San Diego took one giant step close to claiming its fourth straight Pioneer Football League crown, while three other teams hold onto title hopes of their own, albeit it by the slimmest of threads.
The Toreros had little trouble in dispatching Stetson on Saturday to remain perfect in conference action at 6-0. Drake remained one game back in the standings after its win over league-dweller Jacksonville. Dayton and Davidson also posted wins in their games last weekend as both teams improved to 4-2 in league this season to keep pressure on the Toreros and Bulldogs.
San Diego has two games remaining during the regular season. The Toreros are scheduled to face Morehead State and Jacksonville in the final two games before the start of the FCS playoffs Nov. 30.
Drake has games remaining against Dayton and Davidson and depending how those games play out, along with San Diego’s games, will go a long way in determining which team will represent the PFL in the playoffs this season.
Marquee: Cook, Flyers Soar Past Marist 59-35
The task at hand is simple on paper, yet challenging on the field, if Dayton has any hope of finishing atop the Pioneer Football League standings and advancing to the FCS playoffs: win out … and hope league kingpin San Diego falters in a big way down the stretch.
The Flyers took care of the task at hand on Saturday as Jack Cook threw for four touchdown passes and ran for another as Dayton defeated Marist 59-35. The win improved the Flyers to 4-2 in the league and 6-3 in all games. Marist, with the loss, was eliminated from the title chance after falling to 3-3 in the PFL and 3-6 on the year.
The two teams battled on even terms through the first 15 minutes of the game. Then it was time for Cook to showcase his skills.
He threw three of his touchdown passes in a span of less than seven minutes in the second quarter as he and the Flyers blew the game wide open. He connected on a pass to Adam Trautman from three yards away with 13:22 left in the first half to break the 7-7 tie and put the Flyers in the lead.
Cook made sure his team maintained its advantage. He found Trautman again just over a minute later, this time from 11 yards out, and the Flyers found themselves sporting a 21-7 lead. The onslaught continued when Ryan Skibinski hauled in a pass from Cook and scored the final touchdown of the period with 6:28 remaining and putting the Flyers in front 28-7.
Jake Chisholm broke loose for a 49-yard scamper early in the second half and Cook later ran in from a yard out to add to the Flyer lead. Sam Webster connected on a 21-yard field goal with just under five minutes left in the third quarter to increase the Dayton lead to 45-21 heading into the final 15 minutes.
Riche Warfield and Jack Albers scored on short runs in the fourth quarter to aid in the scoring on the day for the Flyers. Warfield ran in from one yard out with just over five minutes to play and Albers’ 10-yard scamper with 1:59 left in the game pushed the Dayton lead to 59-28, it’s largest advantage of the afternoon.
Areg Nazarian scored for Marist on a five-yard run with just over a minute left in the game to make things look a little more respectable on the scoreboard.
Dayton grabbed the early advantage when Cook found Jay Vallie for his first scoring pass of the day. It came from just one yard out and put the Flyers in front 7-0 after Webster’s successful conversion kick. Marist knotted the game moments later on a 10-yard pass from Austin Day to Sam Gaffney with just over one minute left in the first quarter. It was the only catch of the day for Gaffney.
The Red Foxes never seriously challenged after that.
Cook finished with 244 yards on the day through the air after completing 13 of 19 pass attempts. He also ran for 71 yards on 12 carries and finished with 325 yards of total offense on the day. Chisholm led the way on the ground with 16 carries and 151 yards and the one touchdown. Dayton combined for 45 rushing attempts in the game for 275 yards.
Skibinski led all receivers with 125 yards on just four receptions in the game, while Trautman caught five passes for 67 yards.
Day was the overwhelming statistical leader for Marist in the game. He completed 18 of 27 passes for 262 yards and added 15 yards rushing in the contest. Joe Petro caught two passes for 92 yards and a touchdown. Ethan Carpenter caught two passes for eight yards and a touchdown for the Red Foxes.
Toreros Keep Motoring Along in PFL
The rest of the Pioneer Football League just can’t seem to find the necessary ingredients to overtake San Diego in the PFL race year in and year out.
