CHESTERTON — Zero.
It's where the bar is set for the Valparaiso defense.
"We've had a few plays the last few games that made us lose six points, so we wanted to make sure we got the shutout," said Vikings senior Reece Staples, who had a pair of sacks. "We all came prepared to try to make sure they got zero points."
Times No. 1 Valpo 14-0 blanking of Chesterton was one of whole bunch of impressive numbers for the Viking (5-0, 3-0 Duneland Athletic Conference). They had nine tackles for loss, two interceptions, a fumble recovery and held the Trojans to six first downs and 15 yards rushing.
"Defense takes care of championships down the road," Valpo coach Dave Coyle said. "We're gelling well. We're lining up, getting great angles, playing smart and making tackles. (Chesterton coach) Mark (Peterson)'s been around a long time. We worked on a lot of different scenarios this week."
Chesterton managed just one first-half first down and never seriously threatened the end zone. Zach Holmes recovered a muffed punt and a late pickoff to deny the Trojans a final time. Charlie Healy also had an interception.
"It ranks right up there," Holmes said of the defensive effort. "We're just going out there trying our best to not let them score. You have to be ready when the ball comes your way every single time. I was just happy to get in there and make a play."
The Vikings broke a scoreless tie early in the second quarter on a 2-yard Jesse Harper run. A 38-yard catch and run by tight end John Hruska on a toss from CJ Opperman set up the touchdown. Valpo went to a Wildcat set featuring Harper in a fourth-quarter drive that Reece Crossin capped with a 1-yard plunge at 8:32.
"We felt we could do some things there, seeing the replay, that would give us an advantage, and it did," Coyle said. "To be successful, you have to find a balance between offense and defense. Obviously, we'd love to put 28, 35 points on the board, but we've got a number of guys banged up. We're just grinding it out and finding ways to win games."
Harper rushed for 96 yards and Eddie Curry added 75, 51 of them on a late dash. Crossin and Opperman combined to throw for 105 yards.
"Our defense did an admirable job for bring on the field probably three-fourths of the night," Chesterton coach Mark Peterson said. "We've talked all season about controlling time of possession. We just never got in a rhythm offensively. They put nine hats in the box and that created some mismatches. They've got some good kids. They created some disruption. We had a couple looks, sets, where we had some success and we missed some opportunities, which I'm tired of saying. We've got to make some plays."
Andrew Zimmerman threw for 113 yards, 108 of them after Chesterton opened it up in the second half. Valpo has allowed just four offensive touchdowns on the season.
"Nothing surprises us," Staples said. "We're not going to put it down and say we're the best out here. Every week, we're going to come out and work to get better, whether we're first or last."
Peterson took some consolation in the competitive loss from a morale standpoint.
"Obviously, they're No. 5 in the state for a reason," Peterson said. "To take the No. 5 team to 14-0 — losing isn't exciting by any stretch of the imagination — it really shows where we're at. We're close."