Marist (3-7, 3-4 PFL)
at Valparaiso (1-10, 1-6 PFL)
Game #12 Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, 1 p.m. CT
Brown Field (5,000) – Valparaiso, Ind.
This Week in Valpo Football: The Valparaiso University football team will look to send its senior class out on a high note on Saturday afternoon at Brown Field. It’s Senior Day as Marist comes to town for the final game of the 2019 campaign. Valpo has been close in recent weeks, but the program would like nothing more than finishing Year 1 of the Landon Fox Era in victorious fashion.
Previously: There’s no way to sugarcoat this one: Valpo lost in the most heartbreaking way possible in last week’s Hoosier Helmet rivalry game at Butler. The Brown & Gold put together a valiant effort that featured a game-tying touchdown drive to even the score at 21 with 19 seconds to play. A game that seemed destined for overtime took another dramatic turn over the final 19 seconds of regulation, as Butler worked its way into field-goal range following a kickoff return, two plays and two Valpo penalties. The second of those flags was an offside call against Valpo on a missed 43-yard field goal attempt, giving the Bulldogs an untimed down for a 38-yard try. Drew Bevelhimer narrowly had the distance from 38, sending Butler to a 24-21 victory. Chris Duncan had a big day, going 21-of-39 through the air for 264 yards while rushing for 102 yards on 19 carries.
Series Notes: Valpo is just 1-7 all-time against Marist, but the lone win was an unforgettable one in the most recent Brown Field meeting on Oct. 14, 2017. Valpo prevailed 49-15 in a game that saw the defense force six turnovers and the offense gain 475 yards. The contest was disrupted by a pair of lightning delays that totaled three hours, 36 minutes. The contest kicked off at 1:04 p.m. and finished at 7:07. Valpo went to Poughkeepsie last year and fell 35-24.
Following Valpo Football: Saturday’s game will be available on ESPN+, which can be accessed on a subscription basis for $4.99 per month. Brian Jennings (play-by-play) and Dave Huseman (color commentary) will have the call this week as Brian fills in for Todd Ickow, who will be in the U.S. Virgin Islands with men’s basketball. In addition, there will be an audio call available, with the outlet to be determined based on the outcome of the first-round basketball game in the U.S. Virgin Islands. If basketball beats Grand Canyon, Saturday’s football game will air as usual on 95.1 FM Valparaiso (WVUR) and on the TuneIn Radio app. If basketball falls to Grand Canyon and then plays on Saturday afternoon, the football radio call will air online only via UStream. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
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.
Frigid Football: The Nov. 23 season finale will mark the first time the Valpo football slate has gone this late into the calendar since Nov. 23, 1935 against Evansville. The last time Valpo played a game any later than Nov. 23 was Nov. 27, 1924 vs. Dubuque.
Senior Day Success: Valpo has made sending the senior class out with a victory a habit in recent years. The program has won four of the last five home finales including each of the last three. Valpo claimed a 48-30 victory over Jacksonville on Senior Day a year ago, beat Dayton 8-7 in 2017 and topped Jacksonville 42-39 to close out the 2016 campaign. The traditional four-year seniors in this class have helped send their senior classmates out with victories in each of the last three years, and will look to end their own careers with similar success by extending the Senior Day winning streak to four on Saturday.
Inside the Class: Valpo will honor 18 members of this year’s senior class on Saturday. Most of the class was part of the memorable 2017 season that saw Valpo beat Butler and Dayton over the last two weeks to finish at 6-5, the program’s first winning record in 15 years. The following Valpo players will be recognized on Saturday: Dimitrios Latsonas, Joe Mullen, Jimmy Seewald, JD Koehler, Chris Duncan, Jamari Booker, Elias Earley, Nate Salomon, Cody Boxrucker, Austin Petrie, Kyle Cartales, Matthew Messler, Nick Turner, Bryce Biggs, Jack Jarnigan, Jimmy Zajac, Jordan Goebel and James Reed.