The Toreros, who have claimed the PFL title in each of the previous three seasons, ran their conference winning streak to 35 games with an impressive 51-7 triumph over Stetson on Saturday. It was also the 17th straight time San Diego has won on the road in conference play.
The last time USD lost a conference game was on Oct. 10, 2015 when Dayton slipped past the Toreros 13-12 in Dayton. Those two teams would share the PFL that season and the Flyers earned the automatic bid into the FCS playoffs by virtue of their win over the Toreros.
San Diego, leaders of the PFL, is now 6-0 in conference play and 7-2 overall. Stetson, meanwhile, dropped to 3-3 in the league and 6-3 overall with the loss.
JoJo Binda, a junior college transfer, rushed for a career-high 227 yards on just 13 carries to spearhead the Torero ground attack. He scored one of San Diego’s seven touchdowns in the rout of the Hatters. Binda, now a senior, scored on a 33-yard run in the third quarter that put his team in front 30-0 with just over five minutes remaining in the game.
RJ Gonzalez also had an impressive day. He carried the ball four times for 36 yards and three, yes, three touchdowns. Gonzalez scored on runs of 11, 13 and seven yards, all of which came in the second half.
As a team, the Toreros finished the game with 353 rushing yards and 610 yards of total offense. San Diego increased its FCS-leading average to 487.4 yards per game with the win over Stetson.
QB Reid Sinnett finished the afternoon with 18 completions on 34 attempts and racked up 257 yards and two touchdowns.
Stetson, which was fourth in the FCS in total offense (482.0) yards per game entering the contest, was held to just 228 yards against the Toreros. Stetson quarterbacks Gavin DeFillipo and Alex Piccirilli combined to complete eight of 24 passes for 56 yards in the game. Meanwhile, the San Diego defense stymied the Hatters on the ground and allowed 172 yards on 43 carries, not nearly enough to offset the troubles encountered by the passing game.
Piccirilli led the way on the ground with 74 yards on eight carries, while teammate Jalen Leary finished right behind with 73 yards on 18 carries in the game.
Stetson was unable to get on the scoreboard until Piccirilli ran in from six yards out with 10:58 remaining in the game.
Bulldogs Keep Pressure on League Leader
Drake kept its dreams of its first PFL since 2012, when the Bulldogs shared the crown with Butler and San Diego, with a 28-14 win at home Saturday over visiting Jacksonville.
Drake improved to 5-1 in the league and 5-4 overall with the triumph, while Jacksonville remained winless in conference games at 0-6 and the Dolphins are now 2-8 overall. It was the sixth straight loss for Jacksonville, which has not won a game since defeating NAIA member Ave Maria 42-28 on Sept. 28.
Ian Corwin paced the Drake offense on the afternoon. He completed 13 of 19 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns, while Drew Lauer rushed for 134 yards on 25 carries. He also scored twice for the victors.
Lauer put the Bulldogs in front with the first score of the day when he ran in from just one yard out with 11:50 to go in the opening period.
Jacksonville managed to tie the game later in the first quarter on 53-yard scamper from A.J. Davis that knotted the game with 7:34 remaining.
Drake regained the lead just five seconds into the second quarter when Devin Cates caught a short three-yard toss from Corwin to put the Bulldogs in front 14-7. It was a lead the Bulldogs would not relinquish the rest of the way.
They would extend the advantage late in the third period when Corwin connected with Shane Feller from 37 yards out with 2:56 left in the quarter.
The Dolphins would still not go quietly away.
Jordan Younge-Humphrey scored on a 32-yard run with just 41 seconds remaining in the quarter to pull Jacksonville back to within a touchdown of the Bulldogs.
Lauer’s second TD of the game, this one on an 11-yard run with 3:57 left in the game, proved to be more than JU could overcome.
Calvin Turner racked up 194 yards of total offense in leading Jacksonville. He rushed for 150 yards on 25 carries and added 44 yards through the air after completing just two of 12 passing attempts in the contest. Davis chipped in with 67 yards on five carries, while Younge-Humphrey added six carries for 45 yards.
Deep Threat Pays Off for Eagles
Red zone? What’s a red zone?
