Butler (0-2, 0-2 PFL)
at Valparaiso (1-1, 1-1 PFL)
Game #3 Saturday, March 27, 1 p.m.
Brown Field (5,000) – Valparaiso, Ind.
This Week in Valpo Football: The Hoosier Helmet rivalry trophy is up for grabs on Saturday as the Valparaiso University football team plays for a season sweep of arch rival Butler. The instate foes will match up for the second time in three weeks as Valpo attempts to repeat its success from a 24-14 victory in Week 1 in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs currently possess the Hoosier Helmet by virtue of their fall 2019 win in Indy.
Previously: The Valpo defense put together one of its finest performances in recent memory in Week 2 vs. Drake, but the Bulldogs came to Brown Field and garnered a 17-6 victory. Valpo permitted just 211 yards of total offense, the team’s best mark in that area since 2010. Brian Bartholomew knocked in a pair of field goals to account for the team’s six points. D.J. Hutcherson (fumble recovery) and Keyon Turner (interception) notched turnovers for the Valpo defense, while Trey Psota and Evan Annis paced the team with nine tackles apiece. Ollie Reese had a career day at the wide receiver position, hauling in eight receptions for 86 yards.
Series Notes: This marks the continuation of a rivalry that dates all the way back to 1927. Valpo is 28-51 all-time against Butler including three wins in the last four meetings with the only loss in that span coming by a three-point margin in 2019. This matchup has occurred every year since 1951. Valpo won the first showdown of the season 24-14 in Indianapolis in Week 1, but this week’s matchup will dictate who holds the Hoosier Helmet rivalry trophy this season. This marks the first time Valpo has won three of four against their instate rivals since 2004-2007. If Valpo beats Butler again this week, the Brown & Gold will have won four of five over the Bulldogs for the first time since winning seven straight from 1994-2000. The 10-point margin of victory in the 24-14 win in Week 1 was Valpo’s largest in a game at Butler since Oct. 15, 2005 (W 34-21). This marks the 80th meeting between the two teams and the first time ever Valpo and Butler have matched up twice in the same season.
Following Valpo Football: The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ with Todd Ickow (play-by-play) and Dave Huseman (analyst) describing the action. In addition, Zach Collins will relay the play-by-play on the Valpo Sports Network, 95.1 FM Valparaiso. For in-game updates, follow @valpoufootball on Twitter. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Landon Fox: Landon Fox (2-12) completed his first season as the head coach of the Valparaiso University football program in 2019. In Year 1 of the Fox Era, Valpo ranked in the Top 5 in the PFL in scoring defense (32.0, fifth), total defense (381.6, fourth), rushing defense (184.2, fourth) and passing defense (197.3, fifth). The defense also thrived in critical down-and-distance situations, as the team’s opponent third-down conversion percentage of 32.4 ranked second in the league and its opponent fourth-down conversion percentage of 46.2 was third. After spending the previous 11 seasons as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at the University of Dayton, Fox was named the head football coach at Valpo prior to the 2020 season. His 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.
- Valpo’s defense posted one of its best performance in recent memory on March 20 vs. Drake, allowing just 211 yards of total offense in the 17-6 setback.
- The 211 yards of total offense was the fewest allowed by Valpo since Sept. 16, 2017 at Trinity International (204) and the fewest allowed in conference play since holding Drake to 210 on Sept. 25, 2010.
- The defense limited the Bulldogs to just 47 yards through the air on 7-of-19 passing. This is the second straight season Valpo has kept an opponent under 50 passing yards in a game as it held Stetson to 40 a year ago. The 47 passing yards for the Bulldogs were the eighth-fewest in any Division-I FCS game so far this season.
- Through two weeks, Valpo ranks 11th nationally in total defense at 246.5 yards per game. In addition, the Brown & Gold are 13th in scoring defense, allowing just 15.5 points per game.
- Valpo is fourth in the nation in passing yards allowed per game at 95.0.
Points at a Premium
- Valpo has held the opponent to 17 points or fewer in back-to-back weeks.
- The lasts time Valpo limited the opposition to 17 points or fewer in consecutive weeks was October 2014 vs. Missouri Baptist (W 55-7) and Drake (L 17-9).
- The last time the team held PFL opponents to 17 points or fewer in back-to-back games prior to the first two weeks of this season was October 2000 against Butler (W 33-7) and San Diego (W 32-10).