Scouting Marist: Much like Valpo, Marist is coming off a gut-wrenching defeat a week ago. The Red Foxes racked up 527 yards of total offense, but saw their senior day spoiled in a 52-45 double overtime loss to Jacksonville, a team that picked up its first PFL victory of the season. Marist holds wins over Stetson, Davidson and Butler, but has dropped games to Jacksonville, Dayton, San Diego and Drake. Hunter Cobb is the team’s leading rusher with 582 yards and 11 touchdowns on 104 carries, while quarterback Austin Day has passed for 1,651 yards and thrown for eight scores against 10 picks. In the receiving game, Anthony Olivencia leads the way with 33 catches for 513 yards and three touchdowns. The Red Foxes are guided by the longest-tenured active head coach in Division-I college football, as Jim Parady has reached his 28th season at the helm. The team ranks 10th in the league in scoring defense, allowing 36.7 points per game. Their offense has been pass-heavy, as their 232.2 passing yards per game rank fourth in the PFL, but their 106.9 rushing yards rank ninth.
Cutting It Close: Valpo is 0-7 in games decided by seven points or fewer over the last two seasons including 0-4 this year. The program has been competitive in many of its losses, but has struggled to find a recipe to come out on top in those close contests. The team has lost by six points or fewer each of the last three weeks with defeats to Davidson (27-21), Morehead State (27-21) and Butler (24-21). The three-point loss was Valpo’s closest contest since the 2018 season opener, a 23-21 defeat at Duquesne. The Nov. 16 loss at Butler marked the closest Hoosier Helmet game since 1997, when Valpo went south to Indianapolis and came home with a 19-17 triumph. This marks the first time the Valpo football team has lost three straight games all by seven points or fewer since October 1960, losses to Butler, Saint Joseph’s and Indiana State by seven, seven and one, respectively.
Two-Score Showing: Ollie Reese hauled in touchdown passes of 22 and 33 yards in the Nov. 16 game at Butler, becoming the first Valpo player with two scoring snags in a single game this season. The last player to do it was Griffin Norberg on Nov. 10 of last season vs. Jacksonville. Reese became the first Valpo player to catch two touchdown passes in a road game since Frank Catrine on Oct. 3, 2015 at Davidson.
Deuce Does Damage: Junior wide receiver Deuce Larose followed his season-high 112 receiving yards on Nov. 9 vs. Morehead State with another quality showing on Nov. 16 at Butler. He came within a single yard of achieving back-to-back 100-yard outputs while hauling in five catches against the Bulldogs.
Outgaining the Opponent: Valpo outgained Butler 393-317 on Nov. 17, marking the first time this season Valpo has accumulated more total yards than its opponent. The Brown & Gold held the upper hand in both passing yards and rushing yards. It was the first time Valpo outgained the opponent since last season’s game against Butler, which came on Oct. 13.
Keeping Drives Alive: Valpo had four fourth-down conversions on Nov. 2 at Davidson, becoming one of 21 teams nationally in FCS with four or more fourth-down conversions in a single game at that point in the season. Valpo went for it on fourth down six times in the game against the Wildcats, the second time they’d done so this year (Central Connecticut). The four fourth down conversions were the most in a single game by Valpo since Oct. 8, 2016 vs. Drake (five). Valpo tacked on a 3-for-3 day in converting on fourth down on Nov. 16 at Butler, the team’s second game this season with three or more fourth-down successes.
Valpo Runs on Duncan: Chris Duncan enjoyed a career day on Nov. 9 vs. Morehead State. His 304 passing yards marked a career high, as did his 30 completions (30-48). It was the second time in his career he's thrown for three scores in the game, and he did so without throwing an interception. It was the most passing yards in a game by a Valpo quarterback since Jimmy Seewald on Oct. 28, 2017 vs. Morehead State (316). The 30 completions marked the second-best by a PFL player in a single game this season. Duncan became the first Valpo player since Scott Staal on Nov. 14, 2014 vs. Morehead State (32) to complete 30 or more passes in a game. The Valpo quarterback followed that game against the Eagles up with another standout effort on Nov. 16 at Butler, this time getting it done both on the ground and through the air. He passed for 264 yards and rushed for 102, achieving the unique combo of 200 or more passing yards and 100 or more rushing yards in the same game for the first time in his career.
