Valparaiso (0-2, 0-0 PFL)
at Truman State (2-0, 0-0 GLVC)
Game #3: Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, 7 p.m. CT
Stokes Stadium (4,000) – Kirksville, Mo.
This Week in Valpo Football: The Valparaiso University football team will continue a challenging nonconference schedule this week with a trip to Kirksville, Mo. to take on Truman State. The Bulldogs will put their undefeated record on the line, while Valpo will attempt to secure its first victory under first-year head coach Landon Fox.
Previously: Valpo is coming off a 42-13 loss to Central Connecticut in the home opener at Brown Field last Saturday. Valpo scored an early touchdown on a Jamari Booker blocked punt that he picked up and returned 30 yards for a score and held the lead until the midway mark of the second quarter. The game was close into the third quarter, but the Blue Devils outscored the hosts 28-7 after halftime to pull away for a win.
Under the Lights: Valpo will play its second night game of the season on Saturday, the first time since 2014 that the team has played under the lights twice in a single year. With few exceptions, Pioneer Football League games take place during the afternoon hours to accommodate visiting team travel. The first night game of the year was in Week 1 at Eastern Kentucky. During the 2014 campaign, Valpo opened the season with a Thursday evening start at Western Illinois before hosting Saint Joseph’s College on a Saturday night at Brown Field.
Block Party: Valpo blocked two punts last week vs. Central Connecticut, with Jamari Booker and Laddie Skarecky both notching blocks. This marks the first time Valpo has blocked two kicks in an entire season (let alone a single game) since 2015. The only other FCS teams to have two blocked kicks in a game so far this season are Northern Arizona (vs. Western New Mexico), Texas Southern (vs. Prairie View), The Citadel (at Georgia Tech) and Delaware State (at Delaware). Valpo has blocked three punts in its last three games, dating back to last year’s season finale at Stetson. Two of the three have been returned for touchdowns.
Booker’s Big Day: Jamari Booker led the team with eight tackles on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut in a performance that was highlighted by a blocked punt and 30-yard return for a touchdown. It was the second score of his career and first since a pick six against Morehead State on Oct. 28, 2017. Booker also forced a fumble in the game, the fourth time in his career he has done so.
Benjamin Boots One: In addition to Valpo’s success defending punts, the team also had a good day in its own punting game on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut. Portland State transfer Benjamin Niesner booted a 56-yard punt in the second quarter of his home debut, the longest punt by a Valpo player since Sept. 10, 2016, when Alex Ng had a 59-yarder at Sacred Heart.
Preventing Penalties: Valpo has been flagged for just seven penalties (3.5 per game) over the first two contests, totaling 62 penalty yards (31 per game). The team is among the national FCS leaders in avoiding penalties, ranking fifth in fewest penalties, seventh in fewest penalties per game, third in fewest penalty yards and fifth in fewest penalty yards per game.
Cartales Corralling Catches: Running back Kyle Cartales had a career-high eight receptions to lead the team on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut, tying for the most catches in a single game by a Valpo player since the start of the 2016 campaign. He joins Frank Catrine (Oct. 8, 2016 vs. Drake) and Griffin Norberg (Sept. 22, 2018 vs. Truman State) as the only Valpo players with eight-catch performances since the beginning of the 2016 season.
Airing It Out: Valpo quarterback Chris Duncan completed 24 passes on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut, marking a career high. His previous watermark was 21 on Oct. 27 of last season against Drake. The 47 pass attempts also marked the most in a game in his career. Duncan had the most pass completions by any Valpo player in a single game since Jimmy Seewald’s 26 on Sept. 9, 2017 vs. Duquesne. The 47 pass attempts were the most by a Valpo player in a game since Scott Staal’s 49 in the 2015 season finale at Jacksonville.
Strong Slate: This week will continue a challenging 2019 schedule for the Valpo football team. This is the third game in a season-opening stretch of nine straight against teams that finished with a winning record in 2018.
Behind the Line: The Valpo defense racked up seven tackles for loss in the season opener at Eastern Kentucky on Aug. 29. Valpo had two sacks against the Colonels, compared to a year ago when the team entered the seventh game of the season with two sacks and two years ago when the second sack of the season came in the ninth game. The seven tackles for loss against the Colonels were the second most Valpo has had in a game since the 2016 campaign behind eight last year at Marist.
Interception Insight: Valpo sophomore Michael Scarsella and fifth-year senior Matthew Messler both made their first career interception in Valpo’s season opener at Eastern Kentucky. Coincidentally, Messler and Scarsella’s first career picks also came in the same game, last season’s home victory over Butler.
