Missed opportunities, second half collapse result in 45-28 Flyers football loss to Beacons

Senior quarterback Jack Cook (pictured Oct. 16 against Marist) ran and passed for one touchdown each, but also threw two interceptions in a 45-28 loss Saturday. Photo courtesy of Jamie Blodgett, Flyer News.

Peter Burtnett | Sports Editor

Needing a win after a narrow home loss to Marist, the Dayton Flyers football team missed chances in the first half and fell apart in the second half in a 45-28 loss to Valparaiso on Saturday at Brown Field in Valparaiso, Ind.

Entering the game, the Flyers (3-3, 2-2 Pioneer Football League) were in a slightly better position than the Beacons (1-5, 1-2 PFL) in the PFL standings, but both teams were looking for a win after close losses last week.

On the opening drive, the Flyers moved the ball down to the Beacons 4-yard line for first and goal with the bulk of the yardage coming on a 32-yard pass from senior quarterback Jack Cook to redshirt freshman wide receiver Kyle Hazell. But the Flyers were unable to find the endzone on three plays inside the four and settled for a 20-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Sam Webster. 

Valparaiso responded with a 6-yard touchdown pass caught in the back corner of the endzone and took a 7-3 lead with five minutes left in the quarter.

On the Flyers’ next drive, Cook’s pass over the middle was thrown into tight coverage and bounced off the intended receiver into the arms of freshman linebacker Austin Chilton, who returned the interception 36 yards to the Dayton 15-yard line. Two plays later, the Beacons’ leader in rushing yards, senior Robert Washington, was pushed into the endzone by his offensive lineman to give the hosts a 14-3 lead with 2:22 left in the quarter.

The first quarter ended with the Flyers still trailing by two scores, but a 57-yard pass from Cook to freshman wide receiver Luke Brenner set up the visitors at the Valparaiso 3-yard line. On the first play of the second quarter, junior running back Jake Chisholm caught a pass from Cook and got both feet down in the endzone to cut the deficit to 14-10. 

After forcing a three-and-out, the Flyers took a 17-14 lead when Chisholm made a cut back on a 14-yard touchdown run.

The Flyers defense would force two more three-and-outs, but on the punt after the third, the ball went off the back of a Flyer on the return unit and was recovered by Chilton for his (and the Beacons’) second takeaway of the day. Starting with the ball at the Dayton 44-yard line, Valparaiso got one first down but called timeout facing third-and-seven from the 31. After the timeout, Flyers redshirt junior defensive tackle sacked redshirt junior quarterback Ben Nimz, and when the Beacons went for it on fourth down, the Flyers tackled sophomore receiver Chuck Maxwell for a 3-yard loss to give the Flyers the ball at the Dayton 35.

With 2:46 left in the half, the Flyers quickly picked up 31 yards in three plays, and a personal foul penalty moved the ball down to the 14-yard line. But the Beacons defense buckled down, and forced incompletions on three straight passing plays before Webster made a 31-yard field goal to push the Flyers lead to 20-14 with 33 seconds left in the half. 

The lead held at halftime, but with a total yards advantage of 252-99, the Flyers were in control in the yardage battle, but were unable to score more than a field goal on two drives inside the redzone. At the break, Cook was 12-21 for 203 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception, while Chisholm had 11 rushes for 37 yards and 1 touchdown (along with a receiving touchdown on Cook’s pass). 

To begin the second half, the Beacons started with the ball down by just six. Needing a spark, the Beacons got just that on a 76-yard kickoff return to the Dayton 22-yard line to open the second half. 

The Beacons moved the ball down to the 2-yard line, but redshirt junior Zach Rumpke tackled Washington for a loss on three on third-and-goal, and the Beacons settled for a 22-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 20-17 with 11 minutes left in the third quarter. 

Another stop on defense allowed the Beacons to get the ball back, and went 83 yards in three plays, and scored a touchdown on a 34-yard run by Washington, who bounced off tacklers, to give the hosts a 24-20 lead with 8:40 left in the third. 

The Flyers once again failed to get anything going on offense, and punted the ball back to the Beacons. On their drive, Nimz found leading receiver Braden Contreras (4 receptions for 118 yards) to move the ball down the field, and passed a 15-yard touchdown to Maxwell to give the Beacons a 31-20 lead with 3:32 left in the quarter. 

For the third consecutive drive, the Flyers were forced to punt, but redshirt freshman punter Drew Nieman’s kick bounced down to the 3-yard line. 

The Flyers defense forced a quick three-and-out, and a short punt and 9-yard return brought the ball to the Beacons 26-yard line, where the fourth quarter began with Valparaiso ahead 31-20. 

Five plays later, Cook kept the ball and was pushed into the endzone to cut the deficit to five, and on the two-point conversion attempt passed to Bubonics, who made the catch just in bounds, to push the Flyers within a field goal with 13 minutes left in the game. 

The Flyers defense gave up another big play, this time a 48-yard pass to Washington after a bobble, and Washington punched the ball in from four yards out two plays later to push the Beacons’ advantage up to 38-28. With 11:36 left in the game, Washington had 127 total yards and 3 touchdowns.

On another poor offensive possession, the Flyers appeared to catch a break when the Beacons punt returner dropped a fair catch and the ball was recovered by redshirt junior Logan Tate, but illegal motion was called and resulted in a re-punt that gave the Beacons the football at their own 45-yard line. 

Back on defense, the Flyers got a stop and forced a punt, which was fair-caught by Bubonics at the Dayton 11 with 6:30 left in the game. With a chance to get themselves back in the game, the Flyers instead threw the game away when Cook’s pass was intercepted by freshman defensive back Jamauri Jackson and returned 37 yards for a touchdown to push the Beacons’ lead to 45-28 with six minutes left and little hope left for the Flyers. 

The Flyers were unable to move the ball on their possession, and the Beacons ran out the rest of the clock. In a must-win game for the Flyers (3-4, 2-3 PFL) to have a reasonable chance at a PFL championship, they lost 45-28 to the Beacons (2-5, 2-2 PFL). 

Next up for the Flyers is a home game against Butler (0-5, 1-3 PFL) next Saturday at 1 p.m. at Welcome Stadium. 

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