LAPORTE — Reece Crossin’s weekly routine normally includes just a handful of practice plays at quarterback.
With strong-armed Jake Leffew getting most of the work for Valparaiso, the signal-caller repetitions are hard to come by for Crossin.
That doesn’t mean the junior hasn’t been preparing himself for the moment when the Times No. 1 Vikings might need him to deliver.
That moment came Friday night as Leffew exited with a right knee injury and Crossin came in to combine with an opportunistic defense to lead Valparaiso to a 17-6 win over No. 7 LaPorte at Kiwanis Field.
“I just came out and stayed as composed as I could,” Crossin said. “I wanted to keep the offense under control, keep it composed.”
Leffew exited the game one possession after he hit Jesse Harper for a 3-yard touchdown that gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead midway through the second quarter. LaPorte quarterback Nolan Lorenz fumbled on the 1-foot line on the ensuing possession, and the Vikings took over deep in their own territory. Leffew gained two yards on a quarterback keeper up the middle and then appeared to get injured when he threw a quick-hitting pass to Harper that got Valparaiso out of the shadow of its own end zone. Leffew limped off the field and was immediately attended to on the sideline.
“I can’t say enough about Jake Leffew, and the injury did affect us,” Valparaiso coach Dave Coyle said. “Reece Crossin, you just can’t say enough about a kid that gets maybe five reps a week in practice.”
Crossin scored on a 4-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter to extend Valparaiso’s lead to 14-0. The Vikings (3-0, 1-0) added a field goal after LaPorte cut the deficit to 14-6 following a Drayson Nespo 2-yard rushing touchdown on fourth down. Crossin finished with 47 rushing yards while Harper added 92 yards on the ground and had three catches for 22 yards and a touchdown.
The Slicers (1-2, 0-1) garnered 272 rushing yards on the evening, but Valparaiso’s defense stood tall in the red zone. LaPorte turned the ball over five times on Friday night, with three coming inside the Valparaiso 5-yard line.
“We worked hard all week on our red zone defense,” Valparaiso senior linebacker Riley Woodard said. “This win is a testament to our coaches that prepared us for this all week. It’s an incredible feeling to know that our hard work paid off.”
LaPorte opened the game with a 19-play, 77-yard drive that took nearly the entire first quarter. The Slicers were primed to get on the board first, but Nespo fumbled the ball at the 3-yard line. LaPorte was stopped on fourth down on its next possession, and Lorenz fumbled the ball away inside the Valparaiso 1-yard line on the Slicers’ third possession of the half. Valparaiso senior defensive back Michael Scarsella had the first of his two interceptions on the last play of the first half. Scarsella intercepted the ball inside the Valparaiso 5-yard line and nearly returned it all the way for a touchdown before being tripped up inside the LaPorte 20.
Valparaiso’s heralded defense forced two more turnovers in the second half, and the Slicers were never able to get into a rhythm as it was the Vikings that started to take the air out of the ball with a plethora of running plays.
“This was a very sweet victory for us,” Crossin said. “(Defensive Coordinator Sam) Bernardi gathered us on Monday and told us that he really wanted this game. He got pretty emotional about it. They’ve beaten us the last couple years. We wanted to get this one.”