- The 14 points allowed in Week 1 were the fewest Valpo has yielded in a game at Butler since a 10-0 loss on Oct. 9, 1993.
- The 17 points allowed in Week 2 tied with the 2014 team for the fewest Valpo has permitted against Drake since 2001.
- Valpo has held the opposition below 300 yards of total offense in each of the first two games this season. This marks the first time Valpo has held the opponent below 300 yards in consecutive contests since doing so in the first two games of the 2008 season against Saint Francis (Ill.) and Concordia (Wis.).
Dropped Behind the Line
- The Valpo defense racked up six tackles for loss on March 20 vs. Drake.
- This marked the seventh time in the first 14 games of head coach Landon Fox’s tenure that the team has had six or more TFL.
- By comparison, Valpo had six or more TFL in a game just twice in the 27 games prior to Fox’s arrival.
- Ben Niesner ranks 10th nationally and leads the PFL with an average of 42.3 yards per punt.
- Nienser had a pair of 50+ yard boots on March 20 vs. Drake including a 54 yarder that was 2 shy of his career best.
- He pinned three punts inside the 20 in the game against the Bulldogs.
- For his efforts on March 20 vs. Drake, Niesner was named the PFL Special Teams Player of the Week on March 22.
Among League Leaders
- Valpo leads the PFL in pass defense efficiency at 71.0, while the team is second in passing defense, allowing just 95 passing yards per game.
- Valpo is second in the league in total defense (246.5 yards per game) and second in fewest penalty yards allowed at 34.0.
- Robert Washington leads the PFL in rushing yards per game at 110.0, while the Valpo running back also leads the league in all-purpose yards at 147.0.
- Ollie Reese is third in receptions per game at 5.0.
- Ben Niesner is the league’s top punter at 42.3 yards per punt.
- Evan Annis leads the team at 7.5 tackles per game, ranking seventh in the league.
Other Notes Wrapping up Week 2 (Drake 17, Valpo 6)
- Trey Psota and Evan Annis led Valpo defensively with nine tackles apiece. Each accounted for 1 ½ tackles for loss.
- Freshman Keyon Turner has been involved in turnovers in each of his first two collegiate games. He snagged his first career interception and returned it 25 yards against Drake a week after returning a fumble recovery 35 yards.
- Ollie Reese accounted for over half of the team’s receptions, snagging eight catches for 86 yards, achieving career highs in both areas. The junior totaled 112 all-purpose yards.
Duncan Approaching 4,000: Valpo quarterback Chris Duncan enters this week vs. Butler already ranked in the Top 10 in program history in both passing yards and total offense. He has accrued 3,911 passing yards during his time in a Valpo uniform, good for eighth on Valpo’s all-time passing list. Duncan is 89 yards away from becoming the eighth player in program history to reach 4,000. Ryan Doerffler (2004-2006) is currently seventh at 4,016. Duncan is sixth in program history in total offense at 4,602 yards and is on the verge of surpassing his former teammate Jimmy Seewald (4,610; 2016-2019) to garner a spot in the top five. Duncan ranks 19th nationally among active FCS players in total offense.
- After falling to Valpo in Week 1, Butler dropped to 0-2 with a 27-13 setback at San Diego in Week 2.
- Butler was picked sixth in the PFL Preseason Poll, one spot behind Valpo.
- The Bulldogs went 3-9 (2-6 PFL) in the most recently completed season of 2019.
- They had one Spring 2021 Preseason All-PFL selection, offensive lineman Skyler Spetter.
With a Win: If Valpo beats Butler on Saturday, the Brown & Gold would hold the program’s best record through three games since 2007. In addition, Valpo would hold its best league record through three PFL contests since 2003.
A Dazzling Debut
- Valpo junior Robert Washington was named the College Sports Madness Pioneer Football League Offensive Player of the Week following his standout showing in Week 1 at Butler.
- Washington rushed for 199 yards including a 7-yard touchdown run to help Valpo secure its first season-opening victory since 2007, a 24-14 triumph over the rival Bulldogs on Saturday. Washington had the highest single-game rushing total by a Valpo player since Jake Hutson accrued 248 rushing yards on Nov. 2, 2012 at Campbell.
- Washington had 39 carries, two shy of matching Valpo’s single-game record of 41 set by Jeff Horton in 2005. The tailback averaged 5.1 yards per carry to help the team finish with 241 rushing yards in his Valpo debut.
