VALPARAISO | A coaching change and mixing up the practice schedule gave Valparaiso a spark on Saturday, but that and a new school passing record were not enough for the Crusaders to fend off visiting Dayton, which prevailed, 45-20, in the season finale for both teams.
"It was like we were substitute teachers teaching calculus with a chemistry book," said Valparaiso interim head coach Mike Gravier, referring to himself and assistant coach Alex Bailey running practice during the week following the firing of head coach Dale Carlson.
"We had to write out every play and every part of the play just to be able to call something," Gravier said. Prior to Saturday's loss, Carlson had called the plays throughout the year.
The Crusaders ended their season 1-10 overall and 1-7 in the Pioneer Football League despite a breakout game from wide receiver Tanner Kuramata, who had 10 catches for 200 yards Saturday. Quarterback Eric Hoffman had 387 passing yards in the game and broke the school record for completions in a season late in the first half.
Changes in practice proved the benefit the junior wideout, who got things started early with a 27-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Eric Hoffman midway through the first quarter. Dayton, however, took little time to respond as quarterback Will Bardo connected with running back Gary Hunter for a 72-yard score to tie things up less than a minute later.
After the teams exchanged field goals, the difference in the game came when the Dayton defense intercepted a pair of Hoffman passes for touchdowns on consecutive Valpo possessions late in the second stanza.
The two late first-half Dayton defensive touchdowns, coupled with a 100-yard kickoff return from Hunter on the opening kick of the second half that gave the Flyers a 31-10 edge, is "kind of the epitome of what our season has been like," according to Gravier.
The offensive play of the game for Valpo came on the game's next score, when Kuramata took a tipped pass 78 yards for a touchdown at the 10:25 mark of the third quarter.
Kuramata also had 57 return yards.
Kacsor paced the Flyers' run game with 108 yards on the ground. Hunter had 133 yards receiving for Dayton (7-4, 5-3 PFL).
In his final game in a Crusader uniform, Jabril Baker led the team in rushing, taking 10 carries for 46 yards in the loss.