Top Tackler: Jaxon Peifer has enjoyed a strong start to his sophomore season, leading the team with 10 tackles (six solos) in his first career start at Eastern Kentucky. His efforts allowed him to earn the team’s Defensive Player of the Week honor in addition to being named the Indiana National Guard Player of the Game by Valpo Athletics. One game into the season, Peifer had already exceeded his season tackle total from a year ago.
Centennial Season: In addition to marking the start of a new head coaching tenure, 2019 is a significant season for Valpo football as the program is set to celebrate its 100-year history over the course of the campaign. Valpo Athletics is set to recognize and celebrate individuals and teams from select eras at four games this season. The program has won 11 conference championships, including six in the Indiana Collegiate Conference and two in the Pioneer Football League. It’s also the 50th anniversary of the 1969 team that won an ICC crown, an anniversary that will be celebrated at this year’s Homecoming game. In addition, Valpo will retire the numbers of two University legends at the Homecoming game on Sept. 28 at Brown Field. Garry Puetz ’73 and Fuzzy Thurston ’56 (posthumous) will become the first players in program history to have their numbers retired. The use of No. 80 will be discontinued in honor of Thurston, while No. 71 will be retired for Puetz. Both were All-Americans in college and went on to win Super Bowl rings in the NFL – Puetz with Washington in 1982 and Thurston with the Green Bay Packers in the first two Super Bowls, his fifth and sixth NFL Championships.
Head Coach Landon Fox: After spending the last 11 seasons as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at the University of Dayton, the new man in charge of the Valpo football program is no stranger to the Pioneer Football League. Landon Fox’s teams held opponents to an average of 19 points per game during his time as the defensive coordinator at Dayton. He helped the Flyers finish with 10 winning seasons in his 11 years on staff and guided a defensive backfield that produced one All-American, four Academic All-Americans, two PFL Special Teams Players of the Year and three corners who were invited to NFL Rookie Minicamp. Prior to joining Dayton’s staff, Fox served as the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at Wayne State University in Detroit from 2005-2007. He also spent time as a defensive graduate assistant at Ball State University (2004), Dayton (2002-2003) and Lakeland College (2001). Fox began his coaching career as an assistant varsity coach at Preble Shawnee High School in Camden, Ohio during the 2000 season. During his playing days, Fox was a team captain and all-conference performer at Defiance College in Defiance, Ohio from 1995-1999 and graduated with a degree in physical education and health in May 2000 before earning his master’s degree in education from Lakeland in May 2002.
Following Valpo Football: This game will be streamed on the Great Lakes Valley Conference Sports Network courtesy of Truman State Athletics. The hometown radio call can be heard on 95.1 FM Valparaiso (WVUR) and online via the TuneIn Radio app with veteran voice Todd Ickow (play-by-play) and sports information director Brandon Vickrey (color commentary) on the call. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Series Notes: The two teams held their first meeting a year ago at Brown Field with Truman State coming away with a 34-20 victory. Valpo had the better passing attack, throwing for 283 yards to Truman State’s 122. The Valpo defense limited the Bulldogs to just 5-of-17 through the air, while Valpo quarterbacks Jimmy Seewald and Trey Bilinski combined to go 24-of-40. Bilinski made his first career start and threw a pair of touchdown passes. Yards of total offense was tight, with Truman State edging Valpo 387-371.
Scouting Truman State: The Bulldogs finished 6-5 last season including a 5-2 mark in GLVC play. This is their second game against a PFL team this season as they started the year by beating Drake 10-7. In Week 2, Truman State prevailed 35-12 against Wayne State, a school where Valpo coaches Landon Fox (2005-2007), Jon Robinson (2016-2018) and Ed Reny (2017-2018) all coached previously. The victory over Drake was head coach Gregg Nesbitt’s 50th at Truman State, while the win over Wayne State secured the program’s first 2-0 start since 2012. The Bulldogs were picked third in the GLVC preseason poll. Quarterback Jaden Barr is 24-of-44 through the air for 240 yards and two scores over two games, while Jordan Salima leads the rushing attack with 30 carries for 93 yards. He also has five catches for 64 yards. Eric Yakle leads the team in tackles with 12 including three tackles for loss.
