Valparaiso (0-0, 0-0 PFL)
Game #1: Thursday, Aug. 30, 7 p.m.
vs. Saint Joseph’s (Ind.) (0-0, 0-0 GLVC)
Brown Field (5,000 - ProGrass) - Valparaiso, Ind.
This Week in Crusader Football: The 2012 football season kicks off on Thursday night at Brown Field, as the Crusaders host Saint Joseph’s (Ind.) under the lights at 7 p.m. The game against the Pumas kicks off the 92nd season of intercollegiate football at Valpo and begins the third season in the tenure of head coach Dale Carlson.
On the Air: For the eighth straight season, the Valpo Sports Radio Network will be home to all 11 Crusader football games in 2012. All 11 games can be heard live on WAKE (1500 AM, Valparaiso), online through www.valpoathletics.com or by downloading the WAKE Radio app for Android or iPhone devices. Todd Ickow will handle all the play-by-play, with Travis Lucian adding the color commentary this week. The game against the Pumas is one of two which will feature live video through the Valpo Athletics website as well this season, while live stats will also be available through www.valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Dale Carlson: Dale Carlson is 1-21, starting his third season with the Crusaders, and 111-124-3 overall entering his 24th season as a collegiate head coach. He arrived at Valpo from Ohio Dominican where he began the Ohio Dominican program from scratch in 2004, just as he did at Tri-State University prior to his tenure with the Panthers. He is the 16th head coach in Valpo history, and just the seventh since 1946.
Series Notes: Valpo opens the season this Thursday night with its second most-common opponent of all time, as the Crusaders and Pumas have faced off on 63 occasions on the gridiron, a series which dates all the way back to 1921. Saint Joseph’s holds a narrow 33-28-2 advantage in the all-time series over Valpo, including wins in each of the last five meetings, most recently at Brown Field on Sept. 18, 2010. The Crusaders’ last win in the series came on Oct. 20, 2001.
Wrapping Up 2011: The Crusaders captured their first win of the Dale Carlson era in the home finale last year by defeating Campbell, 34-31. Valpo ended the season 1-10 and 1-7 in PFL play, but returns plenty of experience for 2012, as six starters are back on both sides of the ball.
Scouting Saint Joseph’s: The Pumas open the 2012 season coming off of a 2-8 season in 2011. St. Joe’s has been picked to finish fourth in the inaugural season of football sponsored by the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Second-year head coach Cory Sanders returns 19 starters from a squad that placed fourth in the Great Lakes Football Conference last season. Back under center for Saint Joseph’s is junior QB Billy VandeMerkt, who has thrown over 2,500 yards in his career, while sophomore tight end Tyler Callaghan earned Second Team All-GLFC honors as a freshman, making 25 catchers for 294 yards and two touchdowns.
Valpo in Season Openers: The Crusaders are 46-42-3 (.522) all-time in season openers, but has dropped the first game of the year each of the last four seasons. Last year, Valpo lost 49-35 to Franklin at Brown Field on Sept. 3. The Crusaders’ last season-opening triumph came Sept. 1, 2007, a 28-21 victory over Saint Francis (Ill.).
Opening at Home a Rare Occurrence of Late: Valpo is opening the season at home for the second straight season, but it marks just the third season opener at Brown Field since 2002, the other being the 2007 victory over Saint Francis (Ill.). The Crusaders are 23-24-1 all-time when opening the year at home, and has posted a 48-41-2 mark all-time in their home openers.
Thursday Night Lights: The game with Saint Joseph’s will be just the third-ever game played under the lights at Brown Field (installed in 2010) and will be the first Thursday night game at the facility. Valpo has opened the season on a Thursday evening in two of the last four years, but both times on the road: 2010 at Western Illinois and 2008 and Saint Francis (Ill.).
Three All-League Selections Return: Second Team All-PFL honoree Greg Wood, who earned First Team accolades as a sophomore, is back for his final season as a Crusader. The senior punter finished 2011 averaging 42.0 yards per punt, second in the PFL. He launched 15 punts 50 or more yards, including a career best 76-yard kick. In addition, a pair of Honorable Mention All-PFL honorees return on defense: fifth-year linebacker Cody Gokan (73 tackles) and junior linebacker Pat Derbak (87 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss).
Preseason Honorees: Wood and Derbak both have earned various preseason honors. Wood was tabbed a Preseason All-PFL honoree, as released by the league office, and was also a member of the Preseason First Team All-PFL squad as announced in Phil Steele’s 2012 FCS College Football Preview. Meanwhile, Derbak was a Second Team selection in Phil Steele’s publication as well.
Hoffman Returns Under Center: Redshirt sophomore quarterback Eric Hoffman returns for his second season as the incumbent starter after seeing most of the snaps in his rookie season. Hoffman completed nearly 60% of his pass attempts in his first year, throwing for 2302 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Team Captains: Valpo will have a pair of captains for the 2012 season. Senior tight end Mike Gerton will represent the offense, while senior cornerback Alan Porter Jr. will represent the Crusader defense.
Crusaders Picked 10th in Preseason Poll: The head coaches selected Valparaiso to finish 10th in the Pioneer Football League this season according to the preseason poll. The prognosticators selected San Diego to take home the 2012 championship.
Back in the Backfield: Sophomore running back Gabe Ali-Eli made an impact as a true freshman in 2011. Ali-El earned the most carries of any running back, carrying 69 times for 231 yards and one TD, and also tallied a team-best 35 receptions for 365 yards and three scores.