Duncan Cracks Top 10: Jimmy Seewald has already cemented himself among the program’s all-time passing leaders, and now Chris Duncan has become the program’s second active player in the all-time Top 10 for career passing yards. Duncan has 3,493 passing yards, bumping Warren Arnold (2005-2008, 3,025) from the Top 10. Gordon Helms (1953-1955) is ninth at 3,563. Duncan has 4,124 yards of total offense, usurping Ryan Doerffler (2003-2006; 3,861) and Rob Rayl (1990-1993; 4,007) to move into eighth in program history on Nov. 16 at Butler. Warren Arnold (2005-2008) is seventh at 4,287.
Wide Out Watermarks: Several Valpo wide receivers had career days on Nov. 9 vs. Morehead State as Deuce Larose made six catches for 112 yards, the first time in his career he surpassed 100 receiving yards. Oscar Lopez hauled in nine grabs for 78 yards, both personal bests. Lopez’s nine receptions and Larose’s 112 receiving yards both represented the highest output by any Valpo player this season. Larose had Valpo’s highest single-game receiving yard total since Griffin Norberg had 173 on Nov. 10, 2018 vs. Jacksonville, while Lopez was the first Valpo player with nine or more receptions in a game since Jean Rene had nine on Nov. 14, 2015 vs. Morehead State.
- Jamari Booker enters Saturday’s game vs. Marist needing just five more tackles to hit the century mark for the season.
- The standout performances from senior defensive back Jamari Booker continued to come on Saturday, Nov. 2 at Davidson, when he achieved a career-high 21 tackles while also forcing two fumbles, picking up one TFL and receiving a pair of QB hurries.
- The 21 tackles eclipsed his previous career high set on Sept. 29, 2018 vs. Davidson (20), which was Valpo’s first 20-tackle game since at least 2001. He became the first PFL player with 21 tackles in a game since Donald Payne of Stetson on Nov. 8, 2014 vs. Marist. In addition, Booker – who wears jersey No. 20 – became the second PFL player since 2002 with multiple career games of 20 tackles or more, joining Payne, who did so on three occasions, all during the 2014 campaign.
- Entering the action on Nov. 2, just one player nationally in FCS had more than 20 tackles in a game this season – Ja’Quay Pough of Northwestern State on Oct. 26. However, Booker was one of three players with more than 20 tackles on Nov. 2, joining John Staton (Samford, 22) and Sidney Otiwu (Mercer, 21), making him one of four players in the nation with 21 or more tackles in a game this season.
- Booker became the only player in FCS who has a 20-tackle showing both this year and last year. At that time, he was one of three players in the entire Division-I nation – FBS or FCS – with a 20-tackle accumulation in both 2018 and 2019.
- The two forced fumbles in the Nov. 2 game against the Wildcats were also noteworthy as he is one of 29 players nationally in FCS with multiple forced fumbles in a single game this season.
- Booker was named the Pioneer Football League Defensive Player of the Week, STATS FCS National Defensive Player of the Week and the College Sports Madness FCS National Defensive Player of the Week after his 13-tackle, two-interception performance in a 19-10 victory over Stetson on Oct. 26. It was his second two-interception game of the year, making him the third player in the FCS nation with two multiple-pick showings in 2019. At that point in the year, there had been five instances of a PFL player having two interceptions in a game in 2019, and Booker accounted for two of them.
Career Count: Nick Turner’s career tackle total is up to 255 as he has now eclipsed 50 tackles in a season for the third time in his career. His 101 during the 2017 campaign marked a career high, while his current season total of 64 ranks second on the team. He set a new career high with 15 on Nov. 2 at Davidson. The Gurnee, Ill. native ranks 30th nationally among active FCS players in career tackles.
Latsonas Climbing PFL Chart: In addition to his 93 career PATs marking a school record, senior kicker Dimitrios Latsonas has made more field goals than any other Valpo kicker since the program joined the Pioneer Football League in 1993. Latsonas has cracked the all-time PFL Top 10 for career field goal makes with 29. He is tied with Butler’s Jonathan Treloar (2012-2015) for ninth in PFL history. Interestingly enough, three of the current Top 10 in PFL history in career made fields goals are active players with Butler’s Drew Bevelhimer (45) in third and Stetson’s Jonny Messina tied for sixth with 33.
Touchdown Tracker: Valpo running back Cody Boxrucker reached a commendable milestone on Nov. 2 at Davidson, as the senior scored the 20th rushing TD of his career. He is one of 42 active players in the FCS nation with 20 or more.
