Valparaiso (0-4, 0-0 PFL)
at Drake (1-3, 1-0 PFL)
Game #5: Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, 1 p.m. CT
Drake Stadium (14,557) – Des Moines, Iowa
This Week in Valpo Football: Now the games really start counting for the Valparaiso University football team. The Brown & Gold will be thrown right into the fire in Pioneer Football League play to begin head coach Landon Fox’s first season as the squad faces the top three teams in the PFL Preseason Poll over the first three weeks of league action, including two road dates. That gauntlet starts with a trip to Drake, which has long proved to be a tough place to play for Valpo football.
Previously: Valpo incurred a 19-13 setback to the University of Charleston in the nonconference finale last week at Brown Field. The two teams exchanged early touchdowns with Valpo’s coming on a 3-yard pass from Jimmy Seewald to Alex Kluck. But from the midway mark of the first quarter forward, it was all field goals with the Golden Eagles converting four to Valpo’s two. Valpo’s defense came up with big plays throughout the day as Jamari Booker snatched two interceptions and Nick Turner forced a fumble and scooped up the recovery.
Two-Pick Showing: Jamari Booker grabbed a pair of interceptions in last week’s game against Charleston, becoming the first player in the Pioneer Football League with a multi-interception game this season. He is one of 26 players in the FCS nation with a multi-interception game in 2019. The last Valpo player to pull down multiple picks in a single game was Austin Petrie on Oct. 28, 2017 vs. Morehead State. Valpo has had five players with multi-interception games in the last five seasons – Josmar Diaz-Martinez (2015), Kellan Hughes (2015), Drew Snouffer (2016), Petrie and Booker. In addition to lifting his career interception total to five, Booker boosted his season tackle output to 20 in the game against Charleston.
Turner Time: Fifth-year senior Nick Turner finished as the team’s leading tackler last week against Charleston, coming within one tackle of his career-high of 13 that was set during the 2017 Homecoming game against Stetson and matched on Nov. 11, 2017 in a win over Butler. The captain crossed the 200-tackle mark for his collegiate career as he now stands at 205, Valpo’s active leader in career tackles. In addition, Turner had a forced fumble and a fumble recovery against the Golden Eagles, the second of each in his career. His first forced fumble came on Nov. 18, 2017 vs. Dayton and his first fumble recovery was on Oct. 7, 2017 at Campbell. Valpo has had four different leading tacklers in the first four games of the season.
Seewald Returns: After playing late in the second half of the Sept. 21 game at Truman State, Jimmy Seewald made his first start of the season on Sept. 28 vs. University of Charleston. Seewald, who holds nearly as many career wins as every other Valpo quarterback for the last decade combined, was the starting signal caller during the team’s 6-5 season in 2017 before being limited to four games by an injury in 2018. Seewald has passed for 4,616 yards in his career, needing 384 more to become just the fifth player in program history to reach 5,000 career passing yards. He has thrown 36 career touchdown passes, the most since Eric Hoffman (2010-2013) finished with 44. Perhaps most importantly, Seewald has the best career winning percentage of any Valpo quarterback in over 15 years.
Stopping the Run: Valpo allowed just 69 rushing yards on Sept. 28 against Charleston, the fewest rushing yards the team has surrendered in a game since holding Stetson to 67 on Sept. 30, 2017, which coincidentally was also a Homecoming game.
Under 20: The Valpo defense held an opponent under 20 points in the 19-13 loss to Charleston on Sept. 28. The team has held the opposition under 20 points eight times in the last six seasons and had won the previous six. This was Valpo’s first defeat in a game in which the defense allowed fewer than 20 points since Oct. 8, 2014 vs. Drake (L 17-9). It was the first time since at least 2001 that Valpo lost while allowing fewer than two touchdowns in a game.
Flag Free Football: Valpo ranks among the national leaders in avoiding penalties, as the team’s 4.50 penalty per game average is the best in the Pioneer Football League and 10th in the FCS nation. The national leader is Lehigh at 2.50 penalties per contest.