A Look Back at 2018: After enjoying its first winning season in 15 years in 2017, Valpo finished an injury-riddled campaign with a record of 2-9. The team topped rival Butler 35-17, beating the Bulldogs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2005. In addition, Valpo won on Senior Day for the fourth time in the last five years, sending the senior class out with a 48-30 win over Jacksonville in the home finale. The team produced a first-team all-PFL performer, a second-team all-PFL honoree, seven PFL Honorable Mention athletes, two Academic All-PFL First Team recipients, one Academic All-PFL Second Team achiever and two FCS National Bowl participants during the season.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Offensive Starters
- WR-x Ollie Reese, So. – Saw action in all 11 games and made four receptions as a true freshman in 2018… Made his first career TD catch in the 2019 season opener at Eastern Kentucky, a 61-yarder from Chris Duncan. After totaling four receptions for 35 yards all of last season, he had three grabs for 71 yards in the first game of his sophomore campaign… Father Steve is a financial wholesaler and mother Margie works at an antique shop in the city of Franklin… Has one sister, Bailey, who is a member of the University of Tennessee Knoxville Class of 2019… Father and grandfather both played college football… Father played football and baseball at Bridgewater College in Virginia and graduated in 1985.
- LT Andrew Lundberg, R-Sr. – Started all 11 games in 2018 and has missed just two games since the start of the 2016 season… Works security for hip hop artists who perform in Chicago… Spent the 2019 summer as an intern with the Valparaiso Parks Department… Is a double major in marketing and sports management.
- LG Sam Vas, Jr. – Appeared in all 11 games on Valpo’s offensive line last season… Majoring in mechanical engineering… Loves Star Wars and is good at solving Rubik’s Cubes.
- C Jack Jarnigan, R-Sr. – Has missed just one game since the start of the 2016 season…. Has lived in Minnesota, Oklahoma, Colorado, California and Illinois… Went on an exchange trip in fifth grade to Mexico and was there for two months… Team captain.
- RG Braden Russell, R-Fr. – Majoring in mechanical engineering… Used to live in Oklahoma… Appeared in three games on Valpo’s offensive line in 2018.
- RT Aaron Byrd, R-Fr. – Made his collegiate debut on Nov. 10 of last season, his only collegiate game entering 2019… Was an all-district trumpet player in high school.
- TE Alex Kluck, R-So. – Played in seven games and made one catch for five yards in 2018… Went to a high school that made the playoffs in Wisconsin in 19 of 20 seasons at the time he graduated (Cedarburg)… Mother played a year of soccer at Green Bay in 1989 before suffering a career-ending injury… Father played rugby at MSOE from 1989-1994… Spent the 2018 summer working for his uncle’s ocean kayaking and clothing company in San Diego and giving kayaking tours… That uncle played college soccer at Vermont from 2001-2003.
- WR-z Deuce Larose, Jr. – Played in 18 career games over his first two seasons in 2017 and 2018… Played ice hockey in middle school and didn’t start playing tackle football until eighth grade… Father Dan played safety at Florida State… Majoring in exercise science/pre-med… Had four catches for 60 yards in his season debut on Sept. 14 at Central Connecticut.
- WR-slot JD Koehler, R-Sr. – Recovered a pair of Valpo on-side kicks in 2018 after previously no Valpo player had made an on-side kick recovery in over a decade… There were only five on-side kick recoveries in the entire PFL in 2018 and two of them were his…. Played in all 22 games over the 2017 and 2018 seasons including starting every game in 2018… Had four catches for 43 yards on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut.
- QB Chris Duncan, R-Jr. – Started the season opener at Eastern Kentucky and threw his 17th career touchdown pass, a 61 yarder to Ollie Reese… Saw action in 10 games at quarterback and made seven starts in 2018, when he went 124-of-244 through the air while racking up 1,781 passing yards and 14 touchdowns… Ranked seventh in the PFL with 178.1 passing yards per game, sixth in pass efficiency at 123.7 and seventh in total offense at 191.3… Was a child actor and made it in a Pussycat Dolls music video, “Wait a Minute.”… Had his fourth career rushing touchdown on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut. Also in the game against the Blue Devils, went 24-of-47 through the air, the most completions by a Valpo quarterback since 2017 and the most pass attempts by a Valpo player in a single game since 2015.
- RB Kyle Cartales, Sr. – Led the team with 419 rushing yards, 97 carries, 4.3 yards per carry and 59.9 yards per game in 2018 despite having his season cut short by an injury after six games… Shared the team lead with four rushing touchdowns… Was the team’s leading receiver with eight catches for 62 yards on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut… Tied for the most catches in a single game since the start of the 2016 campaign, joining two others with eight.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Defensive Starters
- DE Trejuan Purty, Jr. – Has transferred to Valpo after being on the team at East Tennessee State each of the last two seasons… Played in one game last year, appearing in a contest against Gardner Webb… Recovered a blocked punt on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut.
- DE Gavin Twigg, Jr. – Has played in all 22 games over his first two seasons in 2017 and 2018…. Wears No. 21 in brown (home) but No. 28 in other Valpo uniforms… Had Valpo’s lone sack of the day on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut.