Déjà vu: Prior to the Nov. 2 game at Davidson, Valpo had gone nearly 30 years since the last time the team had a game decided by the final score of 27-21. Valpo then lost by that exact score back-to-back weeks against the Wildcats and Morehead State Eagles. The only other game in program history that ended 27-21 was a Nov. 8, 1980 setback at Franklin.
Forcing Fumbles: The Valpo defense forced four fumbles on Nov. 2 at Davidson, just the 12th time in the FCS nation this season that a team has forced four or more fumbles in a single game. The last time Valpo had even forced three in a contest was Sept. 30, 2017 vs. Stetson, and the four forced fumbles marked the most since Sept. 12, 2015 at Sacred Heart.
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 at the Homecoming game on Sept. 28. In addition, Valpo retired 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.
A Special (Teams) Honor: Kicker Dimitrios Latsonas took home the special teams honors following Valpo’s win over Stetson on Oct. 26. He converted four field goals with two of them coming from 40 yards or longer and accounted for 13 of the team’s 19 points. The senior was the first PFL player to make four field goals in a game this season and one of 17 in the nation to do so at that point in the year. He was the first Valpo kicker with a four-field goal showing since Andrew McCawley had four at Butler on Nov. 8, 2003. Latsonas’ success didn’t end with field goals, as he averaged 62 yards per kickoff on six boots including three touchbacks.
Dual Honors: Following Valpo’s win over Stetson, Jamari Booker was named PFL Defensive Player of the Week and Dimitrios Latsonas took home special teams honors. The last time Valpo won two of the three PFL weekly awards in the same week was Sept. 5, 2016, when Kellan Hughes (Defensive Player) and Jake Simpson (Special Teams) were both honored after a game against Illinois State. That was also the last time a Valpo player earned the PFL Defensive Player of the Week Award. Booker was named PFL Defensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career, while Latsonas previously won PFL Special Teams Player of the Week on Nov. 12, 2017.
Best Win Since: The Stetson Hatters came into Brown Field with a 5-1 record on Oct. 26, and left with their second loss of the year. It was the first time Valpo beat a team that stood at 5-1 or better since Oct. 18, 2003, when Valpo knocked off a 5-1 San Diego squad at Brown Field.
Stopping Stetson: Valpo held the Hatters to just 10 points in the Oct. 26 matchup, the fewest allowed by the defense since beating Dayton 8-7 on Nov. 18, 2017. This was just the fourth time (third against a D1 opponent) Valpo has allowed 10 points or fewer in a game in the last 19 seasons. Making matters more impressive, Stetson entered the contest ranked first in the FCS nation in total offense and scoring offense. After permitting 10 points in the opening quarter against the Hatters, the team strung together three consecutive goose eggs in the remaining periods.
Home Sweet Home: Quarterback Chris Duncan made his return to his home state on Oct. 19 at San Diego. The Woodland Hills, Calif. native scampered across the goal line from 12 and 6 yards out with both coming in the third quarter of the game against the Toreros. He became the first Valpo player to rush for a pair of touchdowns this season. It also marked the first time in Duncan’s career he ran for two scores in a single game.
Dual Threat Quarterback: Chris Duncan rushed for 154 yards on Oct. 12 vs. Dayton, becoming the first Valpo player to exceed 150 rushing yards in a game in seven years. The last Valpo player to do so was Jake Hutson on Nov. 3, 2012, when he went for 248 yards in a game at Campbell. Duncan was the first Valpo player to rush for 150 yards in a game at Brown Field since 2008, when Ross Wiemer went for 170 against Davidson. Duncan had the most rushing yards by a Valpo quarterback in a single game since Sept. 1, 2007, when Warren Arnold had 172 against Saint Francis.
Big Gain Alert: Quarterback Chris Duncan ran for a 76-yard touchdown in the Oct. 12 game against Dayton, Valpo’s longest rushing play since Jarrett Morgan had an 86 yarder on Sept. 16, 2017 at Trinity International. The Duncan run was Valpo’s longest offensive play of the season. Morgan’s play in 2017 did not go for a TD, so Duncan’s was Valpo’s longest scoring run since Ozzie Young had a 76 yarder on Nov. 11, 1995 against Kentucky Wesleyan. Duncan provided Valpo’s longest rushing play against a Division-I opponent since Young’s 84 yarder on Oct. 22, 1994 against Evansville. It was the longest rush by any PFL player this season at that point in the year.