- Washington’s 39 carries were the most by a Valpo player since the aforementioned 41 by Horton in 2005, also in a game at Butler. No Valpo player had cracked 30 carries in a game since Horton on Nov. 12, 2005 at Aurora until Washington’s Week 1 performance.
- Washington also had a 49-yard kickoff return that required the kicker to make a touchdown-saving tackle. The Old Dominion transfer finished the day with 275 all-purpose yards.
- During the entire 2019 season, there was only one instance of a PFL player accruing more than 275 all-purpose yards in a game. Washington’s all-purpose yard total marked the highest by a Valpo player in a single game since Hutson had 323 in the aforementioned November 2012 game at Campbell.
- The 39 rushing attempts were the most in a single game by any Pioneer Football League player since Dayton’s Connor Kacsor had two games with 40 or more carries in 2015.
- Valpo’s Week 1 win marked the first time the program has started a season with a victory since 2007, a 28-21 triumph vs. Saint Francis (Ill.).
- This marked Valpo’s first win in a PFL opener in the last four years, with the team’s previous win to start league play coming vs. Davidson in 2016.
- Valpo won its first PFL road contest for the first time since Oct. 3, 2015 at Davidson (W 42-35).
Other Notes Wrapping up Week 1 (Valpo 24, Butler 14)
- Freshman defensive back Keyon Turner’s 35-yard fumble return was Valpo’s second longest over the last eight seasons. The only longer fumble return since the beginning of the 2013 campaign was a 50 yarder by Drew Snouffer in 2018.
- Deuce Larose was the team’s leading receiver with three catches for 46 yards including his sixth career touchdown grab. This marks the fourth straight season Larose has secured at least one receiving TD.
- Jaxon Peifer forced a fumble, the third of his Valpo career after he was credited with a pair during the 2019 season. Anthony Sciarroni notched an interception in his Valpo debut to account for the other turnover forced by the Valpo defense.
- Chris Duncan tossed two touchdown passes to lift his career total to 28.
- David Hebda had a career-high 11 tackles including four solos, nearly doubling his previous personal best of six tackles. Peifer made eight tackles and Turner had six, including a TFL, a pass breakup and the previously mentioned fumble recovery. Turner was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Week for his strong collegiate debut.
- Valpo’s single-game point total was its second highest of the Landon Fox Era behind 28 vs. Dayton on Oct. 12, 2019.
A Look Back at 2019
- Valpo ranked in the Top 5 in the PFL in scoring defense (32.0, fifth), total defense (381.6, fourth), rushing defense (184.2, fourth) and passing defense (197.3, fifth). The defense also thrived in critical down-and-distance situations, as the team’s opponent third-down conversion percentage of 32.4 ranked second in the league and its opponent fourth-down conversion percentage of 46.2 was third.
- Valpo ranked in the Top 5 in the PFL in scoring defense for the first time since the 2004 season. The team finished fourth in the PFL in total defense, its best ranking in that area since 2007. The rushing defense (fourth) and passing defense (fifth) cracked the top five in the league for the first time since 2007 and 2008, respectively. On third down, the Valpo defense permitted opponents to convert just 32.4 percent of the time, the team’s best third-down defense since holding opponents to 28.7 percent in 2000. The 2019 campaign marked the first time Valpo finished in the top five in the PFL in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense and passing defense all in the same season since at least 2001.
- Valpo’s defense had a knack for dropping opponents behind the line of scrimmage as the team racked up 70 tackles for loss, the program’s most since 2007 and tied for the fourth-most in a single season in program history. Valpo had seven or more tackles for loss in four different games, a feat the team had achieved just once in the previous three seasons combined.
- Jamari Booker racked up 101 tackles and five interceptions, earning All-PFL Second Team honors.
About the 2021 PFL Spring Season
- This marks the 28th year of the Pioneer Football League, an NCAA Division-I Football Championship Subdivision conference.
- Seven teams will compete for the PFL title this spring: San Diego, Davidson, Drake, Stetson, Valpo, Butler and Morehead State.
- Presbyterian College (Clinton, S.C.) and the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minn.) will both join the PFL for the fall 2021 season.
- Presbyterian will play a PFL schedule during the 2021 spring season but will not be eligible for the league championship.
- Dayton and Marist have opted out of the PFL’s 2021 spring season.
- The Spring 2021 Division-I FCS Championship will feature 16 teams with 11 FCS conferences – including the PFL – receiving an automatic bid.
