Butler (3-2, 1-1 PFL)
at Valparaiso (0-5, 0-2 PFL)
Game #6: Saturday, Oct. 13, 1 p.m. CT
Brown Field (5,000 – Astroturf) – Valparaiso, Ind.
This Week in Valpo Football: Regardless of the records or where the teams are in the standings, when these two rivals face off, it’s a big one. The biggest one of the season, to be exact. The 77th incarnation of Valpo/Butler will occur on Saturday at Brown Field as the hosts attempt to retain the Hoosier Helmet trophy for the second straight season.
Last Time Out: Valpo dropped last week’s game at Dayton 53-20 despite 116 rushing yards on 15 carries from junior running back Kyle Cartales, who established a career high. Griffin Norberg (58 yards) and Brannen Martin (5 yards) both hauled in touchdown passes, while Cartales used an 11-yard run for Valpo’s third score. Defensively, Austin Petrie led the way with nine tackles, while Cam Kelly had eight.
Following Valpo Football: Saturday’s game will air on ESPN+, which is available for subscribers for the price of $4.99 per month. Todd Ickow (play-by-play) is back for his 26th season, while Dave Huseman is in his sixth year as the color commentator for home games. For the 13th straight year, WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) is home to all 11 Valpo football games in 2018. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Dave Cecchini: Now in his fifth season as the program’s head coach, Cecchini has lifted Valpo football to new heights during his time in charge, turning a team that had won just three total games in the four seasons prior to his arrival - all against the same opponent - into one that finished with its first winning season since 2003 in 2017. Last year saw the program turn a corner as Valpo went 6-5 overall and 5-3 in Pioneer Football League play. Cecchini became the first Valpo coach since 2003 to earn PFL Coach of the Year honors. He was also named a finalist for the FCS Coach of the Year Award, the AFCA FCS Region 4 Coach of the Year and a finalist for the AFCA FCS National Coach of the Year. Valpo finished tied for third in the league standings after being picked to finish 10th of 11. The Valpo head coach enters this week with a 15-34 record, both overall and in four plus years on campus. Prior to arriving in Northwest Indiana, Cecchini served as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Lehigh for four years.
Game 50: Saturday will be Dave Cecchini’s 50th game as the head coach at Valpo. A win over Butler would allow Cecchini to be Valpo’s winningest coach through the first 50 games of his tenure since Bill Koch coached his 50th game on Sept. 18, 1982 at Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Series Notes: It’s time for the continuation of a rivalry that dates all the way back to 1927. Valpo is 26-50 all-time against the Bulldogs, who have won eight of the last 10 meetings. The two teams have split the last four faceoffs with two wins apiece. Valpo enjoyed a memorable 36-28 triumph at the Sellick Bowl last season, its first win at Butler since 2005. This matchup has occurred every year since 1951. A win on Saturday would allow Valpo to beat the Bulldogs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2005.
On This Date: The Hoosier Helmet Game was also played on Oct. 13 back in 2007, when Valpo claimed the trophy for the first time with a 42-37 victory over Butler. Valpo trailed 28-14 entering the fourth quarter, but outscored Butler 42-37 in a high-scoring final period. That was the first time the two teams played for the Hoosier Helmet at Brown Field as the trophy was created in 2006 to commemorate and intensify the long-standing rivalry.
Scouting Butler: The Bulldogs turned heads in Week 1 when they picked up a 23-21 victory over Youngstown State, a team that at the time was ranked 24th nationally in Division I FCS. After starting PFL play with a 24-21 win over Morehead State on Sept. 29, the Bulldogs fell 36-6 this past week at Drake. Butler, which leads the league in time of possession at 33:48, is led offensively by Pace Temple, who is sixth in the league with 82.8 receiving yards per game. Quarterback Will Marty ranks sixth in the PFL with 180 passing yards per contest, while the running game is led by Brad Sznajder, who is also sixth in the PFL at 86.8 rushing yards per game. Butler is under the direction of head coach Jeff Voris, who is in his 13th season at the helm.
Ground Game: Junior running back Kyle Cartales enjoyed the first 100-yard rushing game of his career last week, compiling a career-high 116 yards on 15 carries for an average of 7.7 yards per carry. His rushing total was the highest by any Valpo player in a game since Jarrett Morgan ran for 127 on Sept. 16, 2017 against Trinity International. It was the most rushing yards by a Valpo player in a single game against a Division-I opponent since Brandon Hall had 120 on Oct. 25, 2014 against Morehead State. Cartales picked up his seventh career rushing touchdown and his 11th career TD overall. The team’s 179 rushing yards against Dayton marked the most since Valpo racked up 281 on Oct. 28, 2017 against Morehead State.