Ground Game: As a team, Valpo totaled 299 yards on the ground on Oct. 12 vs. Dayton after entering the game with 72 marking the team’s season high. It was Valpo’s top team rushing performance since the aforementioned Nov. 3, 2012 game at Campbell, when the team totaled 304 yards against the Fighting Camels. The game against the Flyers marked Valpo’s second-best rushing performance since the start of the 2009 season and best in a home game since accumulating 351 yards on Oct. 11, 2008 vs. Davidson. In addition, the 447 yards of total offense against Dayton was a season best.
The Reese Return: Among the highlights of Valpo’s 28-point output on Oct. 12 against Dayton was a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Ollie Reese, the first of his career and the first by a Valpo player this season. He turned in the second-longest kickoff return in the PFL this season to that point behind Dayton’s Jake Chisholm, who had a 97 yarder on Sept. 21 vs. Duquesne.
Punt-Free Football: Another noteworthy tidbit on Oct. 12 vs. Dayton is that Valpo did not punt the football in the contest. This was the first time Valpo did not punt in a game in over 18 years.
TFL Time: Valpo accumulated a dozen tackles for loss in the PFL opener against Drake, the team’s most in a single game since Sept. 20, 2014 at William Jewell (12). The last time Valpo had that many TFL in a PFL game was Sept. 25, 2010 vs. Drake (13). There were only 14 prior instances of an FCS Division I team achieving 12 or more TFL in a game this season.
Turner Tackle Tidbits: In the PFL opener against Drake, fifth-year senior Nick Turner became the first Valpo player with 3.5 TFL in a single game since John Guilford on Oct. 17, 2015 vs. Dayton. He equaled the most by a Valpo player since Guilford’s 4.0 on Nov. 8, 2014 vs. Butler. Turner also became just the third PFL player with 3.5 or more TFL in a game this season, joining San Diego’s Kevin Glajchen (4.0 vs. Harvard) and Morehead State’s Vaughn Taylor (3.5 vs. Union).
New-Look Receiving Corps: Valpo features a youthful group of wide receivers, many of whom have taken on considerably larger roles since the 2018 campaign wrapped up. Valpo’s top five receivers in terms of both total receptions and receiving yards from last year have since departed. Kyle Cartales (13 catches, 137 receiving yards in 2018) was the leading returning player in that area. Of the team’s 185 receptions last season, 142 (76.76 percent) were by players who did not return for 2019. In addition, 2040 of the team’s 2455 receiving yards (83 percent) from a year ago departed following the season.
Two-Pick Showing: Jamari Booker grabbed a pair of interceptions in the Sept. 28 game against Charleston, becoming the first player in the Pioneer Football League with a multi-interception game this season. At that point in the year, he was 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. Booker lifted his career interception total to five.
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.
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… Had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on Oct. 12 vs. Dayton… 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… Set career highs in receptions (six) and receiving yards (78) on Oct. 19 at San Diego… Became the first Valpo player with two touchdown receptions in a single game in 2019 by snagging two on Nov. 16 at Butler. Also became the first Valpo player with two receiving TDs
- LT Bryce Biggs, R-Jr. – Made his first career start on Oct. 12 vs. Dayton.
- 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.
- LG Brendan O’Doherty, R-Fr. – Majoring in mechanical engineering… In high school was also a wrestler in the heavyweight division… In prep football, earned second-team all-Ohio Division 3 honors.
- 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… Mother Liz is the Director of Athletics at Southern Illinois University and father Jeff is an assistant general manager and coach for the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League… Sister Mary is a teacher in Colorado Springs and sister Emily is a volleyball player at St. Olaf College.
- RG 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.
- RT Jimmy Zajac, R-Jr. – Appeared in three games over his first three seasons on campus, but has earned his way to the top spot on the depth chart as a fourth-year player in 2019.
- 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… Made his first TD catch of the season on a 15-yard pass from Chris Duncan on Oct. 12 vs. Dayton… Had an eight-yard TD catch on Nov. 2 at Davidson, becoming the first Valpo player with multiple touchdown receptions this season… Boosted his season total to three with a 2-yard TD grab on Nov. 9 vs. Morehead State… Followed his career-high 112 receiving yards against Morehead State on Nov. 9 with 99 at Butler on Nov. 16.
