The Pioneer Football League Report: Week 3

Monday, September 9, 2019
by Cody Bush, PFL Media Relations


CONFERENCE LID LIFTER! The race for the 2019 PFL title gets a start in Week 3 when Stetson heads up the east coast to meet Marist, Saturday. The Red Foxes will play a pair of PFL home contests – hosting Drake in Week 5 – before the first full week of league play commences in Week 6… HOME SWEET HOME! PFL teams improved to 6-2 at home with a 4-2 record in Week 2. Five PFL teams will play at home in Week 3 with Marist and Valparaiso playing their home openers. Dayton and Jacksonville will wait until Week 4 to play its first home contest of 2019… THE ROAD UNKIND. PFL teams enter Week 3 with just one win on the road (1-6), but that lone victory was Dayton’s upset of then-No. 14 Indiana State. Four PFL teams are on the road in Week 3, unbeaten Stetson making its first road trip of the season in the PFL opener… ANOTHER RANKED FOE AWAITS. Drake will become the fifth PFL team to face a ranked FCS opponent in 2019 when it travels to No. 3 South Dakota State, Saturday… After the two Week 1 outings went decidedly toward the ranked foe, the PFL fought back in Week 2 with Dayton knocking off No. 14 Indiana State with a late touchdown while San Diego saw No. 4 UC Davis escape courtesy a late touchdown in a three-point decision.

All times Eastern. 

Stetson at Marist, Noon

Location: Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Stadium: Tenney Stadium
Series: MAR leads, 4-2    Streak: STE, one win
Previously: Stetson def. Marist, 19-14 (2018)

Drake at [3/3] South Dakota State, 1 p.m.
Location: Brookings, S.D.
Stadium: Dykhouse Stadium
Series: DRA leads, 8-4    Streak: SDSU, two wins
Previously: South Dakota State def. Drake, 51-10 (2017)

Central Connecticut State at Valparaiso, 1 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: Valparaiso, Ind.
Stadium: Brown Field
Series: First Meeting    

Dayton at Robert Morris, 3 p.m.
Location: Moon Township, Pa.
Stadium: Joe Walton Stadium
Series: DAY leads, 18-3    Streak: DAY, one win
Previously: Dayton def. Robert Morris, 49-28 (2018)

Taylor at Butler, 6 p.m.
Location: Indianapolis, Ind.
Stadium: Sellick Bowl
Series: BUT leads, 8-0    Streak: BUT, eight wins
Previously: Butler def. Taylor, 31-17 (2018)

Kentucky Christian at Morehead State, 6 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: Morehead, Ky.
Stadium: Jayne Stadium
Series: MOR leads, 3-0    Streak: MOR, three wins
Previously: Morehead State def. Kentucky Christian, 56-14 (2017)

West Virginia Wesleyan at Davidson, 7 p.m.
Location: Davidson, N.C.
Stadium: Richardson Stadium
Series: First Meeting

Jacksonville at Presbyterian, 7 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: Clinton, S.C.
Stadium: Bailey Memorial Stadium
Series: PC leads, 1-0    Streak: PC, one win
Previously: Presbyterian def. Jacksonville, 14-7 (2001)

Off Week: San Diego


STETSON AT MARIST: For a third-straight season Stetson and Marist will meet to open their respective PFL campaigns… Stetson won last season’s meeting 19-14 in Week 4 at DeLand, while Marist won the 2017 affair 38-17 in Week 2 at Poughkeepsie… The Red Foxes have not lost to the Hatters at Tenney Stadium (3-0) and lead the series 4-2 all time… Red Fox to See: A pair of freshmen made an impact in the Marist debuts at Georgetown with safeties Clayborne Fields and Kyle Gleitman each posting a team-best nine tackles… HATTER TO SEE: Quarterback Gaven DeFilippo made his first start since Oct.  29, 2016 and was responsible for three touchdowns (2 passing, 1 rushing) in Stetson’s season-opening win against Louisiana College.

DRAKE AT #3 SOUTH DAKOTA STATE: Drake becomes the fifth PFL team to face a ranked FCS opponent in 2019 when it travels to Brookings, South Dakota… The Bulldogs defense has been stout early in games, limiting opponents to 15 first-half points in 2019’s first two games. BULLDOG TO SEE: Freshman quarterback Ian Corwin, the lone everyday freshman QB in the PFL, has thrown a touchdown in each of his first two games behind center.

CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE AT VALPARAISO: Valparaiso opens the home portion of its 100th season of football when it hosts CCSU at Brown Field… Valpo’s defense impressed in the opener at Eastern Kentucky in Week 1 with seven tackles for loss and two interceptions… CRUSADER TO SEE: Sophomore wide receiver Ollie Reese had 140 all-purpose yards at EKU, including a 61-yard touchdown reception that got Valparaiso on the board.

DAYTON AT ROBERT MORRIS: Fresh off what the biggest upset win in program history, Dayton will look to avoid the trap of a Week 3 contest against perennial foe Robert Morris… Dayton has dominated the series that has been played every year since 2006, but the Colonials stunned the Flyers in their 2017 meeting at Joe Walton Stadium… FLYER TO SEE: Jack Cook was named PFL Player of the Week and it was tight end Adam Trautman that was his favorite target, the Preseason FCS All-American hauling in 11 passes for 132 yards against the Sycamores.

TAYLOR AT BUTLER: After winning its home opener in overtime, Butler finishes a two-game homestand when it hosts in-state foe Taylor for a fifth consecutive season… After allowing a 75-yard scoring drive as regulation ended, the Bulldogs defense stiffened in overtime, holding Indiana Wesleyan to zero yards and a 42-yard field goal… BULLDOG TO SEE: Running back Brad Sznajder finished the Indiana Wesleyan contest with 137 all-purpose yards – 46 coming on a fourth quarter drive that gave Butler the lead with 7:16 left.

