Reece Crossin dropped back to pass and the all-everything Valparaiso senior quickly found sophomore Cooper Jones a step ahead of his defender in the back of the end zone.
Crossin floated the pass over the middle, but the ball grazed off the end of Jones’ fingers before falling incomplete.
It was the only mistake the pair made all night.
Crossin and Jones got a rare offensive snap together after the pair led Valparaiso’s dominant defensive effort in a 23-0 win over rival Chesterton on Friday night.
Crossin had a pair of interceptions, including a 34-yard return for a first-quarter touchdown and Jones returned a fumble 17 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to bookend Valparaiso’s scoring.
The Vikings held Chesterton to just 28 yards of total offense and the defensive unit earned high praise from Valparaiso’s first-year coach Bill Marshall.
“This is some of the best defensive football I’ve ever seen,” Marshall said.
It all started with Crossin. The senior defensive back spent much of his junior season splitting time between the defense and playing quarterback after starter Jake Leffew went down with an injury.
Crossin led the team with 519 passing yards and five touchdowns, but with junior CJ Opperman coming along this season, Crossin is primarily back with the defense, and he was everywhere on Friday night.
Crossin picked off Chesterton starting quarterback Jacob Coslet and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown to get the Vikings on the board after the offense struggled early.
The Valparaiso secondary limited the Trojans to a passing yard as Chesterton had to retool its game plan after Coslet was knocked out of the game two plays after the interception on a hit from Jones. Crossin picked off Chesterton reserve quarterback Bryce Pickering in the second quarter and then scored on a 1-yard rushing touchdown four plays later to give the Vikings a 13-0 lead.
“Getting those interceptions are huge,” Crossin said. “The offense was in a bit of a funk at the beginning and we went out there and made a big play. (The offense) got on a roll in the second half and we started driving it right down the field. Both units worked together and made some plays.”
If Crossin wasn’t making plays on either side of the ball, he was firing up his teammates on the sidelines. As soon as the game ended, Crossin sprinted over to the bleachers, climbed into the Valparaiso student section and led his teammates in a rendition of the fight song. Marshall watched from afar with an approving look on his face.
“Reece is our emotional leader,” Marshall said. “He gets out there and plays with every ounce of energy he’s got. Sometimes we have to put him in a headlock and calm him down a little bit, but I absolutely love the passion.”
If there is a player on Valparaiso’s defense that matches Crossin’s passion, it’s Jones. The 6-foot-5 defensive lineman brings a strong pedigree as the son of former Portage and Notre Dame football player Eric Jones. Crossin says his teammate already has D1 talent as a sophomore and Marshall can’t wait to see what the future holds for the budding star. As for Jones, he approached Friday’s game with a job to accomplish.
“The defensive line can win or lose a football game,” Jones said. “The same with the offensive line. We put our heads down and go to work. We go against each other in practice every day and if we can be the best lines that we see all year, we’re going to be hard to stop.”
K.V.’s Williams is where he’s always wanted to be: Kankakee Valley needed a quarterback after the graduation of Nick Schoonveld this past season.
No problem said senior Wade Williams, who was more than happy to fill the void.
“Except for high school, I was a quarterback all my life,” said Williams, an imposing 6-foot-6, 201 pounds. “I finally got my chance.”
First-year K.V. coach James Broyles knew Williams was the guy to get the ball under center.
“He’s our captain. I love him to death,” he said. “He’s a great kid, leads this team, works hard and he’s awesome. He’s a great one to have.”
Williams’s leadership showed in Friday’s 13-10 loss at Lowell where he completed 10-of-17 passes for 113 yards and ran for another 40 yards and a touchdown.
“The line really picked it up this week,” he said. “I had plenty of time to throw the ball and get it to where it needed to be. It was just a little short.”
Lowell coach Keith Kilmer was impressed with Williams, especially at the start.
“The kid is tall, and he’s got a good arm,” Kilmer said. “That’s what they wanted to do, and that’s our weakness. I think they wanted to exploit it early. … He’s raw, but he gave us fits.”
Williams is playing his fourth varsity season for the Kougars. He started out on special teams as a freshman before stepping into a starting role as a defensive end and tight end as a sophomore, where he stood out as a junior as well.
Williams enjoys playing QB the most.
“I just like being the captain and being the leader and helping everyone out and just taking a role,” he said.
Sophomore guard-linebacker Tyler Feddeler is one of K.V.’s many underclassmen who look up to Williams.
“His leadership shows, on and off the field,” Feddeler said. “He’s just a great kid, always improving his game. He was a great kid growing up, and I’ve known him my whole life. … Just listening to him in the huddle, listening to everything that’s going on is important. We follow him.”
Williams said the goal the rest of the season is to go out and win each game.
“We never look at a team and say, ‘We’re not going to win.’ We look at it and say, ‘We got a chance.’"
Broyles said Williams is just a part of good mixture of players for the Kougars.
“He’s done a great job for us this whole year, but we’ve had other people contribute, and they've stepped up,” Broyles said. “It’s not necessarily on his shoulders, but he’s definitely leading us.”
Williams is also appreciative of Broyles’ guidance.
“He’s just an energy-bringer,” he said. “He does a lot of work with the line and everyone. He knows his stuff.”