Valparaiso (0-6, 0-2 PFL)
at San Diego (3-2, 2-0 PFL)
Game #7: Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, 4 p.m. CT
Torero Stadium (6,000) – San Diego, Calif.
This Week in Valpo Football: The Valparaiso University football team will board a plane for the first time this season in advance of Saturday’s game as the team makes its way to America’s Finest City to renew a Pioneer Football League matchup with defending league champion and perennial favorite San Diego. Valpo will close out a stretch of playing the league’s top three teams based on the preseason poll in the first three weeks of PFL play.
Previously: Valpo enjoyed its most productive offensive day of the year in Saturday’s 41-28 loss to Dayton, accumulating 447 yards of offense including 299 on the ground. Quarterback Chris Duncan led the way with 148 yards passing and 154 rushing, while Ollie Reese provided a 95-yard kickoff return touchdown. Valpo was down by just seven with the ball in the third quarter, but a drive stalled out at midfield. The team went 1-of-5 on fourth down.
Dual Threat Quarterback: Chris Duncan rushed for 154 yards on Oct. 12 vs. Dayton, becoming the first Valpo player to exceed 150 rushing yards in a game in seven years. The last Valpo player to do so was Jake Hutson on Nov. 3, 2012, when he went for 248 yards in a game at Campbell. Duncan was the first Valpo player to rush for 150 yards in a game at Brown Field since 2008, when Ross Wiemer went for 170 against Davidson. Duncan had the most rushing yards by a Valpo quarterback in a single game since Sept. 1, 2007, when Warren Arnold had 172 against Saint Francis. Duncan had the second-highest single-game rushing total of any PFL player this season to date, behind only Jacksonville’s Calvin Turner (169 on Oct. 5 at Dayton). His single-game yards per rush average of 11.0 was the best in the PFL this year.
Big Gain Alert: Quarterback Chris Duncan ran for a 76-yard touchdown in the Oct. 12 game against Dayton, Valpo’s longest rushing play since Jarrett Morgan had an 86 yarder on Sept. 16, 2017 at Trinity International. The Duncan run was Valpo’s longest offensive play of the season. Morgan’s play in 2017 did not go for a TD, so Duncan’s was Valpo’s longest scoring run since Ozzie Young had a 76 yarder on Nov. 11, 1995 against Kentucky Wesleyan. Duncan provided Valpo’s longest rushing play against a Division-I opponent since Young’s 84 yarder on Oct. 22, 1994 against Evansville. It was the longest rush by any PFL player this season. He is one of 22 players in the FCS nation with a rush of 76 yards or longer this year.
Ground Game: As a team, Valpo totaled 299 yards on the ground on Oct. 12 vs. Dayton after entering the game with 72 marking the team’s season high. It was Valpo’s top team rushing performance since the aforementioned Nov. 3, 2012 game at Campbell, when the team totaled 304 yards against the Fighting Camels. The game against the Flyers marked Valpo’s second-best rushing performance since the start of the 2009 season and best in a home game since accumulating 351 yards on Oct. 11, 2008 vs. Davidson. In addition, the 447 yards of total offense against Dayton was a season best.
The Reese Return: Among the highlights of Valpo’s 28-point output on Oct. 12 against Dayton was a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Ollie Reese, the first of his career and the first by a Valpo player this season. He turned in the second-longest kickoff return in the PFL this season behind Dayton’s Jake Chisholm, who had a 97 yarder on Sept. 21 vs. Duquesne. Through Oct. 13, Reese is one of just 15 players in the FCS nation with a kickoff return of 95 yards or longer this season. Reese is ranked 20th nationally and leads the PFL with 810 all-purpose yards.
Punt-Free Football: Another noteworthy tidbit on Oct. 12 vs. Dayton is that Valpo did not punt the football in the contest. This was the first time Valpo did not punt in a game in over 18 years.
Latsonas on Verge of Record: Valpo kicker Dimitrios Latsonas tied the program record for career made PATs by going 4-for-4 last week at Dayton. The Valpo kicker is currently even with Andrew McCawley (2003-2005) with 83 made extra points in his career, needing one more to take over sole ownership of the program record.