KENTUCKY CHRISTIAN AT MOREHEAD STATE: Morehead State returns home to start a three-game stay in the Bluegrass State, beginning with its fourth meeting against Kentucky Christian… The Eagles already have forced seven turnovers in 2019 (+5 turnover margin), including four at nationally-ranked Illinois State last week… EAGLE TO SEE: The ball-hawking Eagles defense has nabbed five interceptions in the season’s first two weekends, with five different Eagles responsible for the thefts.

WEST VIRGINIA WESLEYAN AT DAVIDSON: Davidson’s season-opening three-game homestand comes to a close against Division II West Virginia Wesleyan… While Davidson’s offense gets noticed for its eye-popping run numbers (2nd in the PFL with 274.5 yards per game) the Wildcats defense has stepped up its game in 2019, leading the league by limiting opponents to 186.5 yards per game… WILDCAT TO SEE: Senior defensive tackle Bryce Perry-Martin has again been making his home in opponent’s backfield this season, with 3.5 tackles for loss, leading a unit with 12 tackles for loss in two weeks.

JACKSONVILLE AT PRESBYTERIAN: A future PFL matchup closes Week 3 action as Jacksonville travels to Presbyterian, which is slated to join the league in 2021… Jacksonville scored on its first two possessions of the fourth quarter at Richmond in Week 1, converting a key fourth down each time and they finished the day 3-for-5 on fourth-down conversions… DOLPHIN TO SEE: Junior wide receiver BJ Byrd amassed 196 all-purpose yards at Richmond, including 124 yards in kickoff returns – his first four kickoff returns of 2019 went for 39, 43, 20 and 22 yards.

Complete news and notes available in PDF version

Facing the No. 14 team in the FCS, Dayton faced daunting odds to win its season opener at Indiana State. But when Sean Prophit scored with 1:57 left the Flyers had an opportunity. Then Zach Rumpke turned that opportunity into reality with an interception to seal the win. It was the highest-ranked FCS opponent a Dayton team had defeated in program history and was the PFL’s third win all-time against the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

Valparaiso is set to celebrate its 100-year history over the course of the campaign by recognizing and celebrating individuals and teams from select eras at four games this season. The Crusaders have won 11 conference championships, including six in the Indiana Collegiate Conference and two in the Pioneer Football League. Valparaiso will retire the numbers of two University legends at the Homecoming game on Sept. 28 at Brown Field. Garry Puetz ’73 and Fuzzy Thurston ’56 (posthumous) will become the first players in program history to have their numbers retired.

A trio of Pioneer Football League Punters were named to the inaugural FCS Punter of the Year Award Watch List presented by The Augusta Sports Council. Drake’s Ross Kennedy, Morehead State’s Andrew Foster and San Diego’s Tanner Kuljian were each named to the 28-player list released in July. Each of the three finished 2018 ranked among the NCAA’s Top 100 punters in punting average. Kuljian was ranked No. 14 nationally, averaging 42.8 yards per punt on 59 kicks. Foster was No. 26 among FCS kickers with 41.9 yards per punt. Kennedy finished the season No. 93 among FCS punters (37.1 yards per punt).

San Diego wide receiver Michael Bandy, Dayton tight end Adam Trautman and Drake defensive back Will Waner made the rounds as the Preseason All-America squads were announced. Bandy was named to all four Preseason All-America teams (STATS, Athlon, Phill Steele and HERO), Warner was named to three (STATS, Phill Steele and HERO) and Trautman earned recognition on two (STATS and Phill Steele).

Three Pioneer Football League student-athletes were among 137 nominees from across the country for the 28th edition of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team®. George Hatalowich (Davidson), Luke Butera (Marist) and Ryan Culhane (Dayton) were nominated for the 2019 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team®. In order to meet the criteria set forth by Allstate and the AFCA, each player must be actively involved with a charitable organization or service group while maintaining a strong academic standing.

As 2019 gets underway, the longest-tenured coaches in Division I FCS are Marist’s Jim Parady and Monmouth’s Kevin Callahan, who have been head coaches at their respective schools since 1992. On the other end of the spectrum, the PFL welcomes two new head coaches in 2019: Valparaiso’s Landon Fox and Drake’s Jeff Stepsis, who were part of 24 new head coaches in the FCS this season.

In March Valparaiso Director of Athletics Mark LaBarbera introduced Landon Fox as the 18th head coach of the Crusaders foottball program. Fox is no stranger to success in the Pioneer Football League, as he spent the 11  previous season as Dayton’s defensive coordinator and secondary coach. During that time, the Flyers compiled an 86-38 record, won three PFL championships and participated in the 2015 FCS playoffs while making defense a hallmark of the program.

Coming off the best season in more than 65 years, Stetson football coach Roger Hughes was rewarded with a contract extension that will keep him on the Hatters sideline through at least the 2021 season. Hughes, who has guided the Stetson football program since 2011 when he was charged with leading the program onto the field after more than 50 years without a team, was named Pioneer Football League Coach of the Year in 2018.

Todd Stepsis, the architect of the Drake football team’s nationally-ranked defense, was named the head coach of the Drake football team in December. He takes the reins of the Bulldogs’ program after serving as the program’s defensive coordinator for the past five seasons under previous head coach Rick Fox, who resigned his position. As the defensive coordinator, Stepsis built the Drake defense into one of the nation’s top units and coached a total of 42 all-conference selections including the program’s all-time leading tackler and the 2018 PFL Defensive Player of the Year, Nathan Clayberg.