Few Flags: This is a matchup of the two least penalized teams in the league in terms of penalty yards per game. The Bulldogs are averaging a PFL-low 36.4 penalty yards per game through five contests, while Valpo is second-best in that area at 44.6.
Top Tacklers: The top three tacklers in the PFL will all be on display on Saturday. Valpo’s Drew Snouffer leads the league at 12.0 tackles per game, while Butler’s Luke Sennett and Valpo’s Jamari Booker are tied for second at 8.4 per game. Not only does Snouffer lead the PFL in that category, but he ranks fourth in the FCS nation in tackles per game. Three Valpo players rank in the Top 5 in the PFL in tackles per game as Petrie (7.4) is tied for fourth, joining Booker and Snouffer in the Top 5. Snouffer is on a quest to become the second Valpo player to lead the league in tackles in the last four years as Alex Green did so in 2015 at 11.6 tackles per game.
Battling the Bulldogs: If fans come to a game at Brown Field this season and chant “Beat the Bulldogs,” chances are the cheer would be applicable. Three of Valpo’s five home games this season are against teams known as the Bulldogs: Truman State, Butler and Drake.
The Region’s DI Team: Saturday is “219 Day” at Brown Field, and fans of prep football in Northwest Indiana will recognize several names on the Valpo roster. During Dave Cecchini’s tenure as Valpo head coach, the program has seen an uptick in local recruits. Senior starting offensive lineman Eric Rentschler is a native of Highland, while a trio of freshman have joined the program this season who hail from The Region – Anthony Maceo (Portage), Michael Scarsella (Valparaiso) and Adrian Guzman (Valparaiso). LaPorte alum Carter Puckett is a redshirt freshman on the team. Valpo special teams coordinator and tight ends coach John Snyder is a longtime Northwest Indiana fixture as he spent 18 seasons on staff at Chesterton High School, 12 as the head football coach. The connection between Valpo football and Northwest Indiana is two-fold, as numerous Valpo football products have gone on to coach prep football in the area. Munster head coach Jason Grunewald, Valpo High head coach Bill Marshall, Portage head coach Darren Rodriguez and Wheeler head coach Adam Hudak all played at Valpo. Chesterton head coach Mark Peterson was a member of the Valparaiso University staff from 1991-2004. Numerous high school assistant coaches in the area are also former Valpo football players.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Offensive Starters
- WR Griffin Norberg - Holds the impressive distinction of having four touchdown catches of 58 yards or more this season and has accomplished that feat in four of the five games this year. Has 13 career touchdowns (11 receiving), one of four active Valpo players with 10+ TDs in their career.
- LT Andrew Lundberg – Has started every game this season and has been a fixture on the offensive line since the start of the 2016 season, missing just two games.
- LG Eric Rentschler – Computer engineering major who was named to the Academic All-PFL Second Team last season. Works in the Valpo IT Department. Local to Northwest Indiana as a Highland graduate. Has played in 30 straight games.
- C Jack Jarnigan – Has missed just one game since the start of the 2016 season.
- RG Tom Schofield – Became the first Valpo offensive lineman to catch a pass since 2003 on Sept. 29 vs. Davidson. Has played in all 37 games during his collegiate career. Member of the 2017 All-PFL Second Team.
- RT Shannon Taliaferro – Has appeared in 22 straight games.
- TE Mason Sutter – Has played in all 37 games of his collegiate career. Has caught at least one TD pass in each of his four seasons and has five for his career.
- WR Jean Rene – Had two TD catches on Sept. 29 vs. Davidson, becoming the first Valpo player to do so since Sept. 30, 2017 (Donny Navarro vs. Stetson). Is up to 15 career touchdowns (14 receiving).
- WR JD Koehler – One of 14 Valpo players with receptions this season.
- QB Jimmy Seewald – Junior already ranks in the Top 5 in program history with 4,279 career passing yards. Leapfrogged Dave Lass (1962-1964) on Sept. 22 against Truman State, becoming the first Valpo player to enter the Top 5 in program history in career passing yards since Eric Hoffman (2011-2013), who exited as the Valpo recordholder.