Latsonas, Turner Among Nation’s Active Leaders: Fifth-year senior Nick Turner is up to 219 career tackles, making him the program’s active leader. In addition, Turner has moved into a tie for the active lead in career tackles among all PFL players with Butler’s Luke Sennett. The PFL pair is tied for 33rd nationally among active tackle leaders in Division-I FCS. Valpo kicker Dimitrios Latsonas is 23rd nationally among active FCS players in career extra points with 83 and 22nd in made field goals with 24. He’s third on the active career PFL list in both categories behind Butler’s Drew Bevelhimer and Stetson’s Jonny Messina.
Following Valpo Football: This week’s game will be broadcast on the West Coast Conference Digital Network courtesy of San Diego Athletics. The WCC Network is available free of charge. Todd Ickow will have the hometown call alongside Brandon Riley (filling in for Brandon Vickrey) on 95.1 FM Valparaiso WVUR. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Series Notes: The Toreros are back on the schedule this season after a two-year hiatus. The most recent matchup was on Oct. 22, 2016 in San Diego, a 49-10 victory for the hosts. The 2014 meeting was the closest in recent years, as Valpo led 27-26 in San Diego entering the final play of the game. With all zeros on the clock, San Diego converted a 44-yard desperation pass to win 32-27. Valpo is 5-19 in the all-time set and has lost 13 straight since a 41-34 win on Oct. 18, 2003 at Brown Field.
Scouting San Diego: For the ninth consecutive season, San Diego was tabbed as the preseason favorite based on a survey of the league’s head coaches. Six Toreros were featured on the preseason all-conference squad – WR Michael Bandy, RB Emilio Martinez, DL Nick Friedel, LB Kama Kamaka, P Tanner Kuljian and RS Michael Armstead. Bandy is second in the PFL in receiving yards per game at 101.8 and receptions per game at 6.4. Martinez leads the team with 64.2 rushing yards per contest, while quarterback Reid Sinnett has thrown for a PFL-best 347.6 yards per game. Sinnett ranks second nationally in FCS in completion percentage, passing yards per game and passing efficiency. San Diego is coming off a 37-17 road win over Davidson that saw Sinnett throw for five touchdown passes while the Wildcat offense was shutout in the second half. San Diego enters this week riding a 31-game PFL winning streak, the longest active conference winning streak in all of Division I. The team’s last league loss came on Oct. 10, 2015 at Dayton. The Toreros are 40-1 in PFL play over their last 41 league games. San Diego has scored 30 points or more in eight straight games dating back to last year. The program has won 35 PFL home games in a row dating back to Oct. 9, 2010. The Toreros have won seven of the last eight PFL championships. They’re under the direction of seventh-year head coach Dale Lindsey.
Familiar Territory for Figaro: First-year Valpo wide receivers coach Devin Figaro will face his former team this week as he previously served as a graduate assistant and assistant wide receivers coach for the Toreros. He was at San Diego from the spring of 2016 to 2017, working under head coach Dale Lindsey and current offensive coordinator Christian Taylor, who was then the wide receivers coach. Figaro spent time as the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame College between his stints with the two PFL programs. During his time with the Toreros, Figaro was part of the first non-scholarship program to win an FCS playoff game in 2016.
Super Strong Schedule: Since the PFL combined from two divisions into one in 2005, this marks the first time Valpo has opened the league slate by playing the teams picked to finish first through third in the PFL in their first three league contests. The first nine Valpo opponents of the season finished the 2018 season with a winning record.
TFL Time: Valpo accumulated a dozen tackles for loss in the PFL opener against Drake, the team’s most in a single game since Sept. 20, 2014 at William Jewell (12). The last time Valpo had that many TFL in a PFL game was Sept. 25, 2010 vs. Drake (13). There were only 14 prior instances of an FCS Division I team achieving 12 or more TFL in a game this season.