Following Valpo Football: A video stream will be available for Saturday’s game on Bulldog Vision courtesy of Drake Athletics. The hometown call will be available on 95.1 FM Valparaiso and via the TuneIn Radio app with Todd Ickow (play-by-play) and Brandon Vickrey (color commentary) describing the action. Links to live video, audio and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Series Notes: Valpo stands at 3-23 in the all-time series as Drake has won 15 consecutive head-to-head meetings. Valpo hasn’t beaten Drake since Oct. 25, 2003, a 51-45 overtime victory at Brown Field. Entering Saturday’s game, Valpo has never won in Des Moines, holding an 0-12 record when visiting Drake.
Scouting Drake: The Bulldogs are coming off a one-sided 41-17 win over Marist to open PFL play. The team went 0-3 in nonconference action, but two of the losses were against high-level competition to North Dakota (47-7) and No. 3 South Dakota State (38-10). Valpo and Drake do have one common opponent as both lost to Truman State, with Drake’s defeat coming 10-7 in Des Moines. Freshman quarterback Ian Corwin was named the STATS FCS Freshman Player of the Week after going 20-of-29 for 255 yards and four touchdowns against the Red Foxes. Four different Drake receivers hauled in touchdown grabs in the game. He has thrown seven touchdown passes in the last four games. Junior defensive back Jeran Proctor is the reigning Pioneer Football League Player of the Week after making a key interception in Saturday’s win at Marist. Alex Rogers leads the Drake defense with 29 tackles. Devin Cates has 20 receptions for 254 yards and two touchdowns, while Corwin is 63-of-117 through the air this season. The leading rusher is Drew Lauer, who has 266 yards on the ground through four games. Drake, which was picked third in the PFL, had four preseason all-league honorees – WR Steven Doran, DL Gavin Dineen, DL Erin Morgan and DB Will Warner. Saturday’s game will be a battle of first-year head coaches who have previously served as defensive coordinators in the league. Todd Stepsis was elevated to head coach on Dec. 21, 2018 after five seasons in charge of the defense in Des Moines.
Valpo in PFL Openers: Valpo has lost the PFL opener each of the last two seasons, opening up at home against Davidson in 2018 after visiting Drake in 2017. The team did notch a home win over Davidson in 2016 to crank up league action, their only victory in the last five PFL openers. Valpo is 2-10 in its last dozen PFL lid-lifters with the other victory coming on Sept. 28, 2013, a 49-42 overtime win over Campbell at Brown Field.
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 was celebrated the Homecoming game on Sept. 28. In addition, Valpo will retire the numbers of two University legends on Saturday at Brown Field. Garry Puetz ’73 and Fuzzy Thurston ’56 (posthumous) became the first players in program history to have their numbers retired. The use of No. 80 has been discontinued in honor of Thurston, while No. 71 has been 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.
Strong Slate: This week will continue a challenging 2019 schedule for the Valpo football team. This is the fifth game in a season-opening stretch of nine straight against teams that finished with a winning record in 2018.
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… Made his first career TD catch on Sept. 28 vs. Charleston, hauling in a 3-yard toss from Jimmy Seewald.
- 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.
- RB Kyle Cartales, Sr. – Has started every game 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 Austin Martins, R-So. – Had 58 tackles at Modesto Junior College last season while racking up 17.5 TFL and nine sacks to lead the team in all three categories… Was a running back at Division-III Linfield College in Oregon in 2017… Majoring in civil engineering.
- DT Jordan Goebel, R-Jr. – Played in 10 games and made three starts in 2018 after playing in all 11 games and making one star in 2017.
- 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… Finished a tackle shy of a career high with 12 to lead the team on Sept. 28 vs. Charleston. Also forced a fumble and recovered that same fumble in the game against the Golden Eagles.
- 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… Missed the Sept. 28 game vs. Charleston with an injury.
- 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… Made two interceptions on Sept. 28 vs. Charleston, becoming the first player in the PFL and the 26th in the nation with a multiple interception game this season.
- 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 78 career PATs, only five away from tying and six from breaking the career program record… Went 2-for-2 on field goals on Sept. 28 vs. Charleston, his first two makes of the season.
- 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.