University of Charleston (2-1, 2-1 MEC)
at Valparaiso (0-3, 0-0 PFL)
Game #4: Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, 1 p.m. CT
Brown Field (5,000) – Valparaiso, Ind.
This Week in Valpo Football: Homecoming Week has arrived on the campus of Valparaiso University, and at the center of all the festivities is Saturday’s football game against the University of Charleston. Every game is important, but the homecoming game represents something bigger. Numerous alumni, family and friends will be looking on as the numbers of two of the program’s all-time greats will be retired. It’s also the final tune-up prior to Pioneer Football League action.
Previously: Valpo will look to bounce back from a 38-7 setback last week at Truman State, the alma mater of legendary Valpo basketball coach Gene Bartow. The Bulldogs, a team receiving votes in the NCAA Division-II national poll, limited Valpo to two first downs in the opening half and forced punts on Valpo’s first seven possessions. The team’s lone score of the game came on a 16-yard pitch-and-catch from Jimmy Seewald to Trey Stablein with 6:51 to go in the fourth quarter. Four players took snaps at quarterback for Valpo in the game – Chris Duncan, Joe Mullen, Jimmy Seewald (season debut) and Ben Nimz (collegiate debut).
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 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 week’s Homecoming game. In addition, Valpo will retire the numbers of two University legends on Saturday 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.
Era in the Spotlight: The 1950-1975 seasons will be in the spotlight this week as Valpo continues to recognize a different era of its 100-year history at each home game this season. During a time period that was rich with success, Valpo won six Indiana Collegiate Conference championships. Valpo appeared in the Cigar Bowl in 1950, then the championship run started with the program’s first season of ICC affiliation in 1951, when an Emory G. Bauer coached crew went a perfect 9-0 to earn the conference title. Bauer’s Valpo team repeated as champions in 1952 before winning again in 1954. Valpo added to the successful period in Valpo lore with ICC championships in 1964, 1968 and 1969. Bauer and Walt Reiner shared head coaching duties in 1964 before Norm Amundsen guided the team for the final two championships of the 1960s. The 2019 season marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 team that went 7-2 overall and 3-1 in the ICC.
Following Valpo Football: All home games this season will be streamed on ESPN+, which is available on a subscription basis for $4.99 per month. Todd Ickow and Dave Huseman will have the call on Saturday. In addition, Garrett Willis, Ben Ariano and Danny Dalenberg will provide the radio description on 95.1 FM Valparaiso, also available via the TuneIn Radio app. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Homecoming History: Valpo dropped a high-scoring affair to Davidson 40-35 in last season’s Homecoming game, which doubled as the PFL opener. Prior to that, the team had put together a 4-1 record on Homecoming Saturday over the previous five seasons, defeating Campbell in overtime in 2013, Missouri Baptist in 2014, Davidson in 2016 and Stetson in 2017. Valpo will attempt to improve to 5-2 over its last seven Homecoming contests on Saturday.
Series Notes: This will mark the first meeting between these two teams.
Scouting University of Charleston: The Golden Eagles (NCAA Division II) were picked to finish fourth of 11 in the Mountain East Conference preseason poll. They started the season by upending a No. 25 (NCAA D-II) Fairmont State team that was picked to finish as the league runner-up by a score of 42-39. Charleston narrowly held on to a lead that was 35-3 at halftime. The MEC was formed in 2012 with UC serving as one of 12 charter members after previously holding West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC) affiliation. Charleston lost its second game 28-20 at Urbana in Week 2. This past Saturday, the team hosted West Virginia Wesleyan and prevailed 34-29. Golden Eagles head coach Pat Kirkland is in his ninth season and guided the program to its best record in 2015 at 10-2. That was the team’s highest win total since football returned to the institution in 2003 after a hiatus that began in 1956. Tyreik McAllister is the team’s leading rusher with 25 carries for 121 yards, while Mike Strachan has 30 catches for 483 yards and has hauled in five touchdowns. Quarterback Brant Grisel is 62-of-106 passing for 1045 yards and has nine TDs against just one interception.
Friends to Foes: Last season, University of Charleston wide receiver Paul Miller, Valpo running backs coach Cory Colder and Valpo defensive end Trejuan Purty were all teammates at East Tennessee State University.
Quite the Quarter: Trey Stablein entered the fourth quarter of the Sept. 21 game at Truman State without a catch in his collegiate career. The redshirt sophomore made six grabs during that period, including a 16-yard TD reception for Valpo’s lone score of the day. Stablein led the team in receptions with his six for 62 yards. He was named the Indiana National Guard Player of the Game by Valpo Athletics following the contest.
Seewald on the Valpo Charts: Redshirt junior Jimmy Seewald made his season debut in the second half of Valpo’s game at Truman State on Sept. 21. He tossed his 35th career touchdown pass while throwing for 76 yards to boost his career total to 4,567, which ranks fifth in program history in career passing yards.
Benjamin’s Boot: Valpo punter Benjamin Niesner followed his 56-yard punt on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut State with a quality performance on Sept. 21 at Truman State. The Portland State transfer totaled 404 yards over 10 punts, averaging 40.4 yards per punt in the game against the Bulldogs. He became the 17th player in the FCS nation with 10 punts in a game this year. He finished two shy of the PFL record and three shy of Rob Rayl’s school record, which came on Oct. 10, 1992 against Ferris State. Niesner had the busiest day by a Valpo punter since Josh Young also had 10 chances on Oct. 26, 2013 at Drake.
Block Party: Valpo blocked two punts on Sept. 14 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 own two blocked kicks in a game at that point in the season were Northern Arizona (vs. Western New Mexico), Texas Southern (vs. Prairie View), The Citadel (at Georgia Tech) and Delaware State (at Delaware).
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.
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 joined 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 fourth game in a season-opening stretch of nine straight against teams that finished with a winning record in 2018. For the fourth straight week, Valpo matches up with a team that enters the matchup with a winning record this season.
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.
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.
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… Matched his own 61-yard grab from the season opener with a 61-yard reception from Joe Mullen on Sept. 21 at Truman State, equaling the longest pass play by Valpo through the first three games of the season… 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 Jimmy Seewald, R-Jr. – Entered the season with 4,491 career passing yards and 4,429 yards of total offense, ranking fifth in program history in both categories…. Team captain... Had 2,602 passing yards in 2017, the fourth-most in a single season in program history.
- QB Chris Duncan, R-Jr. – Has started all three games so far this season… 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. – Has started all three games so far this season… 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. – Started the first two games of the season, but did not play on Sept. 21 at Truman State… 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. – Had 1.5 TFL in the Sept. 21 game at Truman State… 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. – Had a strong performance on Sept. 21 at Truman State, highlighted by his first career interception. Turned in a career-high six tackles (three solos) against the Bulldogs, second on the team in that contest… 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… Accounted for Valpo’s lone sack of the day on Sept. 21 at Truman State… 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… Had 10 punts for 404 yards on Sept. 21 at Truman State, becoming the 17th punter in the FCS nation with a 10-punt game this season and the first Valpo player to hit double figures in in single-game punts since 2013.
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.