- San Diego was tabbed as the PFL preseason favorite for the 10th consecutive season, while Valpo was picked to finish fifth based on a preseason survey of the league’s head coaches. The Brown & Gold are picked to finish ahead of Butler and Morehead State.
- Five Valpo players were named to the Spring 2021 Preseason All-PFL Watch List – wide receiver Deuce Larose, punter Ben Niesner, linebacker Jaxon Peifer, defensive end Trejuan Purty and wide receiver Ollie Reese.
- All five were 2019 All-PFL Honorable Mention selections and were named Phil Steele Preseason All-Conference in July 2020.
- Reese led 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 in 2019. 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.
- 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. He 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.
- The 2019 campaign saw Niesner 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 recorded 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 three games including a career-high 112 on Nov. 9 vs. Morehead State.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Offensive Starters
*Based on two-deep, starters subject to change
- WR #13 Braden Contreras, Fr. – Two-time all-conference selection at Hinsdale Central High School… Father Steve played football at Amherst from 1995-1999… Earned all-state second team status and his team’s Offensive Player of the Year Award in high school.
- LT #68 Aaron Byrd, R-So. – Majoring in bioengineering with a strong interest in prosthetics… The launch of Valpo’s bioengineering program within the school’s nationally-ranked College of Engineering attracted him to the University… Has performed undergraduate research in the Human Movement Research Laboratory under Craig Goehler, Ph.D., an associate professor of mechanical engineering and bioengineering… Serves as a student tutor in the Hesse Learning Center on campus… Was a starter in 2019 and saw action in all 12 games.
- LG #70 Jeremiah Orr, Fr. – Also played three years of basketball in high school… Owns Drone Pilot Certification… all-region selection in high school in 2018 and 2019… Started his collegiate debut on March 13 at Butler.
- C #67 Joe Monahan, R-Fr. – Native of Hinsdale Central, Ill… Made his first collegiate start and his collegiate debut in Week 1 at Butler on March 13… Was ranked as high as 36th nationally at the center position by 247 Sports in high school… Also ranked as the 101st-best overall prospect in the state of Illinois by 247 Sports… Volunteered for Young Men’s Education Network (YMEN) in Chicago during the 2020 summer… Built a community garden in Chicago that was used to chop cars and dump trash.
- RG #73 Danny Files, R-Fr. – Did not see action in his first season on campus in 2019, retaining four years of eligibility… Started his collegiate debut on March 13 at Butler.
- RT #72 Drew Parrish, R-Fr. – Did not see game action in his first season on campus in 2019… Started his collegiate debut on March 13 at Butler… Received the award given to the player with the highest GPA on his high school football team… Played six years of baseball including two in high school… Received numerous academic honors in high school… Majoring in electrical engineering… Enjoys hiking in Arizona when on vacation to visit his family there… Goes on a fishing trip every Thanksgiving to Branson, Mo. and stays at Lazy Valley Resort… Tutors other engineering students at Valpo’s Hesse Learning Resource Center.
- TE #84 Brett Bittner, R-Jr. – Played all 12 games in 2019 and had six catches for 24 yards… Had a season-high three receptions on Nov. 9, 2019 vs. Morehead State including his first career touchdown catch, a six-yard grab from Chris Duncan.
- WR-z #6 Ollie Reese, Jr. – Had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on Oct. 12, 2019 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, 2019 at San Diego… 2019 All-PFL Honorable Mention, Spring 2021 Preseason All-PFL Watch List… Appeared in all 12 games in 2019 and led Valpo in receptions (34), receiving yards (545) and receiving touchdowns (five) while averaging 16.0 yards per catch and 45.4 receiving yards per game… Four of his five receiving touchdowns came over the final three weeks of the season… Finished 10th in the PFL at 45.4 receiving yards per game and sixth in all-purpose yards per game at 110.7… Had the most all-purpose yards by a Valpo player – both total (1,328) and per game (110.7) since 2008, when John Popper totaled 1,356 and averaged 123.3… Established career highs in both receptions (8) and receiving yards (86) on March 20 vs. Drake, earning the team’s Offensive Player of the Week Award.
