Five Valpo Players Named to All-PFL First Team, Two Others Earn Second-Team Nods
After finishing with the program’s best winning percentage since 2003, the Valparaiso University football team was well represented as the Pioneer Football League unveiled its all-conference teams on Tuesday.
Junior running back Robert Washington (Huntersville, N.C. / East Gaston [Old Dominion]), junior linebacker Jaxon Peifer (Normal, Ill. / Normal Community), senior punter Ben Niesner (Black Diamond, Wash. / Tahoma [Portland State]), redshirt sophomore kicker Brian Bartholomew (Sugar Grove, Ill. / Kaneland) and freshman defensive back Keyon Turner (Chicago, Ill. / Marist) were named to the All-PFL First Team.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Evan Annis (Hilliard, Ohio / Hilliard Davidson) and freshman return specialist Charlie Maxwell (Elkhart, Ind. / Elkhart Christian Academy) were named to the All-PFL Second Team.
In addition, a Valpo quartet received All-PFL Honorable Mention status: redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Aaron Byrd (Bradley, Ill. /Bourbonnais), junior defensive lineman Trejuan Purty (Maryville, Tenn. / Maryville [East Tennessee State]), senior long snapper Doug Haugh (Redlands, Calif. / Redlands Senior) and junior defensive back Jadarius Horton (Charlotte, N.C. / West Charlotte [Southwestern College]).
The five first-team all-conference honorees mark the program’s most since 2005.
Washington was one of seven unanimous All-PFL selections, while Turner was the lone freshman on the all-league first team. Washington was named the first PFL Offensive Player of the Year in program history on Monday, while Niesner shared PFL Special Teams Player of the Year accolades.
Peifer finished with a team-high 42 tackles including 22 solos during the six-game season. He accounted for 3.0 tackles for loss totaling 15 yards, made a pair of sacks, broke up two passes, forced two fumbles and was credited with a QB hurry. Peifer helped Valpo rank third in the league in scoring defense thanks to his 7.0 tackles per game, which ranked seventh among all PFL players. He was one of four players in the league with multiple forced fumbles.
Peifer had a season-high nine tackles on two occasions, the March 27 home victory over rival Butler and the April 10 game at Morehead State. He had five or more stops in all six games and had six solos in each of the two games against Butler.
Bartholomew boasted the league’s best field-goal percentage at 87.5 percent, converting seven of his eight attempts. He had the most point-after attempts without a miss in the league, going a perfect 13-for-13 on PATs. The redshirt sophomore ranked sixth in the PFL in scoring at 5.7 points per game.
Bartholomew’s season-long 49-yard field goal came at a crucial time as it represented the first points of an eventual 10-7 win over Drake, the program’s first win over the Bulldogs since 2003 and its first-ever win in Des Moines, Iowa. Bartholomew also averaged 51.6 yards per kick on 25 kickoffs, booting a pair of touchbacks. He posted Valpo’s best single-season field-goal percentage since at least 2005.
Turner finished his season as the FCS nation’s true leader in takeaways with six. He recovered fumbles in Week 1 and Week 6 sandwiched around a four-game stretch of contests with an interception in Weeks 2-5. The rookie was named the co-PFL Defensive Player of the Week for Week 3.
Turner’s four picks helped him become one of only five Valpo players with four or more interceptions in a single season over the last 12 years despite the fact that this year’s slate was shortened to six games. He ranked in the top 10 nationally in interceptions per game, led the nation in interceptions per game among freshmen, became the first Valpo player with interceptions in four straight games in over two decades and became the first Valpo freshman with four interceptions in a season in over 20 years.
Washington ranked eighth nationally in FCS in rushing yards per game at 108.8. He accrued 100 or more rushing yards on four occasions including a season-high 199 on 39 carries in the March 13 season opener at Butler, the highest single-game rushing output by a Valpo player since 2012. His 199-yard performance marked the ninth-highest single-game rushing number in the nation this season, and he was one of three players nationally with multiple games of 180+ rushing yards.