Turner Tackle Tidbits: In the PFL opener against Drake, fifth-year senior Nick Turner became the first Valpo player with 3.5 TFL in a single game since John Guilford on Oct. 17, 2015 vs. Dayton. He equaled the most by a Valpo player since Guilford’s 4.0 on Nov. 8, 2014 vs. Butler. Turner also became just the third PFL player with 3.5 or more TFL in a game this season, joining San Diego’s Kevin Glajchen (4.0 vs. Harvard) and Morehead State’s Vaughn Taylor (3.5 vs. Union). Turner is up to 7.0 TFL for the season, tied with Davidson’s Bryce Perry-Martin for the league lead.
New-Look Receiving Corps: Valpo features a youthful group of wide receivers, many of whom have taken on considerably larger roles since the 2018 campaign wrapped up. Valpo’s top five receivers in terms of both total receptions and receiving yards from last year have since departed. Kyle Cartales (13 catches, 137 receiving yards in 2018) was the leading returning player in that area. Of the team’s 185 receptions last season, 142 (76.76 percent) were by players who did not return for 2019. In addition, 2040 of the team’s 2455 receiving yards (83 percent) from a year ago departed following the season.
Two-Pick Showing: Jamari Booker grabbed a pair of interceptions in the Sept. 28 game against Charleston, becoming the first player in the Pioneer Football League with a multi-interception game this season. At that point in the year, he was one of 26 players in the FCS nation with a multi-interception game in 2019. The last Valpo player to pull down multiple picks in a single game was Austin Petrie on Oct. 28, 2017 vs. Morehead State. Valpo has had five players with multi-interception games in the last five seasons – Josmar Diaz-Martinez (2015), Kellan Hughes (2015), Drew Snouffer (2016), Petrie and Booker. Booker lifted his career interception total to five.
Stopping the Run: Valpo allowed just 69 rushing yards on Sept. 28 against Charleston, the fewest rushing yards the team has surrendered in a game since holding Stetson to 67 on Sept. 30, 2017, which coincidentally was also a Homecoming game.
Under 20: The Valpo defense held an opponent under 20 points in the 19-13 loss to Charleston on Sept. 28. The team has held the opposition under 20 points eight times in the last six seasons and had won the previous six. This was Valpo’s first defeat in a game in which the defense allowed fewer than 20 points since Oct. 8, 2014 vs. Drake (L 17-9). It was the first time since at least 2001 that Valpo lost while allowing fewer than two touchdowns in a game.
Centennial Season: In addition to marking the start of a new head coaching tenure, 2019 is a significant season for Valpo football as the program is set to celebrate its 100-year history over the course of the campaign. Valpo Athletics is set to recognize individuals and teams from select eras at four games this season. The program has won 11 conference championships, including six in the Indiana Collegiate Conference and two in the Pioneer Football League. It’s also the 50th anniversary of the 1969 team that won an ICC crown, an anniversary that was celebrated at the Homecoming game on Sept. 28. In addition, Valpo retired the numbers of two University legends on Saturday at Brown Field. Garry Puetz ’73 and Fuzzy Thurston ’56 (posthumous) became the first players in program history to have their numbers retired. The use of No. 80 has been discontinued in honor of Thurston, while No. 71 has been retired for Puetz. Both were All-Americans in college and went on to win Super Bowl rings in the NFL – Puetz with Washington in 1982 and Thurston with the Green Bay Packers in the first two Super Bowls, his fifth and sixth NFL Championships.
Head Coach Landon Fox: After spending the last 11 seasons as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at the University of Dayton, the new man in charge of the Valpo football program is no stranger to the Pioneer Football League. Landon Fox’s teams held opponents to an average of 19 points per game during his time as the defensive coordinator at Dayton. He helped the Flyers finish with 10 winning seasons in his 11 years on staff and guided a defensive backfield that produced one All-American, four Academic All-Americans, two PFL Special Teams Players of the Year and three corners who were invited to NFL Rookie Minicamp. Prior to joining Dayton’s staff, Fox served as the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at Wayne State University in Detroit from 2005-2007. He also spent time as a defensive graduate assistant at Ball State University (2004), Dayton (2002-2003) and Lakeland College (2001). Fox began his coaching career as an assistant varsity coach at Preble Shawnee High School in Camden, Ohio during the 2000 season. During his playing days, Fox was a team captain and all-conference performer at Defiance College in Defiance, Ohio from 1995-1999 and graduated with a degree in physical education and health in May 2000 before earning his master’s degree in education from Lakeland in May 2002.
