Indianapolis, Ind. ? Butler scored 18 points in the second half, including Billy Nardini's 3-yard go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, as the Bulldogs upset Valpo 25-21. The Crusaders (6-4, 3-1 PFL North) share the Pioneer Football League North Division title with San Diego, which defeated Dayton 41-30.
Valpo, as a result of its win over San Diego Oct. 18, will host South Division Champ Morehead State in the PFL Championship Game Nov. 22 at noon.
In the first half, Andrew McCawley booted four field goals, including a career-long 52-yarder at the end of the half, to give the Crusaders a 19-7 lead. Valpo built a lead in the first quarter on fifth-year senior Jeffrey Vlk's first career touchdown ? a 10-yard pass from David Macchi. McCawley's 31-yard field goal extended the advantage to 10-0.
Following a punt block by Ambrose Brown, McCawley split the uprights from 28 yards to give the Crusaders a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Butler (1-9, 1-3 PFL North) scored its first points on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Bob Farmer to Kelly Disser with under eight minutes left before intermission. Farmer completed three passes on the drive for 46 yards.
McCawley, a redshirt freshman, concluded a 12-play, 67-yard drive with a 20-yard field goal to push Valpo's lead to 16-7 with 3:26 remaining before halftime. Lawrence Canada made two interceptions in the first half, the second setting up McCawley's explosive 52-yard boot on the final play of the first half.
The Bulldogs began the second half with a 12-play, 58-yard drive that culminated in Justin Campbell's 2-yard touchdown run to cut Valpo's lead to 19-14. The drive would have ended, but Canada's third interception of the game was negated by a roughing the passer penalty.
Valpo responded with an eight-play drive that ended in a fumble at Butler's 8-yard line.
After Anthony Freitag stopped a Butler threat with an interception and 9-yard return early in the fourth quarter, the Crusaders were forced to punt.
Farmer then completed all four of his passes for 48 yards on a 13-play, 82-yard journey, and Nardini's 3-yard scamper coupled with Farmer's two-point conversion pass to Scott Reddel gave the Bulldogs a 22-19 lead with 5:19 left.
On Valpo's next drive, Macchi was intercepted by Collin McGann at Valpo's 42-yard line. McGann returned the ball 33 yards to the Valpo 9-yard line. After James Riker recorded his second sack of the contest for a 12-yard loss, Eric Neumeier booted a 41-yard field goal to expand Butler's lead to 25-19.
Butler stopped Valpo on five plays and ran out the remaining time. With eight seconds left in the game, Brian Holthaus ran into his own end zone from 41 yards for a safety.
Macchi completed 17 of 31 passes for 196 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Rob Giancola, who entered the game leading the nation in receiving yards and receiving yards per game, caught six passes for 76 yards. Matt Van Daele led Valpo with 52 rushing yards on 12 carries.
Campbell led all rushers with 132 yards on 28 carries. Farmer completed 19 of 36 passes for 225 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions. Disser led Butler with five receptions for 61 yards.
Bill Marshall topped the Crusaders with 10 tackles, while Freitag added eight. Joe Haley led Butler with nine stops and forced a fumble.
Valpo compiled 311 total yards to 290 for Butler. The Bulldogs won the first-down battle 22-16.
Valpo travels to play at Aurora next Saturday (Nov. 15) at 1 p.m. CST.