Photo: Luke Nankivell
After dismantling Butler last Saturday, the Drake Bulldogs (7-3, 6-1 PFL) look to secure a share of the conference title for the second straight season when they face Jacksonville (7-3, 5-2 PFL) this Saturday on the road in a meeting of two Pioneer Football League powerhouses to end the season. Drake has not won consecutive titles since 1932.
The Bulldogs looks to capitalize on the momentum they regained after dismantling Butler 45-20 and finish the season tied at the top of the conference with Butler, and possibly San Diego — both of whom the Bulldogs already defeated. However, the PFL does not use tiebreakers to determine the champion. If you end up tied for first, then you earn a share of the title.
Drake, as usual, is led by PFL Player of the Year candidate Mike Piatkowski, who is looking to cross the 3,000 passing yard barrier in his final game in a Bulldog uniform. The fifth-year senior quarterback comes into the game with 2,996 passing yards (first in the PFL) and 20 touchdowns (second in the PFL).
Senior Joey Orlando is currently the second-leading receiver on the team with 44 catches for 459 yards and three touchdowns, while fifth-year senior Tyler Moorehead currently leads the team with seven sacks and has contributed with 60 total tackles.
Offensively, the Bulldogs are built for success against this team. While the Dolphins might be familiar with Piatkowski, the Dolphins haven’t had to deal with sophomore Gary Scott Jr. His 571 rushing yards ranks sixth in the PFL, and his play has improved throughout the season as he proved himself as the starter.
Along with Orlando, Rosa, who comes into the game fourth in the PFL in receiving yards with 758. His six receiving touchdowns are tied for second in the PFL. Throw those two together with senior Kevin Marshall at tight end and the Bulldogs have a deadly trio of receivers to carve up the Dolphins.
Defensively, the Bulldogs have to be ready to go, but they’ve faced better offenses in the past. Jacksonville is nowhere near the unstoppable offensive force it was in past years, averaging 24.6 points per game this season after averaging 32.5 points per game last season.
Jacksonville is led by quarterback Kade Bell, who has encountered a learning curve but has adjusted well to Division I-AA football, throwing for 1,401 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first season under center.
The Dolphins are going to be pesky and head coach Kerwin Bell will have them ready, looking to pull off the upset. But Drake knows what’s at stake, and head coach Chris Creighton will have the Bulldogs prepared to repeat as conference co-champs for the second straight year and send off the seniors on an incredibly high note.
Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. on Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla.