Five members of the Valparaiso University football program were recognized as part of the 2020 Phil Steele Preseason All-Pioneer Football League Team, which was announced on Friday evening.
Junior wide receiver/return specialist Ollie Reese (Franklin, Tenn. / Battle Ground), senior defensive lineman Trejuan Purty (Maryville, Tenn. / Maryville [Eastern Tennessee State]), junior linebacker Jaxon Peifer (Normal, Ill. / Normal Community) and senior punter Benjamin Niesner (Black Diamond, Wash. / Tahoma [Portland State]) all received second team honors, while senior wide receiver Deuce Larose (Fort Lauderdale, Fla. / Cardinal Gibbons) was named to the third team.
Reese was listed on the second team for offense and special teams, attesting to his prowess as both a wide receiver and return specialist. He was tabbed All-PFL Honorable Mention in 2019 after leading the team in receptions (34), receiving yards (545) and receiving touchdowns (five) while averaging 16.0 yards per catch and 45.4 receiving yards per game. He finished 10th in the PFL in receiving yards per outing and sixth in all-purpose yards at 110.7. The Tennessee native finished seventh in the league in kick return average at 22.0.
Reese had the most all-purpose yards by a Valpo player – both total (1,328) and per game (110.7) – since 2008. He jumped from four receptions for 35 yards as a freshman in 2018 to 34 receptions for 545 yards as a sophomore in 2019.
Also a 2019 All-PFL Honorable Mention, Purty played in 12 games in his first season on campus after joining the program as a transfer. He finished tied for sixth in the PFL with 3.5 sacks and had six tackles for loss totaling 31 yards. Purty snagged the first fumble recovery of his Valpo career on Oct. 26 vs. Stetson and had a season-high five tackles on Nov. 2 at Davidson.
Peifer saw action in 11 of the team’s 12 games a year ago and registered 62 tackles (31 solos) and 3.0 tackles for loss. The 2019 All-PFL Honorable Mention choice forced a pair of fumbles while also receiving credit for two QB hurries and a pass breakup. Peifer tied for fourth in the PFL in forced fumbles per game and tied for 23rd in the league at 5.6 tackles per contest. After having seven tackles over eight games during his freshman season, he exceeded his 2018 season total with 10 in the season opener at Eastern Kentucky and later equaled that season high on Nov. 9 vs. Morehead State.
Niesner also garnered All-PFL Honorable Mention after a 2019 campaign that saw him average 39.4 yards per punt over 65 punts, the best mark by a Valpo punter with at least 20 attempts since Greg Wood’s 40.9 yard average in 2012. He ranked fifth in the league in yards per punt and knocked 12 punts inside the 20 while booting six punts 50 yards or longer.
Larose was named 2019 All-PFL Honorable Mention after recording 30 catches for 484 yards, averaging 16.1 yards per catch and 48.4 yards per game. He hauled in three touchdown passes on his way to ranking 10th in the PFL in receptions per game at 3.0 and ninth in receiving yards per game at 48.4. He finished the season on a high note, accruing 90 or more receiving yards in each of his final six games including a career-high 112 on Nov. 9 vs. Morehead State.