Ind./Merrillville H.S.) led Valpo’s defense with 13 tackles, including 10 solo stops, while Sean Graves (Akron, Ohio/Buchtel H.S.) and Cody Gokan (Round Lake, Ill./Mundelein H.S.) each added eight stops.
Valparaiso (0-8, 0-5) will return home to Brown Field for the final time this season next Saturday as the Crusader host Butler. The “Battle for the Hoosier Helmet” and Senior Day will kickoff at 1 p.m.
Game Notes: Lemon’s touchdown pass was the first of his collegiate career while Becker’s grab was his first scoring reception in college … Brian Plachinski (South Milwaukee, Wis./South Milwaukee H.S.) had two quarterback sacks for the Crusaders … San Diego leads the all-time series 13-5.