A Look Back at 2018: After enjoying its first winning season in 15 years in 2017, Valpo finished an injury-riddled campaign with a record of 2-9. The team topped rival Butler 35-17, beating the Bulldogs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2005. In addition, Valpo won on Senior Day for the fourth time in the last five years, sending the senior class out with a 48-30 win over Jacksonville in the home finale. The team produced a first-team all-PFL performer, a second-team all-PFL honoree, seven PFL Honorable Mention athletes, two Academic All-PFL First Team recipients, one Academic All-PFL Second Team achiever and two FCS National Bowl participants during the season.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Offensive Starters
- WR-x Ollie Reese, So. – Saw action in all 11 games and made four receptions as a true freshman in 2018… Made his first career TD catch in the 2019 season opener at Eastern Kentucky, a 61-yarder from Chris Duncan. After totaling four receptions for 35 yards all of last season, he had three grabs for 71 yards in the first game of his sophomore campaign… Matched his own 61-yard grab from the season opener with a 61-yard reception from Joe Mullen on Sept. 21 at Truman State, equaling the longest pass play by Valpo through the first three games of the season… Had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on Oct. 12 vs. Dayton… Father Steve is a financial wholesaler and mother Margie works at an antique shop in the city of Franklin… Has one sister, Bailey, who is a member of the University of Tennessee Knoxville Class of 2019… Father and grandfather both played college football… Father played football and baseball at Bridgewater College in Virginia and graduated in 1985.
- LT Bryce Biggs, R-Jr. – Made his first career start on Oct. 12 vs. Dayton.
- LG Sam Vas, Jr. – Appeared in all 11 games on Valpo’s offensive line last season… Majoring in mechanical engineering… Loves Star Wars and is good at solving Rubik’s Cubes.
- C Jack Jarnigan, R-Sr. – Has missed just one game since the start of the 2016 season…. Has lived in Minnesota, Oklahoma, Colorado, California and Illinois… Went on an exchange trip in fifth grade to Mexico and was there for two months… Team captain… Mother Liz is the Director of Athletics at Southern Illinois University and father Jeff is an assistant general manager and coach for the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League… Sister Mary is a teacher in Colorado Springs and sister Emily is a volleyball player at St. Olaf College.
- RG Braden Russell, R-Fr. – Majoring in mechanical engineering… Used to live in Oklahoma… Appeared in three games on Valpo’s offensive line in 2018.
- RT Aaron Byrd, R-Fr. – Made his collegiate debut on Nov. 10 of last season, his only collegiate game entering 2019… Was an all-district trumpet player in high school.
- TE Alex Kluck, R-So. – Played in seven games and made one catch for five yards in 2018… Went to a high school that made the playoffs in Wisconsin in 19 of 20 seasons at the time he graduated (Cedarburg)… Mother played a year of soccer at Green Bay in 1989 before suffering a career-ending injury… Father played rugby at MSOE from 1989-1994… Spent the 2018 summer working for his uncle’s ocean kayaking and clothing company in San Diego and giving kayaking tours… That uncle played college soccer at Vermont from 2001-2003… Made his first career TD catch on Sept. 28 vs. Charleston, hauling in a 3-yard toss from Jimmy Seewald.
- WR-z Deuce Larose, Jr. – Played in 18 career games over his first two seasons in 2017 and 2018… Played ice hockey in middle school and didn’t start playing tackle football until eighth grade… Father Dan played safety at Florida State… Majoring in exercise science/pre-med… Had four catches for 60 yards in his season debut on Sept. 14 at Central Connecticut… Made his first TD catch of the season on a 15-yard pass from Chris Duncan on Oct. 12 vs. Dayton.
- WR-slot JD Koehler, R-Sr. – Recovered a pair of Valpo on-side kicks in 2018 after previously no Valpo player had made an on-side kick recovery in over a decade… There were only five on-side kick recoveries in the entire PFL in 2018 and two of them were his…. Played in all 22 games over the 2017 and 2018 seasons including starting every game in 2018… Had four catches for 43 yards on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut.
