Big picture: Valparaiso scored on five of its first six possessions despite a dramatic decrease in temperature and intermittent rain all evening to run away from Lake Central early and lock up an undefeated run through the Duneland Athletic Conference with a 48-14 victory at Lake Central on Friday night.
“We went into this week with one goal in mind,” Valparaiso coach Bill Marshall said. “It’s kind of been our mantra all year, one week at a time, just doing what we need to do. We knew we needed to get the offense back on a roll, and that started with CJ Opperman and trying to get him to throw the ball a little bit more, and he did a phenomenal job.”
Opperman ran for a touchdown and went 7-for-11 passing for 114 yards and two touchdowns. He hit Jesse Harper on a perfect touch pass down the sideline for a 64-yard score that put the Vikings up 35-0 with 3:13 to play in the first half. He added a second-half touchdown to Antonio Osorio.
Harper scored three times for the Vikings (7-2, 7-0).
“We knew after (scoring 17 points against) Portage we needed more points, and it came down to execution,” Harper said. “In practice, we talked more and were communicating more, and that’s what it came down to out here.”
Turning point: On the second play from scrimmage, Valparaiso’s Jackson Kurth took the ball 80 yards on a sweep to his right and scored, giving Valparaiso a 7-0 lead 54 seconds into the contest. Valparaiso dominated the rest of the night.
Valparaiso player of the game: Senior receiver and running back Jesse Harper — Three of the Vikings’ first five touchdowns came from Harper. He ran one in from 69 yards away, then took a misdirection handoff as the second guy through to score from 8 yards out before catching a 64-yard scoring strike for his third touchdown of the night. He finished with six carries for 94 yards with two catches for 80 yards.
“All the hard work we’ve put in in the offseason is finally paying off, and we’re happy about that,” Harper said.
Lake Central player of the game: Senior running back Sir Felix Garcia — The Indians said, “Yes, Sir” to ruining Valparaiso’s shutout bid when Garcia took the ball 54 yards to the house against a collection of backups with 3:20 to play in the game. He finished with 15 carries for 108 yards and the touchdown, even though 78 yards came on the second-to-last drive when both teams were using reserves.
Quote: “Going 7-0 in the conference is truly a testament to how hard these kids worked and what they’ve done since June,” Marshall said. “I know a lot of these guys were little kids on Pop Warner teams watching that 2010 team go to semistate and want to build from that experience and carry it over.”
Beyond the box score: Valparaiso won the DAC outright for the second consecutive season. It was the first unbeaten run through the DAC by any team since Lake Central did so in 2014 after Merrillville did it in 2013. Valpo last ran the table in the league in 2010.
Up next: Sectional 2 semifinal: Chesterton at (Valparaiso (7-2), 7 p.m. Oct. 26. Sectional 1 semifinal: Merrillville at Lake Central (2-7), 7 p.m. Oct. 26.