Morehead State quarterback Mark Pappas could care little about that hallowed portion of a football field that many believe is critical in determining a team’s ability to put points on the scoreboard.
Pappas threw a pair of long touchdowns and added a third scoring toss in the game as Morehead State, which never ran a play from the red zone all day, improved to 3-3 in the PFL and 5-5 on the season, with a 27-21 win at Valparaiso on Saturday. Valparaiso, meanwhile, dropped to 1-5 in the league and 1-9 on the year with the loss.
Pappas tossed a 27-yard pass to Landon Hurst for the first score of the game with 4:45 remaining in the first period, to put the Eagles in front early.
Pappas would connect with Jordan Huffman to extend the advantage in the closing minute of the period. That play covered 83 yards and MSU found itself ahead 14-0. Neither team would score in the second quarter.
The Crusaders tied the game in the third quarter on a pair of scoring passes from Chris Duncan. His six-yard pass to Brett Bittner with 10:43 to go in the period put Valparaiso on the board for the first time. He connected with Ollie Reese midway through the quarter from four yards out to tie the game with 6:54 left to go in the period.
MSU would get two more scores in the final period of play to get some breathing room, thanks in large part to the long ball once again. Pappas hit Ian Holder for a 73-yard pass to put the Eagles back in front. They led 20-14 after the conversion failed. Issiah Aguero ran in from 37 yards out to extend the MSU lead to 27-14 with 1:40 left in the game.
Duncan notched his third TD pass of the game to match Pappas when he teamed up with Deuce Larose from two yards out for the final points of the game.
Huffman recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the win for the Eagles.
Pappas finished with 303 yards through the air on 16 of 29 passes and Aguero led the way on the ground with 12 carries for 77 yards. The rest of the Eagles combined for just 30 yards on 26 carries in the contest. Holder and Huffman both caught three passes for Morehead State. Holder’s receptions went for a total of 110 yards, while Huffman’s covered 106 yards of real estate.
Duncan paced the Crusaders with 304 yards through the air after completing 30 of his 48 pass attempts. Larose finished with six catches for 112 yards to pace Valparaiso in that department. Oscar Lopez and Reese chipped in with 78 and 76 yards, respectively, in the contest. Lopez caught nine passes and Reese finished the game with six receptions.
Cody Boxrucker was held to just 17 yards rushing in the game on seven carries by the Eagles, who allowed just 22 yards on the ground on the day.
Dugger Rewrites History as Wildcats Cruise
It was a record-setting day for Wesley Dugger as Davidson scored five touchdowns in the first half and never looked back in its lopsided 52-10 win over Butler on Saturday in Indianapolis.
Davidson improved to 4-2 in the Pioneer Football League and 7-3 on the year with the win, while Butler fell to 1-5 in the league and 2-8 on the season with the loss.
The four league victories for Davidson are the most since 2007 and the seven total wins are the most for the Wildcats since 2002.
Dugger, a junior, ran for 118 yards on 24 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns to become Davidson’s all-time rushing leader. It was the 14th time in his career surpassing the 100-yard plateau in a game for the Wildcats. Dugger passed former Davidson standout John Leverett (2001-04) for the top spot in the school’s record book. He now has 3,247 yards and moved ahead of Leverett, who amassed 3,165 during his time at the school.
Dugger’s first touchdown of the game, an 18-yarder with 1:05 left in the first half, capped a 33-point second quarter for the Wildcats. He added a three-yard run in the third quarter.
Behind Dugger’s performance, Davidson racked up 458 yards on the ground on the day. A total of 14 different players carried the ball for the Wildcats in the contest. Davidson, which played three players under center during the game, completed a total of three passes (10 attempts) for 91 yards. Two of those successful tosses resulted in scores.
Tyler Phelps hooked up with Jackson Sherrard for 14 yards in the first period and Louis Colosimo passed 69 yards to Jayden Waddell early in the fourth period for the Wildcats. Kaylen Brown caught the other Davidson pass for eight yards in the game.
QB Nick Orlando paced the Bulldogs with 107 yards on 19 carries. He also completed nine of 18 passes for 68 yards through the air.
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.