- QB Chris Duncan, R-Jr. – Started the first three games of the season for Valpo including the season opener at Eastern Kentucky and threw his 17th career touchdown pass, a 61 yarder to Ollie Reese… Had a 76-yard TD run in the game against Dayton, Valpo’s longest since 1995… Saw action in 10 games at quarterback and made seven starts in 2018, when he went 124-of-244 through the air while racking up 1,781 passing yards and 14 touchdowns… Ranked seventh in the PFL with 178.1 passing yards per game, sixth in pass efficiency at 123.7 and seventh in total offense at 191.3… Was a child actor and made it in a Pussycat Dolls music video, “Wait a Minute.”… Had his fourth career rushing touchdown on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut. Also in the game against the Blue Devils, went 24-of-47 through the air, the most completions by a Valpo quarterback since 2017 and the most pass attempts by a Valpo player in a single game since 2015… Rushed for 154 yards and passed for 148 on Oct. 12 vs. Dayton, putting together Valpo’s top rushing performance in seven years and the team’s highest rushing total by a QB since 2007.
- RB Elias Early – Has started each of the last two weeks… Enters this week atop the running back depth chart with Kyle Cartales sidelined by an injury.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Defensive Starters
- DE Trejuan Purty, Jr. – Has transferred to Valpo after being on the team at East Tennessee State each of the last two seasons… Played in one game last year, appearing in a contest against Gardner Webb… Recovered a blocked punt on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut.
- DE Austin Martins, R-So. – Had 58 tackles at Modesto Junior College last season while racking up 17.5 TFL and nine sacks to lead the team in all three categories… Was a running back at Division-III Linfield College in Oregon in 2017… Majoring in civil engineering… Was one of three Valpo players with 3.0 TFL or more in the Oct. 5 game at Drake, as three of his five tackles came behind the line of scrimmage.
- DT Jordan Goebel, R-Jr. – Played in 10 games and made three starts in 2018 after playing in all 11 games and making one star in 2017.
- DT Drew Gedrys, Jr. – Played in all 22 games over his first two seasons on campus, 2017 and 2018.
- LB (Will) Jaxon Peifer, So. – Started the first two games of the season, but did not play on Sept. 21 at Truman State… Had seven tackles over eight games during his freshman season in 2018… Exceeded his season total from last year with 10 in the season opener at Eastern Kentucky, leading the team in that category while making his first career start… Was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Week while also being named the National Guard Player of the Game by Valpo Athletics in Week 1… Majoring in nursing.
- MLB Nick Turner, R-Sr. – Was limited to four games due to an injury in 2018, totaling 17 tackles (six solos, 1 TFL) after earning 2017 All-PFL Second Team status and reaching double figures in tackles on five occasions including the last three games of the season… Team captain… Finished a tackle shy of a career high with 12 to lead the team on Sept. 28 vs. Charleston. Also forced a fumble and recovered that same fumble in the game against the Golden Eagles… Led the team for a second straight week with a 10-tackle output on Oct. 5 at Drake. Also had 3.5 TFL in that game, becoming the fifth player in the PFL in 2019 with 3.5 or more TFL in a single game. He also had the most tackles for loss by any Valpo player in a game since 2015.
- LB (Sam) Laddie Skarecky, Jr. – Had 1.5 TFL in the Sept. 21 game at Truman State… Played in 11 games and registered 30 tackles and one pass breakup as a sophomore in 2018… Majoring in exercise science with a minor in biology… Spent the 2019 summer doing an internship as a marketing assistant for Valpo Athletics… Blocked a punt and had a tackle for loss on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut… Missed the Sept. 28 game vs. Charleston and Oct. 5 at Drake with an injury.
- CB Henry Hebda, Jr. – Had a strong performance on Sept. 21 at Truman State, highlighted by his first career interception. Turned in a career-high six tackles (three solos) against the Bulldogs, second on the team in that contest… Played in nine games and totaled 12 tackles (seven solos) in 2018… Twin brother David is also a member of the Valpo football team… Majoring in nursing.