- QB Chris Duncan – Has thrown for five TDs and rushed for one this season in four games.
- RB Kyle Cartales – Leads the team in scoring with 30 points (five touchdowns)… Set a career high with 116 rushing yards on Oct. 6 at Drake.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Defensive Starters
- DE Jesse Studyvin – Back after missing last season with an injury. Recipient of Team Type 1 Foundation scholarship for individuals with Type 1 Diabetes and played against fellow recipient and Truman State quarterback Jaden Barr earlier this season.
- NT James Reed – High school teammates with Jesse Studyvin at Saint Pius X.
- DT Jake Trumpower – Has played in 20 consecutive games.
- OLB Mike Wheeler – Vice President of Valpo’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes… One of four returning starters at linebacker for Valpo.
- OLB Austin Petrie – Had a career-high 10 tackles in the season opener against Duquesne. Started his collegiate career as a running back before being converted to linebacker.
- ILB Laddie Skarecky – Projected to make his third straight start in place of injured senior Nick Turner. Made a career-high eight tackles on Sept. 29 vs. Davidson.
- ILB Drew Snouffer – Senior captain leads the PFL in tackles with 12.0 per game. Nobody else in the league has more than 8.4 tackles per game. He ranks fourth nationally in tackles per game.
- CB Christian Campbell – Made his second interception of the season on Sept. 29 against Davidson, the fifth of his career. He returned the interception 25 yards, his second career return of 25+ yards and first since a 29 yarder in 2016.
- FS Jamari Booker – Had 20 tackles on Sept. 29 against Davidson, becoming the fifth player in the FCS nation with 20 or more tackles in a single game this season. Also became the first Valpo player since at least 2002 with 20+ tackles in a single game.
- SS Isaac Lane – Has made exactly six tackles on three occasions this season – Duquesne, Truman State and Davidson.
- CB Cam Kelly – Has appeared in all five games this season.
Specialist Quick Hits – Projected Starters
- K Dimitrios Latsonas – Placed his name in the Valpo record book with his performance in 2017. His 11 made field goals tied for fourth in program history, while his 35 successful PATs established a single-season Valpo record. He also tied the single-game record for made PATs with seven against Morehead State on Oct. 28. In addition, Latsonas booted 10 touchbacks on kickoffs.
- P Alex Ng – Also serves as a student assistant coach for the Valpo women’s soccer team… Has been a fixture at punter since his freshman season.
- RS Bailey Gessinger – Had six kickoff returns for 133 yards and a long of 31 on Sept. 29 against Davidson, averaging 22.2 yards per return. The 133 kickoff return yards were his most since a career-high 150 on Nov. 12, 2016 vs. Jacksonville. That also marked the second-most return yards in a game by a PFL player this season… Member of the 2017 All-PFL Second Team.
Preseason Accolades: Valpo had a trio of representatives on the 2018 Preseason All-Pioneer Football League Team. Senior linebacker Nick Turner, senior offensive lineman Tom Schofield and junior return specialist Bailey Gessinger all garnered preseason recognition. Turner was one of two Valpo players and four in the entire PFL to exceed 100 tackles last year. Schofield started all 11 games for an offensive line that helped Valpo finish tied for 10th nationally in fewest sacks allowed per game. Gessinger was on the preseason all-league team as a return specialist for the second consecutive year. Valpo was picked to finish tied for fourth in the 2018 PFL Preseason Poll, the team’s highest predicted finish since the PFL combined into one division in 2006.
Oh Captain, My Captain: Valparaiso enters the 2018 season with four captains: junior quarterback Jimmy Seewald, senior linebacker Drew Snouffer, senior linebacker Nick Turner and senior defensive back Josmar Diaz-Martinez. Snouffer is the lone captain in his second season in that role.
Wrapping Up 2017: Valpo football turned a corner a year ago, assembling its first winning season since 2003 while finishing in a three-way tie for third in the PFL after being picked to place 10th of 11 in the preseason poll. Valpo won four of its last five games and completed the season with 330 points scored, the second most in a single season in program history. Valpo also finished the year second in program history in yards of total offense with 4,398. Valpo defended Brown Field well, going 4-0 in PFL home games and winning four league home games in the same year for the first time ever. Valpo captured five league wins in the same season for the first time since 1961 and finished ahead of six teams in the league standings for the first time since 1954.