Washington, who totaled 653 yards and five touchdowns on 140 carries over six games, had the most rushing yards in a season by any Valpo player since Brandon Hall’s 855 in 2014 despite this year’s slate being shortened to six games. Washington was named the PFL Offensive Player of the Week once this season and earned a pair of College Sports Madness PFL Offensive Player of the Week nods. In addition, the Valpo running back ranked 11th nationally in total rushing yards and 12th in all-purpose yards per game (129.33).
Niesner tied Greg Wood’s program record for single-season punting average at 43.6. When taken to the next decimal point, Niesner’s 43.58 is narrowly behind Wood’s 43.64, which is also the Pioneer Football League record. Niesner’s mark is the second-best in PFL history. He ranked eighth nationally in punting average in Division-I FCS this spring.
Niesner booted seven punts for 50+ yards this season including a career-long 72 in the season finale vs. San Diego. He pinned the opposition inside the 20 on nine occasions while totaling 1,351 yards over his 31 boots. Niesner earned a pair of PFL Special Teams Player of the Week accolades this spring.
Maxwell finished his season as the FCS national leader in kickoff return average at 29.8 yards per return. He was named a national player of the week honorable mention following his Week 6 performance against San Diego, which featured an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He accrued 151 return yards in that game, the most by any PFL player in a single contest this season. The 86 yarder marked the second-longest return by a PFL player this year.
Annis finished second on the team in tackles with 41, a single tackle behind Peifer. He posted 2.5 TFL and ranked eighth in the PFL at 6.8 tackles per game. Annis had a midseason stretch of three straight games with eight tackles or more, including back-to-back outings with a season-high nine tackles against Drake and Butler.
The PFL will round out its week of announcing awards on Wednesday afternoon by releasing the PFL All-Academic Teams.
2020-21 Pioneer Football League Major Award Winners
Offensive Player of the Year: Robert Washington, Valparaiso
Defensive Player of the Year: Kevin Glajchen, San Diego
Co-Special Teams Player of the Year: Hunter Nichols, San Diego
Co-Special Teams Player of the Year: Ben Niesner, Valparaiso
Freshman Offensive Player of the Year: Delvecchio Powell II, Presbyterian
Freshman Defensive Player of the Year: Jonathan Hammond, Davidson
Coach of the Year: Scott Abell, Davidson
Scholar-Athlete of the Year: To be announced, Wednesday
|2020-21 All-Pioneer Football League First Team|
|(as selected by PFL head coaches)|
|WR||BJ Byrd (U, H)||Morehead State||6-2||190||Sr.||Richmond, Calif.|
|WR||Michael Carner||San Diego||6-1||190||RSo.||Westlake Village, Calif.|
|WR||Keith Pearson (U)||Presbyterian||5-9||175||Sr.||Enoree, S.C.|
