Mozelle McHenry (Chicago, Ill./Morgan Park H.S.) scored from two yards out with 1:45 remaining as Valparaiso rallied from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat Jacksonville 29-27 on Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville, Fla.
Trailing 27-17 after the Dolphins scored with 9:53 left, Warren Arnold (Mundelein, Ill./Mundelein H.S.) connected with Nicholas Henton (Chicago, Ill./De La Salle H.S.) in the left corner of the end zone for an eight-yard Crusader touchdown. Valpo missed the extra point, but cut the Dolphins lead to 27-23 with 7:22 to play.
Jacksonville moved into Crusader territory with 4:55 left. Doug Howard (Cudahy, Wis./Cudahy H.S.) blocked a 38-yard field goal attempt, but the Crusaders had to punt after three plays. On second down, Adam Rundh (Aalborg, Denmarck/Orjanskolan H.S.) forced a Dolphin fumble with 2:48 to play, and Matt Watkins (Mason, Ohio/Mason H.S.) recovered at the Jacksonville 30-yard line.
Arnold found Bret Jaskiw (Caro, Mich./Caro H.S.) at the 13 and then scrambled to the two. McHenry then found the end zone to put Valpo in front.
Jacksonville had one last chance, but Valpo defense registered three sacks in the final drive to secure the victory.
“Our guys battled hard for 60 minutes,” head coach Stacy Adams said. “We had some things that did not go our way, but we battled threw adversity to win the ball game.”
Valpo’s defense set up the first score of the game. Eli Crawford (Bogart, Ga./North Oconee H.S.) intercepted a pass on the first play of the game, returning it to the Jacksonville 25. Three players later, John Popper (Dublin, Ohio/Coffman H.S.) found the end zone from a yard out, putting Valpo up 7-0 just 1:06 into the game.
After the defense held the Dolphins to a three-and-out, the Crusaders put together a methodical 13-play drive. With 10 runs on the ground as a team, Popper found the end zone from two yards out to put the Brown and Gold in front 14-0 with 6:00 left in the opening quarter.
Just before the end of the first quarter, Erik Stapleton found Michael Jenner from 14 yards out to put Jacksonville on the scoreboard, but the Crusaders’ Tom Oswald (Cary, Ill./Cary-Grove H.S.) blocked the point after attempt, his fourth blocked kick of the season.
Valpo had two opportunities in the second to add points to the scoreboard, but a missed field goal and a fumbled snap on another field goal try kept the lead at 14-6.
The Crusaders finally tacked on more points with 1:03 left before the break as Dan Van Aartsen (Brookfield, Wis./East H.S.) connected on a 21-yard field goal to give Valpo a 17-6 lead at the break. Valpo racked up 209 yards on the ground in the first 30 minutes, and controlled the clock, with 20:02 in time of possession.
Jacksonville scored on its first drive of the second half, capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by Jeremy Brown. The Dolphins went for two and were stopped inches short, and the Crusaders maintained a 17-12 advantage.
Stapleton scored from a yard out with 5:46 left in the third quarter and the Dolphins converted the two-point conversion to take a 20-17 lead, an advantage they would take into the fourth quarter.
The Crusaders missed another field goal early in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game, and Jacksonville moved down field and added a touchdown on Ron Harris’ three-yard run to increase the lead to 27-17, setting the stage for Valpo’s comeback.
“Our defense played great as did our offense,” Adams added. “We had a lot of standout players, including our three tailbacks that were explosive.”
Arnold finished the game with 105 yards on the ground for the Crusaders while Popper added 91. Valpo finished the contest rushing for 272 yards. Arnold completed 13-of-26 passes for 110 yards.
Rudell Small led Jacksonville (2-7, 1-5 PFL) with 92 yards rushing while Stepleton completed just 9-of-27 pass attempts but threw for 183 yards.
Jacksonville finished the game with 394 yards compared with Valpo’s 382.
Valparaiso (5-5, 2-4) will wrap up the 2007 season next Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders head to Davidson. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. CST with all the action carried live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network.