- 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 first three games of the season for Valpo including the season opener at Eastern Kentucky and threw his 17th career touchdown pass, a 61 yarder to Ollie Reese… Had a 76-yard TD run in the game against Dayton, Valpo’s longest since 1995… 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… Rushed for 154 yards and passed for 148 on Oct. 12 vs. Dayton, putting together Valpo’s top rushing performance in seven years and the team’s highest rushing total by a QB since 2007… Became the first Valpo player this season with two touchdown runs in a single game on Oct. 19 at San Diego, doing so for the first time in his career… His late grandfather Mike Shatusky also wore #14 and was the quarterback at Michigan in the late 1950s… Rushed for a touchdown and threw for one on Nov. 2 vs. Davidson. The passing TD was the 19th of his career, while the rush was his ninth and sixth of the season… Had a career-high 304 passing yards on Nov. 9 vs. Morehead State, throwing for three touchdowns and no interceptions. He completed 30 passes in the game, the second most in a single game by a PFL player this season… Enjoyed his first career game with 200+ passing yards and 100+ rushing yards on Nov. 16 at Butler.
- RB Elias Earley, R-Sr. – Has established himself as Valpo’s top running back as a fifth-year senior after playing a reserve role for the rest of his career … Had a career-high 112 rushing yards on Oct. 26 vs. Stetson.
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….Had a fumble recovery on Oct. 26 vs. Stetson.
- DE Nathan Orlandini, Jr. – Majoring in mechanical engineering… Appeared in nine games in 2018… Has earned his way to the top spot on the depth chart this season.
- DT Jordan Goebel, R-Jr. – Played in 10 games and made three starts in 2018 after playing in all 11 games and making one start 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… Led the team for a second straight week with a 10-tackle output on Oct. 5 at Drake. Also had 3.5 TFL in that game, becoming the fifth player in the PFL in 2019 with 3.5 or more TFL in a single game. He also had the most tackles for loss by any Valpo player in a game since 2015…Had a career-high 14 tackles on Nov. 2 at Davidson.
- LB Trey Psota, R-Fr. – Appeared in four games as a true freshman in 2018, keeping his four seasons of eligibility… Finished with 11 tackles in the Oct. 26 win over Stetson while also blocking a Stetson field goal attempt.
- 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… Had his second two-interception game of the season on Oct. 26 vs. Stetson, racking up a team-high 13 tackles in the victory. Was named PFL Defensive Player of the Week, College Sports Madness FCS National Defensive Player of the Week and STATS FCS National Defensive Player of the Week following that showing… Had a career-high 21 tackles while forcing two fumbles on Nov. 2 at Davidson.
- S David Hebda, R-So. – Twin brother of Valpo’s Henry Hebda… Has earned the top spot on the two deep for the Nov. 16 game at Butler… Majoring in nursing.
- CB Kohlton Sherman, So. – Racked up eight tackles in Week 1 at Eastern Kentucky, second on the team… First names starting with the letter K is a family tradition for males… Enjoys golfing… Had a career-high 10 tackles on Nov. 2 at Davidson.
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… Extended his streak of made field goals to four straight by converting from 46 and 41 on Oct. 5 at Drake… Made four PATs on Oct. 12 vs. Dayton, tying the program record for made PATs in a career by boosting his four-year total to 83… Hit two extra points on Oct. 19 at San Diego, becoming the program record holder in career made PATs… Became the first Valpo kicker since 2003 to make four field goals in a game on Oct. 26 vs. Stetson, accounting for 13 of the team’s points in a 19-10 victory. He was named the PFL Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time in his career after also booting three touchbacks among his six kickoffs for 62 yards per kick in the win over the Hatters.
- 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… Ran for 10 yards and a first down on a fake punt play on Oct. 5 at Drake. Booted a pair of punts for 50+ yards in that game against the Bulldogs… Had two punts of greater than 50 yards on Oct. 19 at San Diego… Averaged 40.7 yards per punt on six punts, including a punt of 48 yards and two downed inside the 20 on Nov. 9 vs. Morehead State.
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.