THe Pioneer Football League Report: Week 11

Wednesday, November 10, 2021
by Cody Bush, PFL Media Relations


Valparaiso at Butler, Noon
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Stadium: Sellick Bowl
Series: Butler leads, 51-29    Streak: Valparaiso, 2 wins
Last Meeting: Valparaiso def. Butler, 28-25 (3/27/21)

Davidson at Dayton, Noon
Location: Dayton, Ohio
Stadium: Welcome Stadium
Series: Dayton leads, 14-1    Streak: Dayton, 9 wins
Last Meeting: Dayton def. Davidson, 42-21 (9/22/18)

St. Thomas at Drake, 1 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Stadium: Drake Stadium
Series: First Meeting

Stetson at Morehead State, 1 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN3
Location: Morehead, Kentucky
Stadium: Jayne Stadium
Series: Series is tied, 3-3    Streak: Morehead State, 1 win
Last Meeting: Morehead State def. Stetson, 31-14 (3/20/21)

Marist at Presbyterian, 1 p.m.
Broadcast: ESPN+
Location: Clinton, South Carolina
Stadium: Bailey Memorial Stadium
Series: First Meeting

Off Week: San Diego



  • Davidson is in control of its destiny, needing only a win in one of its last two games to clinch a share of the PFL regular-season title and with it the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Football Championship. San Diego remains alive to claim a share of what would be its PFL record-tying 12th regular-season title but needs to win its regular-season finale next week and a loss by Davidson in either of its two remaining games. San Diego’s path to the PFL’s automatic bid requires it to win next week and see Davidson lose both its remaining games as Davidson holds the head-to-head tiebreaker between the teams.
  • Valparaiso at Butler: The Hoosier Helmet is up for grabs between in-state rivals Valparaiso and Butler. While both teams appear evenly matched offensively, Butler out-gaining Valparaiso 330-304 in PFL play, the scoring disparity stands out. Valparaiso is the league’s No. 1 red zone offense (90.9 percent) and the No. 4 scoring offense (30.8 ppg). Butler is No. 10 in PFL scoring offense (16.3 ppg) and No. 5 in red-zone offense (73.3 percent).
  • Davidson at Dayton: The league’s top two offenses square off as Dayton closes its 2021 season by hosting league-leading Davidson. Both teams have scored 253 points in PFL play this season, with Davidson doing that work in six games (42.2 ppg) while Dayton has used seven games to get to that total (36.1 ppg). Otherwise, the teams are opposites offensively, with Dayton ranking third in pass offense (281.0 ypg, 11 TDs) while Davidson leads the PFL in rushing offense (345.3 ypg, 25 TDs).
  • St. Thomas at Drake: Two teams separated by 250 miles of Interstate 35 highway meet up for the first time as St. Thomas heads south to Drake. It’s the second straight weekend the league’s top two defenses will square off, with Drake leading the league allowing only 15 points per game, while St. Thomas is ranked No. 2 in permitting just 16 points per league game.
  • Stetson at Morehead State: Stetson is getting well used to the trip to Morehead State, as it makes its fifth trip north since 2014. Morehead State has won three of those four previous meetings, including a 31-14 decision last spring. Both teams look to rebound after sub-par offensive outings for each: Morehead State was held to a season-low three points at San Diego while Stetson scored just 13 points in a Homecoming tilt against Dayton.
  • Marist at Presbyterian: Another first-time meeting, but this one takes six interstate changes to make the trip south as Marist heads south to Presbyterian. Marist has been involved in several low-scoring affairs in PFL play this season and ranks No. 9 in scoring offense (19.8 ppg) and No. 3 in scoring defense (16.3 ppg). Presbyterian battles in shootouts nearly every week and is No. 3 in scoring offense (33.8 ppg) and No. 11 in scoring defense (60.2 ppg).

