VALPARAISO | Valparaiso struggled to stop a balanced San Diego attack, suffering a 58-14 decision to the visiting Toreros, who jumped on the Crusaders early and often at Brown Field on Saturday.
San Diego kicked off the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run from Lawrence Larivee with 4:02 remaining in the first quarter. The score was set up by three consecutive plays of at least 20 yards.
Kenn James added to the Toreros' lead at the 13:13 mark of the second quarter, rushing for a 17-yard score that was set up by a Logan Smith punt return to the Valparaiso 48 yard-line.
"Early on we did some good things, but we wanted to keep the ball away from their returner and just didn't place the ball where it needed to be," said Valparaiso head coach Dale Carlson.
Missed opportunities, Carlson said, plagued the Crusaders early.
"We didn't convert on a big third down when it was 7-0 and I thought that was key," he said. "We thought we had some momentum going, but we couldn't convert early on."
After pinning the Crusaders deep in their own territory, a blocked punt led to a safety for San Diego with 12:16 remaining in the first half. Three plays later, the visitors added to their lead on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Mason Mills to Brandon White. White would add another touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, totaling 49 yards on three catches in the game.
Mills completed 19 of 32 passes for 230 yards.
"Mills has such a strong arm and was able to make some nice throws," Carlson said.
The Toreros were solid on the ground as well, as running backs Joe Ferguson (125 yards) and James (113) carried the load for much of the game. In all, San Diego totaled 521 yards on offense.
Valparaiso got on the board in the second quarter on an 80-yard-drive that resulted in a 15-yard touchdown pass from Eric Hoffman to Tanner Kuramata with 9:49 to go in the half. Hoffman completed 16 of 24 passes for for 202 yards and two touchdowns.
After the Crusaders failed to score on their first drive of the second half, San Diego added to their lead on a nine-play, 71-yard drive that resulted in a Sam Hoekstra 9-yard touchdown catch from Mills to give the Toreros a 30-7 edge. On their next drive, they covered 71 yards in less than two minutes as Ferguson hauled in a 16-yard Mills pass for another score.
Valpo responded on the first play of the fourth quarter with the longest play of the game, an 86-yard touchdown pass from Hoffman to Tony Taibi. Taibi had 104 receiving yards in the loss.
With their second string on the field, San Diego added an 11-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Miller to Robbie Beyer with 5:27 remaining in the fourth quarter and capped the game's scoring on a five-yard touchdown run from Bug Rivera at the 1:24 mark of the final stanza.
The Crusaders were effective on the ground. Jabril Baker had 73 rushing yards on 10 handoffs, while Brandon Hall carried the ball 12 times for 61 yards.
"They both did a great job running the ball today," Carlson said. "They also did a good job of blocking for each other. We wanted to be able to run more, but we got into a position where we couldn't."