The Dayton Flyers football team warm-ups in anticipation for Saturday’s game on their new turf playing surface at Jerry Von Mohr Practice Field. Photo courtesy of Peter Burtnett, Flyer News.
Peter Burtnett | Sports Editor
Two straight games on the road resulted in a split for the Dayton Flyers football team, which returns home to face Marist for the Alumni Game at Welcome Stadium on Saturday at noon.
The Red Foxes come into Dayton 2-0 in Pioneer Football League play (2-2 overall), which makes them even with Davidson (3-1 overall) and Morehead State (3-2 overall), who beat the Flyers 42-35 in overtime two weeks ago.
On the back of a 34-3 win over Stetson, the Red Foxes are playing their best football to start PFL play.
While allowing an average of 184.8 rushing yards per game can be an area Flyers junior running back Jake Chisholm can get a “big play,” head coach Rich Chamberlin said the Red Foxes are still a dangerous defense.
“They’re one of those helter-skelter defenses that they play an odd-man front, and they bring people at different angles. And they’re tough, very tough, very physical guys but what sets them apart is just all the blitzing that they do, and they try to confuse you, our offense will have to have to be really locked in to block them.”
However, the blitzing could also backfire for the Red Foxes, as Chamberlin explained, regardless of the numbers.
“You really don’t look at the numbers, you do what you do best. And one of the best part of (our 28-10 win over Drake) last week was our rushing with Jake Chisholm and others there. And (Marist’s) average (rushing yards per game allowed) is because when you blitz, if you guess right, great. If you guess wrong, it’s gonna be a big play. And I think that’s what happened to them in these first few (games). But they’re playing better now, so those stats from four or five weeks ago aren’t going to be the same as what they’re doing now.”
Chisholm said Marist “looks good” and has a “good defense and a really good program.”
“They had a big win last weekend and they beat Stetson by a good amount, so it’ll be a tough, tough test for us, but I think we’ll be prepared and coming off of last week’s big win (for us), I think we’re looking to have another big win.”
On offense, Marist has redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Day, who has thrown for 1,528 yards and 5 TDs in four games, while redshirt junior running back Hunter Cobb has 48 rushes for 289 yards and 3 TDs. Day’s main target is redshirt junior wide receiver Dwayne Menders with 27 receptions for 320 yards and 2 TDs.
Flyers redshirt junior defensive end Mason Stauffer said the Red Foxes have an “explosive offense.”
“I think the d-line understands that, and especially our linebackers this week with the run-pass option, (Marist) has an offense that can scramble, play really well and make plays usually when there’s nothing there for him. But this week, especially with the new field, practicing here, I think everyone has a sense of urgency. And to be perfect in all aspects of the field, so hopefully I’m going to be prepared for it.”
Chamberlin and both players said returning home will help, though Stauffer said the road trips allow the team to bond more.
“(When) traveling, you’re together 24-7, bonding, and creating new friendships, especially with some of the younger guys, because especially on the o-line and some of the guys on the d-line and our secondary, they’re younger kids, and we haven’t had as much time together, so just being together at all times is an awesome feeling, brings the team closer together.”
“It feels good to be back home,” Chisholm said. “It’s been a couple of weeks since we last played in front of our home crowd, and it’s been a good week, especially being on this new practice field getting ready for the game.”
Saturday’s game will also be an opportunity to celebrate Alumni Game, with a special recognition of the 1980 national champions and the 1991 runners-up.
“It’s special, it’s very special because (the players) always hear me talk about the guys from the past and how much they care about this program and all the different ways that they show how much they care,” Chamberlin said. “And so to have an opportunity for a large group of (alumni) coming in from anywhere from the 60s through guys that just graduated two years ago, to be able to show them what the 2021 Flyers look like, it’s something they want to be proud of and to show them exactly how good we are.”
Kickoff is scheduled for noon on Saturday at Welcome Stadium as the Flyers look for a big win in a competitive PFL.
“I don’t know if teams are gonna be able to go through undefeated,” Chamberlin said. “It might not happen just because of the parity throughout (the conference). I’ve said before, I think there’s five, six teams that could win the conference this year, so we’re approaching this game just like any other, it’s another conference game for us against a very good opponent that we’re going to prepare for and go out and try to play our very best on Saturday.”