|QB||Mark Pappas||Morehead State||6-2||213||RJr.||Avon Lake, Ohio|
|TE||Derek Kline (U)||San Diego||6-5||230||RSo.||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|RB||Dylan Sparks||Davidson||6-0||201||So.||Centreville, Va.|
|RB||Robert Washington (U)||Valparaiso||5-11||215||Jr.||Huntersville, N.C.|
|FB||Coy Williams||Davidson||5-11||202||Jr.||Lumberton, Texas|
|A-P||Keith Pearson||Presbyterian||5-9||175||Sr.||Enoree, S.C.|
|OL||Billy Corte (H)||Stetson||6-5||285||RSo.||Cleveland, Ohio|
|OL||Antonio Derry (H)||Stetson||6-4||308||RSo.||Baltimore, Md.|
|OL||Cam Marriott||Morehead State||6-3||300||Jr.||Redlands, Calif.|
|OL||Khalil Miller||Davidson||6-3||299||Jr.||Lithonia, Ga.|
|OL||DJ Wright (1)||San Diego||6-4||275||RJr.||Pittsburg, Calif.|
|DL||Kevin Glajchen (U)||San Diego||6-2||270||RSr.||Saratoga, Calif.|
|DL||Vaughn Taylor Jr. (U, 1)||Morehead State||6-2||252||Sr.||Washington, D.C.|
|DL||Chris Reese||San Diego||6-4||265||RSr.||Littleton, Colo.|
|DL||Fermon Reid (2)||Stetson||6-0||254||RJr.||Naples, Fla.|
|LB||Jake Alexander||Davidson||6-0||189||Jr.||Belmont, N.C.|
|LB||Kyle Bilchik (H)||San Diego||5-10||210||Sr.||Simi Valley, Calif.|
|LB||Colby Campbell (U)||Presbyterian||6-0||230||Sr.||Montmorenci, S.C.|
|LB||Kama Kamaka (1)||San Diego||6-1||210||Sr.||Kailua, Hawaii|
|LB||Jaxon Peifer (H)||Valparaiso||6-1||235||Jr.||Normal, Ill.|
|LB||Vincent Winey||Morehead State||6-1||230||Sr.||Lindenhurst, N.Y.|
|DB||Brandon Barbee||Morehead State||5-11||192||Jr.||Orlando, Fla.|
|DB||Michael Hawkins||San Diego||6-1||200||Sr.||San Diego, Calif.|
|DB||Hunter Nichols (H)||San Diego||6-0||185||Jr.||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|DB||Keyon Turner||Valparaiso||5-9||160||Fr.||Chicago, Ill.|
|PK||Brian Bartholomew||Valparaiso||5-11||160||RSo.||Sugar Grove, Ill.|
|P||Ben Niesner (H)||Valparaiso||6-0||190||Sr.||Black Diamond, Wash.|
|RS||Jaylon Johnson (1)||Stetson||5-10||156||So.||Olive Branch, Miss.|
|RS||Hunter Nichols||San Diego||6-0||185||Jr.||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|LS||Ryan Kriceri (H)||Drake||6-2||235||Sr.||Aurora, Ill.|
|Notes in parentheses: U-indicates a player was a unanimous first-team selection; 4x-is a four-time first-team All-PFL selection; 3x-is a three-time first-team All-PFL selection; 1-was a first-team selection in 2019; 2-was a second-team selection in 2019; H-was a honorable mention selection in 2019. Six linebackers and two return specialists named to First Team, five linebackers and six offensive linemen to Second Team due to ties in voting.|
|2020-21 All-Pioneer Football League Second Team|
|WR||Thomas Campbell-Clay||Morehead State||5-10||196||Jr.||Knoxville, Tenn.|
|WR||Yogi Flager||Butler||5-10||165||Fr.||Fairview Heights, Ill.|
|WR||Johnny O’Shea||Butler||6-2||180||RSo.||Palatine, Ill.|
|QB||Tyler Huff||Presbyterian||6-1||200||So.||Orange Park, Fla.|
|TE||Jackson Sherrard||Davidson||6-5||233||Jr.||Olney, Md.|
