Special senior day for Flyers football in 38-29 win over Davidson

Although returning next season, recognized senior running back Jake Chisholm led the Flyers offense with a record-tying five touchdowns in the Flyers’ 38-29 win Saturday. Photo courtesy of Jamie Blodgett, Flyer News.

Peter Burtnett | Sports Editor

Against the best team in the Pioneer Football League, the Dayton Flyers football team won 38-29 on Saturday at Welcome Stadium.

Going into the game, the Davidson Wildcats led the PFL at 6-0 (7-1 overall), while the Flyers came in with momentum from a two-game winning streak but a 4-3 record in PFL play (5-4 overall).

Before Saturday’s game, the Flyers recognized 21 seniors. 

“(They’re) resilient,” Flyers head coach Rick Chamberlin said. “I mean, you got to think back for the past 20 months and what these guys have been through and what they had the responsibility within this team of holding this team together and being focused on everything, not just through the pandemic but other things, not being able to play in the spring and then through the summer having renovations (on our practice field) going on. We’re traveling all over the city of Dayton practicing to hold the team together and to be locked in like we were throughout the season. It’s a credit to them, not me, not any of the coaches. It’s those seniors.”

On the first play from scrimmage, a pitch by Davidson was high for slot receiver Aris Hilliard, who dropped the ball. Flyers graduate linebacker Ben Schmiesing fell on the ball, and the Flyers had possession at the Davidson 22-yard line inside the first minute. 

Junior running back Jake Chisholm caught a pass from senior quarterback Jack Cook on a wheel route for a touchdown on the next play to give the Flyers a 7-0 lead and extend their streak without being shutout to 497 games, the best active streak in all of college football.

“There’s no better way to start the game than the offense turning around, punching it in on one play,”Schmiesing said. “I mean, that just swung the momentum in our way right right away and we had nothing to lose today… that was the difference in the game.”

Davidson responded with a five minute drive that culminated in a 28-yard touchdown run by Dylan Sparks, who was untouched on a run up the middle. But after a 15-yard penalty sent the extra point attempt back, the kick was pushed by the wind wide left and the Flyers held onto a slim 7-6 lead with 9:33 left in the first quarter.

After a 24-yard pickup, a pass by quarterback Louis Colosimo towards the end zone was intercepted by Elijah Smith. After high-pointing the pass, the redshirt freshman returned the ball and had blockers but was tripped up at the Davidson 33 for a 62-yard return.

The Flyers were only able to get a 45-yard field goal by sophomore Sam Webster, but held a 10-6 after the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the teams exchanged punts until Chisholm exploded for a 73-yard touchdown run to give the Flyers a 17-6 lead with 7:45 left until halftime.

“I love getting the ball,” Chisholm said. “Sometimes it does get a little tiring but I really do love getting the ball and on there for the call whenever whenever they call my name, I’m ready for it.”

Much like after the Flyers first touchdown, the Wildcats once again responded, this time with a four minute drive capped off by a 26-yard run by Hilliard on a pitch that worked.

Down 17-13 with 3:16 left in the quarter, the visitors were able to stop the Flyers from scoring even after getting past midfield. Cook’s pooch punt was downed at the 1-yard line. 

But after five plays, the Wildcats got well out of their own endzone and a 42-yard pass moved the ball to the Flyers’ 27-yard line. After some trouble with the game clock, Davidson spiked the ball and then made a 37-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 17-16 heading into halftime.

At the break, the Wildcats had outgained the Flyers 297-129 in total offense and 224-57 on the ground. Chisholm had run for 98 yards and one touchdown on eight carries and caught one pass for a 22-yard touchdown, and Cook had thrown for 72 yards and one touchdown while passing 5-13.

To start the third quarter, the Flyers had a steady 12-play, 67-yard drive that finished in another Cook-Chisholm connection from ten yards out to give UD a 24-16 lead with 8:33 left in the quarter.

On a fourth down play from just inside the 50, the Flyers stopped Sparks on a pass for no gain and took over at the Dayton 49-yard line.

In the third quarter, the Flyers outgained the Wildcats 111-26, and were set up inside the five heading into the final quarter.

The Flyers capitalized from the fourth-down stop with a two-yard touchdown run by Chisholm on the first play of the fourth quarter to give the hosts a 31-16 lead. For Chisholm, it was his fourth touchdown of the day and the third straight game with as many touchdowns. 

Senior running back Coy Williams capped off the Wildcats 12-play, 75-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run to trim the Flyers’ lead to 31-23 with 9:18 left in the game.

“Oh my gosh, he is the best running back in the conference,” Chamberlin said. “There is no doubt there are some good ones, but he is by far the best. And we are so glad he’s coming back. He’s told us that he’s coming back for his fifth year. And that offensive line is back because they’re all such youngsters and babies right now. That’ll be a great offense next season.”

On a big fourth-and-one from their own 44-yard line, Chisholm had to fight for the yard and got past the marker to give the Flyers a first down with under seven minutes left. Two minutes later, the Flyers had another fourth-and-short, but this time Chisholm was stood up and Davidson took over on downs at their own 47-yard line with 4:41 left.

On the second play, Colosimo broke free for a 49-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to two. The Flyers got the stop on the first two-point conversion attempt, but were called for defensive holding. On the second try, the Flyers plugged the gap and held onto a 31-29 lead with 4:08 left in the game.

On the ensuing onside attempt, the kick had too much steam and bounced out of bounds, giving the Flyers the ball at the Davidson 43. From the 32-yard line, Chisholm got the edge and had a burst of speed down the sideline to score his fifth touchdown of the day to tie a Flyers single-game record and give the Flyers a 38-29 lead with 2:30 left in the game.

“It hasn’t really kicked in yet,” Chisholm said. “I obviously have to give all the credit to the offensive line. Our backs, tight ends, everybody, the receivers they did a great job blocking on the perimeter. So and in Jakob we had a couple a couple passing touchdowns so it’s credit to him for getting the ball in the right place. So I give credit to everybody on the offensive unit. And we can kind of celebrate that together.”

The Wildcats were driving, but on fourth-and-14 from the 29-yard line, a Colosimo pass was intercepted by Brandon Easterling to seal a 38-29 senior day win for the Flyers and a special moment for the senior safety.

“Freaking roller coaster,” Easterling said. “You talk about going out on a bang. And it’s funny because all year I’ve been trying to get an interception. I’ve been talking about it and I almost in a sense kind of told myself it just wasn’t destined to happen. And to go out like that was awesome. You know getting the win, knocking off the conference champion. I mean, you couldn’t ask for more. So it was a roller coaster for sure.”

With the win, the Flyers finish the 2021 season 6-4 (5-3 PFL), while the Wildcats fall to 7-2 (6-1 PFL) with one more game at home against Drake Nov. 20.

Senior wide receiver Cameron Specht was named the 64th winner of the Lt. Andy Zulli Memorial Trophy at halftime. The award is considered the most prestigious award in the UD football program and honors the Flyer senior who best exemplifies the qualities of Zulli, a former Flyer killed in a military vehicle accident while serving in the Army in Germany shortly after his graduation in 1954.

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