La PORTE — La Porte played a solid first half, moving the ball efficiently with a ground attack, but Valparaiso’s defensive surge at the line of scrimmage and balanced offensive play took its toll as the game wore on.
“Our first half of ball was excellent,” Slicers coach Jeremy Lowery said after the 35-0 loss. “We need to focus on playing within our game plan and not get sloppy.”
La Porte played toe-to-toe with the defending Duneland Conference champions during the first half. Collin Bergquist returned the opening kickoff to his team's own 33-yard line and Jeremiah Ruiz built off the momentum, blasting through the Vikings' front with a 29-yard run on the first play from scrimmage. The Slicers kept the chains moving with hard runs from Bergquist, Ruiz and quarterback Robbie Kiner, who converted on a 4th down and 1 with a sneak, but the drive sputtered out near Valpo's 32 and Javier Robles' field goal was blocked.
The Vikings came out moving the ball with a similar attack as La Porte. Valpo strung two quick first downs on the ground and one through the air before Matt Neff responded with a hard hit to force third and long. Valpo found itself in four-down territory and Neff responded once again with a stop at the 32, giving possession back to the Slicers.
La Porte looked to capitalize on the stop as it continued to move the ball against a stout Vikings' defense. Ruiz and Bergquist kept the chains moving through midfield. Kiner made a 39-yard run down to the Vikings' 20-yard line, but the visitors made a big fourth-and-6 stop at the 14, and that would be the closest the Slicers would get to scoring for the remainder of the game.
“We got better this week,” Lowery said. “We show glimpses of great football but we need to sustain that.”
Valpo got on the board early in the second quarter after an 86-yard drive. Tommy Burbee started the drive with back-to-back first-down runs, despite La Porte’s line penetration. A 20-yard pass from CJ Opperman to Antonio Osorio got the Vikings to the LP 35 and Osorio quickly followed with a touchdown off a jet sweep.
The Vikings found their stride late in the first half, jumping on the Slicers 14-0. After halftime adjustments, Valpo continued to pour on the points. The Vikings scored on three consecutive drives in the second half, while La Porte responded with 3-and-outs and failed fourth-down conversions.
After the game, Kiner, Ruiz and Bergquist all agreed that sustained drives, better execution on blocking and running assignments, along with improved endurance are keys to their team moving forward in the DAC.
“We will improve the more we all play together,” said Ruiz. “The more we click, the better shot we have at a win.”
Burbee and Osorio combined for all five Valpo scores.
“Hats off to coach Lowery and (defensive coordinator Bob) Holmes for preparing a tough and physical football team tonight,” said Vikings coach Bill Marshall. “I know the style of play they expect from their players, and they have a lot to be proud of.”
Valparaiso 35, La Porte 0
The Slicers' Jeremiah Ruiz ran for 78 yards.