- S Jamari Booker, Sr. – Received 2018 All-PFL Honorable Mention recognition and was a member of the 2019 Preseason All-PFL squad… Tied for fourth in the PFL with 8.2 tackles per game in 2018, accruing 91 total tackles… Racked up 20 tackles on Sept. 29, 2018 vs. Davidson, the only player in the PFL with a 20-tackle game all season and one of just six players in the entire FCS nation to do so. Became the first Valpo player since at least 2002 with 20+ tackles in a single game… Team captain… Led the team in tackles on Sept. 14 with eight while also forcing a fumble, blocking a punt and returning that blocked punt 10 yards for a touchdown… Made two interceptions on Sept. 28 vs. Charleston, becoming the first player in the PFL and the 26th in the nation with a multiple interception game this season.
- S Michael Scarsella, So. – Had 49 tackles, one interception and one TFL during his freshman season in 2018… Made his first career interception on Oct. 13, 2018 vs. Butler and returned it 25 yards with 5:26 left in the fourth quarter, providing the final dagger as Valpo won the Hoosier Helmet rivalry game 35-17… Made his second career pick in Week 1 this season against Eastern Kentucky… Accounted for Valpo’s lone sack of the day on Sept. 21 at Truman State… Native of Valparaiso and graduate of Valparaiso High School… Accrued six tackles and recovered a fumble on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut… Provided six tackles including 3.0 TFL on Oct. 5 at Drake.
- CB Kohlton Sherman – Racked up eight tackles in Week 1 at Eastern Kentucky, second on the team.
Specialist Quick Hits – Projected Starters
- K Dimitrios Latsonas, Sr. – Was a 2018 Academic All-PFL Second Team choice after receiving 2017 All-PFL honorable mention… Went 8-of-12 on field-goal tries in 2018, converting 36 of his 37 PAT attempts, shattering his own record for made extra points in a single season after previously setting the school record with 35 in 2017… Averaged 55.9 yards per kick on kickoffs and booted 13 touchbacks… Made a 50-yard field goal in the team’s season finale at Stetson, outdoing his previous personal best of 44 and converting the longest field goal in the PFL in 2018. It was the longest field goal by a Valpo kicker since 2003… Enters this week with 78 career PATs, only five away from tying and six from breaking the career program record… Went 2-for-2 on field goals on Sept. 28 vs. Charleston, his first two makes of the season… Extended his streak of made field goals to four straight by converting from 46 and 41 on Oct. 5 at Drake… Made four PATs on Oct. 12 vs. Dayton, tying the program record for made PATs in a career by boosting his four-year total to 83.
- P Benjamin Niesner, Jr. – Joins the team as a transfer after spending the last two seasons at Portland State, where he earned the starting role at punter… Averaged 38.5 yards per punt while booting rugby-style kicks… Didn’t begin teaching himself how to punt until after his senior year of high school… Before his first year at Portland State in 2017, hadn’t played football in his life except a brief stint of youth football… Booted a 56-yard punt in his home debut on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut, the longest Valpo punt since the second game of the 2016 season, when Alex Ng struck a 59 yarder at Sacred Heart… Had 10 punts for 404 yards on Sept. 21 at Truman State, becoming the 17th punter in the FCS nation with a 10-punt game this season and the first Valpo player to hit double figures in in single-game punts since 2013… Ran for 10 yards and a first down on a fake punt play on Oct. 5 at Drake. Booted a pair of punts for 50+ yards in that game against the Bulldogs.
Preseason Accolades: Jamari Booker was selected to the Preseason All-PFL team, while five Valpo players were named to Phil Steele’s Preseason All-PFL Team, led by first teamer Austin Petrie. Jack Jarnigan, James Reed and Jamari Booker were second-team choices, while Dimitrios Latsonas was named to the third team.
Oh Captain, My Captain: Valparaiso enters the 2019 season with four captains: quarterback Jimmy Seewald, offensive lineman Jack Jarnigan, linebacker Nick Turner and defensive back Jamari Booker. Seewald and Turner are in their second season as team captains, while Jarnigan and Booker occupy the role for the first time.