Davidson Football Bounces Back with Win Over Valparaiso
DAVIDSON, N.C. – It was a grind-it-out kind of Saturday at Richardson Stadium, and the Davidson Wildcats proved up to the task.
Wesley Dugger’s 1-yard touchdown run with two minutes to play gave the Wildcats the needed edge in a 27-21 win over Pioneer Football League foe Valparaiso, and linebacker George Hatalowich’s interception with 52 seconds left sealed it.
Now, Davidson (6-3, 3-2 PFL) has not only matched its win total from last year with three games to play — the Wildcats also have put together back-to-back seasons of at least six wins for the first time since 2006 and 2007.
“That’s establishing a program,” said Hatalowich, who also led the way with nine tackles. “That’s exactly what Coach Abell and everyone on this entire team is doing. It’s a blessing to be a part of it.”
With the score knotted at 21-all in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats defense stopped Valpo (1-8, 1-4) on a fourth-and-8 play at the Davidson 36 with 8:39 to play. That set up the game-winning drive, which included 13 plays and 64 yards. The Wildcats entered the red zone on a 12-yard run by quarterback Tyler Phelps on third-and-9 from the Valpo 30. It was the third third-down conversion of the march, and Phelps found an opening around the right end.
“It was a fake to me, and Tyler was keeping it whether he could pitch it or keep it himself,” said Dugger, who accounted for 106 of Davidson’s 301 rushing yards. “And I remember him just looking and reading that pitch man.”
That moved the chains, and four plays later, Dugger was in the end zone for the second time Saturday.
His first score, a 3-yard run, came on Davidson’s first possession, after the Wildcats logged 84 yards in 12 plays. Valpo fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Davidson’s Sean Holton recovered at the Crusaders’ 33-yard line, setting up another Wildcats’ scoring drive. Six seconds into the second quarter, James Story’s 7-yard touchdown run made it 14-0.
Valpo answered, however, with a Cody Boxrucker 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and pulled within 14-13 on an 8-yard scoring pass from Chris Duncan to Deuce Larose in the third.
Another Story touchdown run, this one from eight yards out at the 4:58 mark of the third, extended Davidson’s lead again before a Duncan 1-yard score early in the fourth, followed by a two-point conversion, tied it and set the stage for the final dramatic moments.
And as the clock ticked under one minute, Hatalowich had his eye on the football near midfield.
“I just went up and tried to grab it,” he said. “The only thing going through my head was, ‘Don’t drop it, don’t drop it, don’t drop it.'”
He secured it on the Davidson sideline, where he was immediately engulfed by his teammates. The Wildcats were excited.
But make no mistake — they’re not satisfied with six victories when there is more football on the schedule.
“Next game, we try to get seven,” said Dugger.
Davidson visits Butler next Saturday at 12 p.m.
With a 106-yard rushing performance, Dugger moved into second all-time with 3,129 career yards … He needs just 37 yards to become the programs all-time leading rusher … Freshman Kaedon Jenkins recorded his first career interception, returning it 39 yards.