The Pioneer Football League Report: Week 12

Wednesday, November 17, 2021
by Cody Bush, PFL Media Relations


Butler at Marist, Noon
Location: Poughkeepsie, New York
Stadium: Tenney Stadium
Series: Marist leads, 4-1    Streak: Marist, 3 wins
Last Meeting: Marist def. Butler, 37-27 (11/2/19)

Drake at Davidson, 1 p.m.
Location: Clinton, South Carolina
Stadium: Bailey Memorial Stadium
Series: Drake leads, 9-1    Streak: Drake, 7 wins
Last Meeting: Drake def. Davidson, 31-28 (11/23/19)

San Diego at Stetson, 1 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN3
Location: DeLand, Florida
Stadium: Spec Martin Memorial Stadium
Series: San Diego leads, 8-0
Last Meeting: San Diego def. Stetson, 34-10 (4/10/21)

Presbyterian at St. Thomas, 2 p.m.
Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota
Stadium: O’Shaughnessy Stadium
Series: First Meeting

Morehead State at Valparaiso, 2 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN3
Location: Valparaiso, Indiana
Stadium: Brown Field
Series: Morehead State leads, 22-4    Streak: Morehead State, 3 wins
Last Meeting: Morehead State def. Valparaiso, 28-24 (4/10/21)

Off Week: Dayton



  • The AQ Race: Davidson continues to control the race for the PFL automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division I Football Championship, needing a win to clinch the berth. San Diego needs a Davidson loss and a win in its final game to earn the AQ spot. If both Davidson and San Diego lose, then the group of two-loss teams trailing them enter the conversation, with both Marist and Morehead State still holding outside chances of claiming the spot. As a reminder, St. Thomas is ineligible for the PFL’s automatic qualifying spot as it is still reclassifying to Division I. In addition, the tiebreakers only affect which team will earn the league’s automatic qualifying spot. Any teams tied for the best PFL win percentage at the season’s end will be declared co-champions.
  • Butler at Marist: Coming off its best scoring performance of the season, Marist returns home to face Butler, seeking to bounce back from its lowest-scoring performance of 2021. Marist scored nearly one-third of its PFL-point total last week with 57 points at Presbyterian and is now averaging 25.1 points per game (No. 7 in the PFL). Butler was held to three points in its home finale and seeks a rebound similar to earlier in the season when they followed a three-point performance by scoring 21 points against San Diego.
  • Drake at Davidson: After seeing a potential championship delayed by a road loss, Davidson, searching for its second consecutive PFL title, returns to Richardson Stadium and hosts Drake. Davidson brings the league’s top-rated offense into the fray, averaging 40.3 points per game thanks to a run game averaging a league-best 349.1 yards per game. Drake is the league’s No. 2 scoring defense (16.0 ppg) and is ranked No. 7 against the run, allowing only 138.8 rushing yards per game.
  • San Diego at Stetson: San Diego travels to the opposite coast seeking its PFL-record-tying 12th regular-season crown when it faces Stetson. San Diego returns to action after an off week to give its No. 3 defense a rest after it allowed only 18.3 points per game in the first seven games, holding opponents to under 300 yards to rank No. 3 is defensive yardage. After nearly knocking off Morehead State last week, Stetson returns home and is averaging 23.7 points per game (No. 9 in the PFL) and 373.5 offensive yards per game.
  • Presbyterian at St. Thomas: The league’s newest members finally meet with Presbyterian trekking northwest to face St. Thomas. It promises to be an intriguing battle between two teams at opposite ends of the league’s offensive and defensive rankings. St. Thomas boasts the league’s top-rated defense, allowing just 15.7 points per game, and backed up that ranking with a five-interception day at Drake last weekend. Presbyterian is ranked No. 3 in scoring offense during PFL play at 33.6 points per game and leads the league with 520.3 yards per game.
  • Morehead State at Valparaiso: A surging Valparaiso, which has won three of its last four games, hosts a Morehead State squad that snapped a two-game losing streak with a come-from-behind win last week. Valparaiso has climbed up the league’s scoring offense list the past four weeks with 171 points scoring in its previous four games and now is averaging 33.1 points per PFL game (4th in the league). Morehead State has scored just 88 points in its last four games and has settled back to No. 6 in the league scoring chart with 28.9 points per PFL game. Defensively the two teams are right next to each other, with Morehead State narrowly edging out Valparaiso 24.9 to 25.0 points per game.

Davidson suffered its first PFL loss of 2021, extending the regular-season title race into the season’s final weekend… Ben Nimz threw three touchdowns, and Robert Washington ran for two more as Valparaiso won the Hoosier Helmet with a 47-3 PFL victory at Butler. Nimz completed 19-of-24 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another. Washington had 102 rushing yards and two touchdowns on his 14 carries. Butler’s Bret Bushka passed for 82 yards and ran for 39 more… Jake Chisholm ran for three touchdowns and caught two more as Dayton denied Davidson an opportunity to clinch the PFL title with a 38-29 victory. Chisholm tacked on a 32-yard touchdown run to seal the victory. Chisholm amassed 226 yards on 34 carries – Dayton’s four other ball carriers finished minus-24 yards – and had 46 yards on three receptions. Davidson had four different runners score a touchdown in a 57-carry, 372-yard team rushing performance… Marist scored 20 unanswered points in the second quarter and tacked another 17 unanswered in the third frame to down Presbyterian, 57-32. Marist quarterback Austin Day completed 15-of-26 passes for 265 yards with touchdown passes to four different receivers to lead Marist. Presbyterian quarterback Ren Hefley completed 36-of-56 passes for 348 yards and three touchdowns… Mark Pappas capped an 11-play, 93-yard drive with a four-yard pass to BJ Byrd to stun Stetson, 36-35. Pappas and wide receiver BJ Byrd connected on four touchdown passes, Pappas ending the day 26-of-54 for 395 yards while Byrd caught 12 passes for 223 yards. Jalen Leary led Stetson with 159 rushing yards and three touchdowns… St. Thomas intercepted five passes, blocked a punt and blocked a field goal, and ultimately held on for a 21-14 victory at Drake. Hope Adebayo finished with 105 yards on 21 carries to lead St. Thomas. Drake’s Ian Corwin completed 17-of-31 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown.

Marist head coach Jim Parady became the fifth head coach to record 50 career PFL victories with the Red Foxes’ Nov. 6 victory against Drake. He is the second PFL head coach to reach the milestone this season, joining San Diego’s Dale Lindsey, who picked up win No. 50 with the Torero’s win at Butler, Oct. 9. The duo joins Dayton’s Rich Chamberlin (74), Dayton’s Mike Kelley (55), and Jacksonville’s Kerwin Bell (51) as coaches with 50-plus wins. That group still could grow this season with Butler’s Jeff Voris (48) two wins away from joining the exclusive group.

Two weeks remain in the 2021 season and three PFL athletes have moved past the 1,000 yard mark with one running back looking to reach the milestone this weekend.

  • BJ Byrd (Morehead State), 1,214 receiving yards
  • Jalyn Witcher (Presbyterian), 1,074 receiving yards
  • Jake Chisholm (Dayton), 1,033 rushing yards
  • Robert Washington (Valparaiso), 946 rushing yards

With Valparaiso’s 65-point performance in a league victory against Presbyterian, eight of the FCS’s games with 60-plus points have been put forth by PFL teams. The FCS’ top two are Presbyterian with 84 points against St. Andrews and Butler with 77 points against Taylor University. Davidson’s 70 points against Presbyterian is fifth, followed by San Diego in sixth with its 69-point outing, Presbyterian is eighth with a 68-point effort, Valparaiso is slotted 12th with last week’s 65-point effort, Dayton is 14th with 63 points, and Morehead State is 21st with a 62-point affair.

Furthering the league’s offensive credentials, four of the league’s 11 members are ranked in the FCS’ Top 50 in scoring offense. Presbyterian (4th, 38.7 ppg) stayed ahead of Davidson (10th, 37.1 ppg). Meanwhile, Dayton (29th, 31.1 ppg) and Morehead State (32nd, 30.9) remain among the FCS’ Top 50.  

Presbyterian’s Ren Hefley and Morehead State’s Mark Pappas remained ranked among the FCS Top 10 in passing entering the final weekend. Hefley is third in the FCS with 3,818 passing yards (381.8 ypg, 3rd), including an FCS-best 38 touchdown tosses. Pappas is seventh nationally with 3,060 yards (306.0 ypg, 8th) and has thrown 25 touchdown passes.

Morehead State senior receiver BJ Byrd and Presbyterian freshman wideout Jalyn Witcher are second and fifth, respectively, in FCS receiving yardage. Byrd has 85 receptions (1st in FCS) for 1,214 yards (1st) and an FCS-best 13 touchdowns (2nd) for the Eagles. Witcher has caught 74 passes (3rd in FCS) for 1,074 yards (4th) and 11 touchdowns (4th) for the Blue Hose. 

Valparaiso blocked a PFL record-tying three kicks – two punts and a field goal – in its Oct. 30 loss to San Diego. This season, the Beacons have blocked an FCS best eight kicks, with Brett Bittner blocking an FCS-leading three kicks, including a blocked punt at San Diego.

Nine PFL teams have scored a defensive touchdown this season, and six have scored two or more touchdowns defensively. San Diego leads the league and is seventh among FCS teams with three defensive scores in 2021. Butler, Dayton, Morehead State, Presbyterian, and Valparaiso each have two defensive touchdowns.

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