San Diego scored four unanswered touchdowns in the second half to break open a tie game on the way to defeating Valparaiso 42-14 on Saturday afternoon in San Diego, Calif. The Crusaders tied the game 14-14 at halftime, but was unable to get the offense moving in the second half.
Valpo took the opening kickoff and slowly and methodically moved it down field. A 12-play, 70-yard drive, all on the ground, put the Crusaders on the scoreboard. Five different ball carries shouldered the load, keyed by a 28-yard scamper by John Popper (Dublin, Ohio/Coffman H.S.). Jake Riedel (South Milwaukee, Wis./South Milwaukee H.S.) scored down through left tackle from three yards out to open the scoring.
San Diego quickly responded in just five plays. A 29-yard touchdown strike over the middle from Sebastian Trujillo to Ben Hannula tied the contest at seven with 6:17 to play in the first quarter.
Following a Valparaiso interception that set the Toreros up in Crusader territory, the Valpo defense stiffened. San Diego drove to the three, only to be stuffed on a fourth-and-one by the interior of the Crusader line.
Valpo was forced to punt on the second play of the second quarter, but Laurence Treadaway (Detroit, Mich./Orchard Lake Saint Mary’s H.S.) stripped the ball from Hannula on the return and JaVon Welch (Grand Rapids, Mich./Ottawa Hills H.S.) fell on it for the Crusaders at the San Diego 42-yard line. This time it was San Diego’s defense that stopped Valpo on a fourth-and-one at the Torero 33.
Both teams defense stepped up in the second quarter, with the Crusaders forcing San Diego to miss a field goal midway through the quarter to keep the game knotted at seven. The hosts took the lead just before halftime as Hannula connected down the right sideline with Godfrey Smith on a wide receiver pass for a 37-yard touchdown with 1:18 to play to give the Toreros a 14-7 lead.
The Crusader two minute offense took over starting with a Warren Arnold (Mundelein, Ill./Mundelein H.S.) scramble for a first down on a third-and-13. He then completed an 18-yard pass to Ryan Myers (Chesterton, Ind./Chesterton H.S.) down to the San Diego 27 with under 30 seconds to play. Another completion to Desmond Lewis (Fort Wayne, Ind./Homestead H.S.) at the half-yard line with just three seconds left gave Valpo a first and goal. Arnold then dove over the top of the line for a touchdown with no time remaining to tie the game at 14 at the half.
Valpo finished the first half with 186 total yards, 145 of which were on the ground compared with San Diego’s 247 total yards.
“Our players came out and played hard, fast, and executed in the first 30 minutes,” head coach Stacy Adams said.
San Diego scored quickly to start the second half, needed just 2:01 out of the break. Trujillo found John Matthews between defenders down the middle of the field for a 47-yard touchdown pass, putting the Toreros back on top by seven.
After the Crusaders went three-and-out, the Toreros moved down field again, and a two-yard run by Matt Jelmini put San Diego in front 28-14 with 6:10 to play in the third quarter.
Just before the end of the quarter, Sean Dillon (Oak Lawn, Ill./Mount Carmel H.S.) forced a fumble, and then recovered it at the Toreros 35-yard line. The Crusaders moved down field, all the way to the one-yard line before two penalties set them back. On fourth-and-goal from the five, Arnold’s pass to Lewis misfired and San Diego took over on downs with 9:47 to play.
“San Diego scored early in the second half and we didn’t get the score we needed early in the fourth, or it would have been a different ball game,” added Adams. “The score was no indication of the way the game was played.”
Jelmini moved the Toreros from the shadow of their own goal line with an 88-yard run, setting up a first-and-goal. Three plays later, Vincent Atofau scored from a yard out to build a 35-14 lead with 7:42 to play. San Diego added one more touchdown with 3:44 to play on a 35-yard pass from Trujillo to Matthews on a third-and-31 play.
Arnold finished the game as the team’s leading rusher with 84 yards on 16 carries. Valpo had 201 yards rushing on the day and 260 yards of total offense.
San Diego (5-0, 2-0 PFL) finished the game with 578 yards of total offense, including 332 through the air. Trujillo completed 20-of-25 passes including three touchdowns. Matthews had seven catches for 144 yards and two scores while Jelmini had seven carries for 130 yards and one touchdown.
Valparaiso (1-3, 0-1) will return home next Saturday afternoon for its annual Homecoming game as the Crusaders host Davidson. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. with all the action carried live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and online at www.valpoathletics.com.
Game Notes: San Diego leads the series 11-5 … when Valpo stopped San Diego on fourth down in the first quarter, it was the first failed fourth down conversion in eight attempts this season for the Toreros … Valpo is now 5-11 all-time in Pioneer Football League openers … Arnold had 143 yards of total offense in the game moving into seventh place all-time on the career total offense list with 3,724 total yards.