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Drake takes on Dayton to stay in PFL race

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JUNIOR QUARTERBACK MIKE PIATKOWSKI tossed for two touchdowns in the team’s 38-17 win over San Diego last Saturday, and added another on the ground. Photo: Connor McCourtney

The ‘rabid’ Bulldogs have been raging in the past few weeks of the season. Following three straight victories, Drake has improved its record to 6-3 and 5-1 in the Pioneer Football League. Drake is ranked second in the PFL, trailing Dayton and Jacksonville, who are tied for first place with a PFL record of 6-0.

This Saturday, Drake will travel to Dayton, Ohio, to take on the Dayton Flyers, who are 8-1 on the season and one of the teams the Bulldogs need to beat to stay in contention. Drake dropped a 39-34 decision at Jacksonville earlier this season, so a win over the Flyers is crucial to keeping its PFL title hopes alive.

“We’re really excited, and we’re playing well,” Head Coach Chris Creighton said. “We’re playing for a championship. It’s fun to be in the championship hunt in November.”

The Bulldogs have earned wins over Campbell, Davidson and San Diego in its past three outings. Last Saturday Drake defeated San Diego 38-17.

Similar to other victories, the win against San Diego can be largely attributed to the defense. The Bulldogs forced a season-high five turnovers, and fifth-year senior linebacker Ben Morrison returned a 95-yard interception for a touchdown. Morrison’s touchdown was the fourth longest interception return in school history and the fourth pick-six this season.

“The strength of our defense is the defensive line,” senior cornerback Mike Lahart said. “They’ve been able to control the line of scrimmage and just make the jobs of everyone else a lot easier.”

Several defensive players have been recognized this season for their outstanding performances. Following Drake’s victory over Valparaiso in week four, senior defensive end Dain Taylor received an honorable mention as the College Football Performance Award Division I Football Championship Subdivision Defensive Lineman of the Week. Also that week, junior nose guard David Witkiewicz was named the Pioneer Football League Defensive Player of the Week, thanks to his 13-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Recognition of Drake’s defense continued this week when Morrison was named Pioneer Football League Co-defensive Player of the Week.

Other team leaders include Lahart, with five solo tackles against San Diego, a returned interception for a 40-yard touchdown in a win over Davidson, and a 49-yard punt return for a touchdown in the Bulldogs’ homecoming victory over Marist. Junior quarterback Mike Piatkowski has passed for a total of 1690 yards and 14 touchdowns, and senior running back Pat Cashmore has 342 yards and six touchdowns on 72 carries.

“We need to continue to get better each week, and go back and fix and minimize mistakes and keep playing hard,” Lahart said. “When the defense helps the offense and the offense helps the defense, that’s when we’re able to play our best.”

The Bulldogs’ season will come to a close on Nov. 13, when it hosts Butler.

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