- Slot #17 Deuce Larose, Sr. – Played ice hockey in middle school and didn’t start playing tackle football until eighth grade… Father Dan played safety at Florida State… Followed his career-high 112 receiving yards against Morehead State on Nov. 9, 2019 with 99 at Butler on Nov. 16, 2019… 2019 All-PFL Honorable Mention… Spring 2021 Preseason All-PFL Watch List… Accrued 90 or more receiving yards in each of his final three games of the 2019 season… Had 30 catches for 484 receiving yards in 2019, 16.1 yards per catch and 48.4 yards per game… Ranking 10th in the PFL in receptions per game (3.0) and ninth in receiving yards per game (48.4) in 2019… Had a team-high 46 receiving yards on three catches including a 15-yard TD from Chris Duncan in the March 13 season opener at Butler.
- QB #14 Chris Duncan, R-Sr. – Captain… Had a 76-yard TD run in the 2019 game against Dayton, Valpo’s longest touchdown run since 1995… On Sept. 14, 2019 vs. Central Connecticut, 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, 2019 vs. Dayton, putting together Valpo’s top rushing performance in seven years and the team’s highest rushing total by a QB since 2007… His late grandfather Mike Shatusky also wore #14 and was the quarterback at Michigan in the late 1950s… Had a career-high 304 passing yards on Nov. 9, 2019 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 during the 2019 campaign… Enjoyed his first career game with 200+ passing yards and 100+ rushing yards on Nov. 16, 2019 at Butler… Finished the 2019 season as the team’s leading rusher (386 yards on 113 carries) while accounting for six of the team’s nine rushing touchdowns… Completed 151 of 307 passes in 2019 while throwing for 1,658 yards and 10 scores… Entering the Spring 2021 campaign already in the Top 10 in program history in both career passing yards and career yards of total offense… Ranked seventh in the PFL in passing yards per game and fifth in total offense (204.4 yards per game) in 2019… Tossed two touchdown passes while going 8-of-13 for 85 yards through the air in the March 13 season opener at Butler… Passed for 101 yards on 11-of-30 through the air on March 20 vs. Drake.
- #3 Robert Washington, RB – Named the College Sports Madness PFL Offensive Player of the Week on March 15 for his 199-yard rushing performance in Week 1 at Butler… Also named the team’s Offensive Player of the Week and the Valpo Athletics Marines Player of the Week for Week 1… Had the most carries in a single game by a Valpo player since 2005 with 39, two shy of the program record… Had Valpo’s highest single-game rushing total and all-purpose yard total (275) since Jake Hutson in 2012 in Week 1 at Butler… Played in 12 games and made three starts at Old Dominion in 2019… Previously spent the 2016 season and part of the 2017 campaign at Charlotte… Was rated a four-star recruit by ESPN.com out of high school… Ranked as the 13th-best running back prospect nationally by ESPN.com out of high school.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Defensive Starters
*Based two-deep, starters subject to change
- DE #45 Trejuan Purty, Sr. – Transferred to Valpo for the 2019 season after spending the previous two years at East Tennessee State… Recovered a blocked punt on Sept. 14, 2019 vs. Central Connecticut… Had a fumble recovery on Oct. 26, 2019 vs. Stetson… Finished 2019 tied for sixth in the PFL with 3.5 sacks… Had six tackles for loss totaling 31 yards and racked up 31 tackles including 14 solos in 2019… 2019 All-PFL Honorable Mention and Spring 2021 Preseason All-PFL Watch List.
- NG #99 Evan Satoski, R-Fr. – Did not see action in his first season on campus in 2019, retaining four years of eligibility… Started his collegiate debut on March 13 at Butler.
- DT #94 Nathan Orlandini, Sr. – Majoring in mechanical engineering… Competed in all 12 games in 2019 and totaled 28 tackles (12 solo) during his junior campaign… Notched a season-high five tackles on Nov. 2, 2019 at Davidson.
- DE #98 Nick Price, Fr. – Had three tackles in his collegiate debut on March 13 at Butler… Local product who attended Merrillville High School… Named first team all-area, all-DAC and a Region 1 All-Star while serving as a team captain during his senior year with the Pirates.
- LB #2 Evan Annis, R-Fr. – Appeared in four games in his first season on campus, retaining four years of eligibility… Had eight tackles for the season including five in his debut on Sept. 21, 2019 at Truman State… Had three tackles including a sack for a 10-yard loss on Oct. 5, 2019 vs. Drake… Also a four-year letter winner in lacrosse in high school… Member of a fraternity on campus and majoring in bioengineering while playing football… Maintained a 4.0 GPA all through high school… Shared the team lead in tackles with nine including 1 ½ TFL on March 20 vs. Drake.
