Valparaiso University head football coach Dave Cecchini has been named the 2017 Pioneer Football League Coach of the Year.
In his fourth season at Valpo, Cecchini led the program as it turned a significant corner, finishing with a winning record for the first time since 2003. Cecchini, also a finalist for the STATS FCS Coach of the Year Award, becomes the first Crusader coach to garner the PFL’s top coaching honor since Tom Horne in 2003.
Cecchini has been joined on staff by offensive coordinator Jason Miran, defensive coordinator Ernest Moore, recruiting coordinator Vinny Giacalone and strength and conditioning coach Tony Rouse since he took over the program. In addition, special teams coordinator John Snyder predated Cecchini on Valpo’s staff. The 2017 coaching staff also featured Rob Tulcin (first season), Matt Ford (first season) and Zach Greiner (third season).
"Dave Cecchini has demonstrated over his entire career that he is a person of integrity, an accomplished educator and a quality football coach," Valpo Director of Athletics Mark LaBarbera said. "Over the past four years he has changed the culture within our program and restored the pride of our football tradition both on the field and within the campus community. Being named Coach of the Year is fitting recognition of his leadership and the quality of the staff and young men that leadership brings to Valpo."
Here are some of the other milestones and accomplishments of the 2017 Valparaiso University football team:
- Tied for third in the PFL after being picked to finish 10th of 11 in the preseason poll.
- Finished with a winning record both overall (6-5) and in league play (5-3) for the first time since 2003.
- Finished ahead of six teams in the league standings for the first time since 1954 and the second time in program history.
- Captured five league wins in the same season for the first time since 1961.
- Scored 330 points and racked up 4,398 yards, both second most in program history.
- Had 20 rushing touchdowns, Valpo’s most since 2000 and tied for the fifth most in program history.
- Passed for 2,899 yards, the fourth most in program history.
- Averaged 30.0 points per game, also the fourth most in program history.
- Scored 40 or more touchdowns for the fourth time ever and just the second time since 1969.
- Made 11 field goals as a team, a total that ranks fifth in Valpo history.
- Went a perfect 4-0 in home PFL games, winning four league home games in the same year for the first time in the history of Crusader football.
- Started the season by leading midway through the second quarter and facing just a four-point halftime deficit against full-scholarship foe Montana, then came within five points of scholarship foe Duquesne.
- Beat Morehead State 63-32 on Oct. 28, Valpo’s highest single-game scoring output since 1996 and first win over the Eagles since 2006.
- Defense forced 12 turnovers in a two-game span against Marist and Morehead State.
- Beat rival Butler to win the Hoosier Helmet trophy, Valpo’s first win at Butler since 2005.
- Sealed the winning season with an 8-7 victory over Dayton, Valpo’s first win over the Flyers since 2003. The go-ahead two-point conversion with 1:20 left featured senior running back Jarrett Morgan – who had one career completed pass – throwing a jump pass to senior backup tight end Ryan Clarke – who had two career receptions.
- Quarterback Jimmy Seewald finished in the Top 5 in single-season program history in passing yards (2,602, fourth), touchdown passes (18, fifth) and total offense (2,570, fourth). He also already ranks sixth in program history in career passing yards (4,045) and eighth in total offense (3,984) with two full seasons remaining.
- Kicker Dimitrios Latsonas made 11 field goals, tied for fourth in single-season program history. He also shattered the program record with 35 PAT conversions.
The PFL will announce its all-league teams on Tuesday.
2017 PFL AWARDS
Offensive Player of the Year: Anthony Lawrence, San Diego
Defensive Player of the Year: Jonathan Petersen, San Diego (unanimous)
Special Teams Player of the Year: Christian Searles, Dayton
Freshman Offensive Player of the Year: Daniel Smith, Campbell
Freshman Defensive Player of the Year: JJ Henderson, Stetson
Coach of the Year: Dave Cecchini, Valparaiso
Scholar-Athlete of the Year: To be announced, Wednesday