Despite outgaining the Pioneer Football League’s top offense, Valparaiso fell 40-24 to Jacksonville on Saturday afternoon at Brown Field on a cool, crisp afternoon.
The Crusaders totaled 358 yards in total offense on the afternoon, including 192 on the ground, but could not overcome a 27-16 halftime deficit against the Dolphins.
Jacksonville scored first, taking the opening kickoff and moving down field 75 yards in nine plays. Geavon Tribble caught a 10-yard pass from Josh McGregor for the game’s first touchdown.
Valpo answered on its opening drive in just five plays as Ross Wiemer (Burlington, Wis./Burlington H.S.) bounced to the outside and raced 47 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at seven with 9:28 to play in the opening quarter.
The Dolphins again responded, as McGregor found Tribble open in deep right corner of the end zone for a 15-yard score just 2:27 later. The extra point try was wide right and the visitors led 13-7 after one quarter.
Valpo cut its deficit in half just 1:34 into the second quarter as David Hamaker (Plano, Texas/West H.S.) kicked a 33-yard field goal into a stiff breeze.
Jacksonville against wasted little time answering, as Rudell Small went outside and broke a couple tackles on his way to a 50-yard touchdown run.
The Crusaders cut the Jacksonville lead to 20-16 with 8:36 to play before halftime as Sean McCarty (Waukesha, Wis./West H.S.) juggled a pass down the left sideline from Matt Upshaw (Indianapolis, Ind./Warren Central H.S.) for a 38-yard touchdown.
Small increased the Dolphins lead to 11 before halftime on a five-yard run for his second of three touchdowns on the day. Valpo looked to answer just before intermission, but was stopped on a fourth-and-one at the eight with just 45 seconds to play.
Jacksonville (7-3, 5-1 PFL) scored on its first possession of the third quarter on Small’s three-yard run and added another touchdown just before the end of the quarter as Tremaine Mack intercepted Upshaw and returned it six yards for a score.
Valpo closed the scoring as JaVon Welch (Grand Rapids, Mich./Ottawa Hills H.S.) picked up a short Dolphin punt and ran down the sidelines 24 yards for a touchdown.
“That was a very heads up play by JaVon,” head coach Stacy Adams said. “He noticed they (Jacksonville) relaxed and just picked the ball up and scored.”
Upshaw finished the game 13-of-29 for 159 yards for Valpo, while Ryan Myers (Chesterton, Ind./Chesterton H.S.) had eight catches for 82 yards. Wiemer finished the day with 12 carries for 73 yards rushing while Upshaw ran 16 times for 68 yards.
Small had 16 carries for 135 yards and the three scores for Jacksonville while McGregor was 9-of-14 for 133 yards.
“We continued to show a little improvement against a very good Jacksonville team,” added Adams. “I was excited about the play of our defense in the second half and our offense in the first half. We just need to bring everything together for the full game.”
Valparaiso (2-7, 1-5) will travel to Buies Creek, N.C. next Saturday to battle Campbell. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. CDT with all the action carried live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and online at www.valpoathletics.com.
Game Notes: Upshaw’s touchdown pass was the first of his career … McCarty’s touchdown reception was the second score of his career on his second career catch … Welch’s touchdown came on his first punt return … Zach Denny (Calumet City, Ill./Marian Catholic H.S.) started his first career game at quarterback … he ran for a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter … Adam Rundh (Aalborg, Denmark/Orjanskolans [Sweden] H.S.) blocked his second extra point of the year … Myers eight grabs marked a career high.