- DT James Reed, Sr. – Named the Valpo Defensive Player of the Week for his performance on Oct. 13, 2018 against Butler, when he racked up a career-high eight tackles, second on the team in that game… Started all 11 games on Valpo’s defensive line in 2018 and corralled 50 tackles.
- DT Drew Gedrys, Jr. – Played in all 22 games over his first two seasons on campus, 2017 and 2018.
- LB (Will) Jaxon Peifer, So. – Had seven tackles over eight games during his freshman season in 2018… Exceeded his season total from last year with 10 in the season opener at Eastern Kentucky, leading the team in that category while making his first career start… Was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Week while also being named the National Guard Player of the Game by Valpo Athletics in Week 1… Majoring in nursing.
- MLB Nick Turner, R-Sr. – Was limited to four games due to an injury in 2018, totaling 17 tackles (six solos, 1 TFL) after earning 2017 All-PFL Second Team status and reaching double figures in tackles on five occasions including the last three games of the season… Team captain.
- LB (Sam) Laddie Skarecky, Jr. – Played in 11 games and registered 30 tackles and one pass breakup as a sophomore in 2018… Majoring in exercise science with a minor in biology… Spent the 2019 summer doing an internship as a marketing assistant for Valpo Athletics… Blocked a punt and had a tackle for loss on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut.
- CB Henry Hebda, Jr. – Played in nine games and totaled 12 tackles (seven solos) in 2018… Twin brother David is also a member of the Valpo football team… Majoring in nursing.
- S Jamari Booker, Sr. – Received 2018 All-PFL Honorable Mention recognition and was a member of the 2019 Preseason All-PFL squad… Tied for fourth in the PFL with 8.2 tackles per game in 2018, accruing 91 total tackles… Racked up 20 tackles on Sept. 29, 2018 vs. Davidson, the only player in the PFL with a 20-tackle game all season and one of just six players in the entire FCS nation to do so. Became the first Valpo player since at least 2002 with 20+ tackles in a single game… Team captain… Led the team in tackles on Sept. 14 with eight while also forcing a fumble, blocking a punt and returning that blocked punt 10 yards for a touchdown.
- S Michael Scarsella, So. – Had 49 tackles, one interception and one TFL during his freshman season in 2018… Made his first career interception on Oct. 13, 2018 vs. Butler and returned it 25 yards with 5:26 left in the fourth quarter, providing the final dagger as Valpo won the Hoosier Helmet rivalry game 35-17… Made his second career pick in Week 1 this season against Eastern Kentucky… Native of Valparaiso and graduate of Valparaiso High School… Accrued six tackles and recovered a fumble on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut.
- CB Kohlton Sherman – Racked up eight tackles in Week 1 at Eastern Kentucky, second on the team.
Specialist Quick Hits – Projected Starters
- K Dimitrios Latsonas, Sr. – Was a 2018 Academic All-PFL Second Team choice after receiving 2017 All-PFL honorable mention… Went 8-of-12 on field-goal tries in 2018, converting 36 of his 37 PAT attempts, shattering his own record for made extra points in a single season after previously setting the school record with 35 in 2017… Averaged 55.9 yards per kick on kickoffs and booted 13 touchbacks… Made a 50-yard field goal in the team’s season finale at Stetson, outdoing his previous personal best of 44 and converting the longest field goal in the PFL in 2018. It was the longest field goal by a Valpo kicker since 2003… Enters this week with 77 career PATs, only six away from tying and seven from breaking the career program record.
- P Benjamin Niesner, Jr. – Joins the team as a transfer after spending the last two seasons at Portland State, where he earned the starting role at punter… Averaged 38.5 yards per punt while booting rugby-style kicks… Didn’t begin teaching himself how to punt until after his senior year of high school… Before his first year at Portland State in 2017, hadn’t played football in his life except a brief stint of youth football… Booted a 56-yard punt in his home debut on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut, the longest Valpo punt since the second game of the 2016 season, when Alex Ng struck a 59 yarder at Sacred Heart.
Preseason Accolades: Jamari Booker was selected to the Preseason All-PFL team, while five Valpo players were named to Phil Steele’s Preseason All-PFL Team, led by first teamer Austin Petrie. Jack Jarnigan, James Reed and Jamari Booker were second-team choices, while Dimitrios Latsonas was named to the third team.
Oh Captain, My Captain: Valparaiso enters the 2019 season with four captains: quarterback Jimmy Seewald, offensive lineman Jack Jarnigan, linebacker Nick Turner and defensive back Jamari Booker. Seewald and Turner are in their second season as team captains, while Jarnigan and Booker occupy the role for the first time.