Davidson tightened its grip on first place with a 42-15 PFL victory against second-place St. Thomas. Davidson ran the ball 65 times for 392 yards and four touchdowns, including Aris Hilliard’s eight-carry, 89-yard, two-touchdown effort. Hope Adebayo carried the ball 12 times for 44 yards and a touchdown as St. Thomas was held to 236 offensive yards… Hunter Cobb caught a 10-yard pass from Austin Day with 50 seconds in the third quarter, and Marist held on for a 7-0 PFL victory against Drake. Day completed 21-of-28 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown. His counterpart, Ian Corwin, completed 13-of-27 passes for 144 yards to pace Drake’s offense… Dayton scored the game’s first 14 points, fended off a Stetson second-quarter rally, and closed with the final 20 points in a 41-13 PFL victory. Dayton’s Jake Chisholm ran for four touchdowns and 119 yards, including the game’s first two touchdowns. Stetson’s Alex Piccirilli passed for 193 yards and ran for 114 yards and a touchdown… Nick Orekoya ran for four touchdowns, and Robert Washington ran for three more as Valparaiso held on for a 65-55 PFL victory against Presbyterian. Ren Hefley completed 44-of-68 passes for 544 yards and seven touchdowns to lead Presbyterian, with Jalen Jones catching five touchdowns as part of his 6-reception, 239-yard outing. Washington ran for three touchdowns on his 26-carry, 234-yard day, while Orekoya needed just 15 carries and 54 yards to post four touchdowns… Terrence Smith capped an 85-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run with 4:20 left in the third quarter to lead San Diego past Morehead State, 10-3. San Diego’s Mason Randall completed 19-of-32 passes for 247 yards, with Emilio Martinez rushing for 104 yards and Vance Jefferson posting 120 receiving yards. Morehead State’s Mark Pappas completed 22-of-44 passes for 243 yards, finding BJ Byrd six times for 100 receiving yards.

Presbyterian quarterback Ren Hefley and Morehead State defensive lineman Vaughn Taylor Jr. were named to the STATS Perform Watch Lists, Nov. 10. One of the nation’s top passes (see below), Hefley is now one of 46 individuals on the Walter Payton Award Watch List for the FCS National Offensive Player of the Year. Taylor Jr. leads all FCS defenders with 2.2 tackles for loss per game and is 27th in sacks per game (0.78), and now is one of 46 players named on the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List for the FCS National Defensive Player of the Year. 

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 four PFL athletes are nearing the 1,000-yard mark in either receiving yards or rushing yards.

  • BJ Byrd (Morehead State), 991 receiving yards
  • Jalyn Witcher (Presbyterian), 938 receiving yards
  • Robert Washington (Valparaiso), 844 rushing yards
  • Jake Chisholm (Dayton), 807 rushing yards

Presbyterian wide receiver Jalyn Witcher, one of the nation’s top receivers as a freshman, was one of 22 freshmen named to the Stats Perform FCS Jerry Rice Award Watch List, Oct. 27. Witcher is ranked among the FCS Top six in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns entering the season’s final two weeks. A freshman can’t have surpassed four games played in one previous academic year to be eligible for the Rice Award – similar to the NCAA’s regular redshirt rule. More players can join the watch list before a 50-member national media panel selects the winner following the regular season.

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, 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 (6th, 39.4 ppg) moved back ahead of Davidson (9th, 38.1 ppg). Meanwhile, Dayton and Morehead State are tied for 34th with 30.3 points per game each. 

Presbyterian’s Ren Hefley and Morehead State’s Mark Pappas are ranked among the FCS Top 10 in passing entering this week’s action. Hefley is third in the FCS with 3,470 passing yards in nine games (385.6 ypg, 3rd), including 35 touchdown tosses. Pappas is eighth nationally with 2,665 yards in nine games (296.1 ypg, 10th) and has thrown 21 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 73 receptions (2nd in FCS) for 991 yards (3rd in FCS) and nine touchdowns (7th in FCS) for the Eagles. Witcher has caught 65 passes (4th in FCS) for 938 yards (6th in FCS) and an FCS-best 11 touchdowns 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 sixth among FCS teams with three defensive scores in 2021. Butler, Dayton, Morehead State, Presbyterian, and Valparaiso each have two defensive touchdowns.