- LB #10 Jaxon Peifer, Jr. – Had 10 tackles in his first career start, the 2019 season opener at Eastern Kentucky, earning the team’s Defensive Player of the Week nod that week… Majoring in nursing… Registered 62 tackles (31 solos) over 11 games in 2019, notching 3.0 tackles for loss… Forced a pair of fumbles while also receiving credit for two QB hurries and a pass breakup during his breakout 2019 season… Tied for fourth in the PFL in forced fumbles per game and tied for 23rd in the league at 5.6 tackles per game… Accumulated eight tackles in the Spring 2021 opener at Butler, his third collegiate game with eight or more stops… Named the team’s Defensive Player of the Week for his March 20 performance vs. Drake, when he had six tackles, 0.5 TFL and a QB hurry.
- LB #24 Trey Psota, R-So. – Finished third on the team with 69 tackles and had the most tackles among non-seniors in 2019… Had two tackles for loss, a pass breakup, a QB hurry, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble and a blocked kick during his redshirt freshman season… Had a season-high 11 tackles on two occasions, Sept. 28 vs. Charleston and Oct. 26 vs. Stetson… Played in the 13U Little League World Series during his youth, taking on teams from all over the United States as well as Mexico, Puerto Rico and other international opponents… Shared the team lead in tackles with nine including four solos and 1 ½ TFL on March 20 vs. Drake.
- CB #11 Henry Hebda, Sr. – Had a strong performance on Sept. 21, 2019 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… Twin brother David is also a member of the Valpo football team… Majoring in nursing… Played in all 12 games and made 38 tackles (23 solos) while recording a team-high seven pass breakups and one interception in 2019… Ranked tied for 10th in the PFL with eight passes defended… Made a season-high seven tackles on Nov. 16, 2019 vs. Butler.
- CB #29 Kohlton Sherman, Jr. – First names starting with the letter K is a family tradition for males… Enjoys golfing… Played in all 12 games in 2019 and had 57 tackles including 31 solos and 5.0 TFL while also recovering a fumble and breaking up seven passes… Racked up eight tackles in Week 1 of the 2019 season at Eastern Kentucky before posting his first career double-figure tackle output on Nov. 2, 2019 at Davidson while also recovering a fumble in that contest.
- S #18 David Hebda, R-Jr. – Twin brother of Valpo’s Henry Hebda… Had 17 tackles (13 solos) in 2019… Made one fumble recovery, two TFL, one sack and three pass breakups… Picked up a season-high six tackles on Nov. 16, 2019 at Butler… Led the team with 11 tackles to nearly double his previous career high of six in the March 13 season opener at Butler. His Week 1 performance included 11 solo stops.
- CB #8 Jadarius Horton, Jr. – Transfer from Southwestern College… Accounted for one of Valpo’s five pass breakups in Week 1 at Butler, when he got a start in his Valpo debut.
Specialist Quick Hits – Projected Starters
- K #87 Brian Bartholomew, R-So. – Did not seen game action in either of his first two seasons on campus (2018 and 2019)… Went a perfect 1-for-1 on field goal tries and 3-for-3 on PATs in the Spring 2021 opener at Butler, his first collegiate game… He also booted a pair of touchbacks and averaged 56.0 yards per kickoff over four kicks in the game against the Bulldogs. Bartholomew was named the team Special Teams Player of the Week for his Week 1 showing… Made a pair of field goals to account for all six points on March 20 vs. Drake, going 2-of-3 in the game.
- P #33 Ben Niesner, Sr. – Joined the team in 2019 as a transfer after spending the previous two seasons at Portland State, where he earned the starting role at punter… Started school at Oregon State in 2016-17 before transferring to Portland State, where he beat out a scholarship punter to become the starter for the final game of 2017 and all of 2018… 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… 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 that 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, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 vs. Morehead State… Earned 2019 All-PFL Honorable Mention and Spring 2021 Preseason All-PFL… Averaged 39.4 yards per punt over 65 punts in 2019, the best mark by a Valpo punter with at least 20 attempts since Greg Wood’s 40.9 yard average in 2012… Ranked fifth in the PFL in yards per punt in 2019… Named the PFL Special Teams Player of the Week after averaging 45.0 yards per punt on eight punts including a long of 54 in the March 20 game vs. Drake. He pinned the Bulldogs inside the 20 on three occasions, including once inside the 2. His efforts also helped him earn the team’s Special Teams Player of the Week nod.