Drake one win away from PFL championship

November 9, 2011 5:50 PMComments Off

Photo courtesy of Mark McDonald

There’s 1:22 left in the fourth quarter, and the Drake Bulldogs are up by one point against the Dayton Flyers. The score is 25-24. The Bulldog defense manages to stop the Flyer offense for one minute and 21 seconds. With one second left, Dayton quarterback Steve Valentino finds an open wide receiver in the end zone and deals Drake a 31-25 loss.

This was the culmination of the last meeting between the Bulldogs and the Flyers on Nov. 6, 2010. Both are original members of the Pioneer Football League. Needless to say, both of these teams will be bringing some animosity to the field this Saturday at 1 p.m., especially since the Bulldogs are gunning for a piece of the PFL championship in their last regular season game for the 2011 season.

These teams have played each other 27 times since 1952, with Dayton leading the series 23-4.

“They beat us on the last play, and we all remember that play very distinctly, and we have some bitter feelings,” fifth-year senior running back Pat Cashmore said. “We don’t hate them. We respect them, but it’s a rivalry, and hopefully we can come out on top.”

Cashmore was named PFL Co-Offensive Player of the Week for Drake’s 31-24 win over Jacksonville last Saturday. Cashmore scored two touchdowns and had 35 carries for 160 yards. He never lost a single yard on a rush.

Cashmore said all of his success was due to the entire team.

“It’s a great honor, but it’s not an individual effort, it’s completely the team,” he said. “I just want to thank my whole offense, from receivers to quarterback to linemen; it’s really their award, it’s not mine. They deserve all the credit.”

Cashmore isn’t the only Bulldog being recognized for excellent play. Fifth-year senior kicker/punter Billy Janssen was named National Punter of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards and recognized as a National All-Star by College Sporting News. He was also recognized as the PFL Special Teams Player of the Week after the Jacksonville game.

“It’s great, it’s definitely different than last year,” Janssen said. “I’m just more relaxed, and now that I’m relaxed, I’m able to go out there and do what I know I can do. It’s just nice to be able to translate what I know I can do to game time.”

Janssen said he knows that this game is going to be a battle between the Bulldogs and the Flyers on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, and special teams will have to pick up the slack.

“Special teams is going to be huge,” Janssen said. “Controlling the field-position battle and getting them in bad positions on offense, and then getting returns out so that our offense can be more effective is going to be huge because they’re great on offense.”

Head coach Chris Creighton agrees with Janssen’s assessment.

“I think that it’ll come down to a battle of special teams and turnovers,” Creighton said. “When you have a big game, it’s usually pretty basic. We have to block on offense, and we’ve got to tackle on defense. You can get real creative with schemes and all that, but you know there’s going to be a missed tackle on Saturday. And we hope that it’s them and not us.”

If the Bulldogs win this week at Drake Stadium, they earn at least a share of the PFL title for the first time in Creighton’s tenure and for the first time since they won in 2004.

“You couldn’t paint a better picture, to be playing Dayton at home for a championship,” he said. “It’s potentially storybook.”

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