|RB||Emilio Martinez||San Diego||5-10||200||Sr.||Salinas, Calif.|
|RB||Jordan Younge-Humphrey||Stetson||5-9||208||So.||Rockledge, Fla.|
|FB||Michael Gadinis||San Diego||6-1||220||RJr.||San Diego, Calif.|
|A-P||BJ Byrd||Morehead State||6-2||190||Sr.||Richmond, Calif.|
|OL||Mark Bach||Drake||6-0||267||Sr.||Barrington, Ill.|
|OL||Will Berkey||Davidson||6-3||293||Sr.||Atlanta, Ga.|
|OL||Alex Brown||Stetson||6-3||300||Sr.||West Palm Beach, Fla.|
|OL||Cole Foley||Davidson||6-4||293||Jr.||Winston-Salem, N.C.|
|OL||Gordon Sandorf||Davidson||6-3||287||Sr.||Clearwater, Fla.|
|OL||Skyler Spetter||Butler||6-5||280||RSo.||Bargersville, Ind.|
|DL||Jonathan Hammond||Davidson||6-2||218||Fr.||Dunwoody, Ga.|
|DL||Jake Hoper||Drake||6-4||269||Jr.||South Beloit, Ill.|
|DL||Muhindo Kapapa||San Diego||6-2||275||RJr.||Fairfield, Calif.|
|DL||Tanner Wilhelm||Presbyterian||6-1||235||RJr.||Fyffe, Ala.|
|LB||Evan Annis||Valparaiso||6-1||220||RFr.||Hilliard, Ohio|
|LB||Declan Carr||Drake||6-1||226||Jr.||Frankfort, Ill.|
|LB||Ethan Hull||Stetson||6-1||220||RSo.||Crestwood, Ky.|
|LB||Ryan Kriceri||Drake||6-2||235||Sr.||Aurora, Ill.|
|LB||Will Kulick||Drake||6-2||223||Sr.||Aurora, Colo.|
|DB||Jaylon Bolden||Davidson||6-3||206||Sr.||Rowlett, Texas|
|DB||Oka Emmanwori||Presbyterian||5-10||183||So.||Columbia, S.C.|
|DB||Danny Morales||Drake||5-11||180||Jr.||Temecula, Calif.|
|DB||Jeffrey Smyth||Presbyterian||5-11||180||So.||Beaufort, S.C.|
|PK||Caden Bonoffski||Davidson||5-8||174||So.||Huntersville, N.C.|
|P||Andrew Foster||Morehead State||6-3||230||Sr.||Knoxville, Tenn.|
|RS||Charlie Maxwell||Valparaiso||5-5||135||Fr.||Elkhart, Ind.|
|LS||Mike Wojciechowski||Stetson||5-7||167||RFr.||Oak Harbor, Ohio|
2020-21 All-Pioneer Football League Honorable Mention
BUTLER: Devin Aguilar (RJr., DB), Jordan Caselberry (RSo., DL), Mickey Kane (RJr., LB), Grant Purlee (RJr., OL), Kavon Samuels (Jr., RB), Trevor Scott (RJr., OL), JJ Wadas (Fr., PK). DAVIDSON: James Boyle (Sr., DL), Jalen Jefferson (Jr., LB), Kaedon Jenkins (So., DB), Tate Kipperman (Sr., OL), Mark McCurdy (Fr., AP), Tyler Phelps (Sr., QB), Evan Pritchard (Jr., P), Jalen Staples (Jr., WR), Eli Turner (Jr., AP). DRAKE: Ben Gerdes (RSo., DL), Grant Gossling (RJr., FB), Colin Howard (So., WR), Max Johnson (RJr., DL), Alex Rogers (RJr., DB), Jake Shipla (Fr., DL). MOREHEAD STATE: Cam Barrett (Sr., LB), Devin Connors (Jr., DL), Mike Davis (Sr., OL), Ian Holder (Jr., RS), Nick Lavender (So., DL), Tyler Noble (Sr., DB), Jacob Ungruhe (Jr., OL). PRESBYTERIAN: Trent Carrington (RJr., DB), Luke Foster (RJr., OL), Rod Haygood (Sr., DB), Noah Mangum (So., OL), Jarrett Nagy (Jr., LB). SAN DIEGO: Mason Randall (RSr., QB). STETSON: Connor Becker (So., WR), Michael Carley (So., WR), Jaylon Johnson (So., DB), Rassi Littlejohn (So., DB), Greg Moore (RJr., DL). VALPARAISO: Aaron Byrd (RSo., OL), Doug Haugh (Sr., LS), Jadarius Horton (Jr., DB), Trejuan Purty (Jr., DL).