Photo: Luke Nankivell
Refreshed and recharged, the Bulldogs (6-2, 5-0 PFL) will put their undefeated Pioneer League Football record on the line this Saturday as they take on the Dayton Flyers (4-4, 3-2 PFL) looking to to keep their conference championship hopes alive.
After Butler’s last victory, it is now half a game above Drake, but that could all change on Nov. 10 when the two squads face-off.
However, the Bulldogs cannot get ahead of themselves. Dayton is a dangerous team, hanging tough with rivals Jacksonville and Butler earlier this year. The Flyers are led by quarterback Will Bardo and running back Dan Jacob, but they rely strongly on their defense to win them games and fight until the very end. Drake still hasn’t forgotten the game two years ago when Dayton won on a last-minute Hail Mary throw.
For the Bulldogs, their experience from last year and the tight contests this season will be a huge factor in this game and the rest of the season. Having been in a title race before, this season hasn’t been nearly as heart-pounding, but it has had its moments, such as the overtime victory over Marist. However, Drake has looked like the clear class of the conference so far, dominating conference foes San Diego, Campbell, Valparaiso and Morehead State.
Offensively, Drake will rely on fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Piatkowski through the air to give the Bulldogs momentum and a lead that they can ride to victory. With 2,387 yards passing and 14 touchdowns, Piatkowski has been the catalyst and has a plethora of receivers to throw to. Three seniors (Joey Orlando, Kevin Marshall and Nick Rosa) have at least 34 catches each and nine touchdowns combined.
Sophomore running back Gary Scott Jr. is also having a great year. After starting the season on the bench, he took over the starting role early on and hasn’t looked back, rushing for 444 yards despite missing a game. His emergence has opened up the offense for Piatkowski’s success. Defensively, the linebackers have been the main story, as they have been absolutely dominant in both the running and passing games. Sophomore Jon Hugunin leads the team with 82 tackles, but right behind him is junior Travis Merritt with 75. Fifth-year senior Tyler Moorehead has also been effective, tying for the team-lead in sacks with five.
The Bulldogs can’t afford to look past Dayton. Dayton has a reputation for catching teams napping, and Drake is too talented to allow that to happen.
Kickoff is this Saturday at 12 p.m. in Dayton, Ohio.