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Taking stock: Since season-opening loss, refocused Valparaiso is looking like its old self


LA PORTE – Valparaiso is Indiana’s defending Class 5A state champion.

So when the Vikings started this season with a 38-21 loss to Penn, it didn’t sit well in the Valpo locker room.

“It was a ‘could-have’ game,” recounted Viking running back Travis Davis. “It’s one we could have won. We went into the locker room and looked at each other and said, ‘What the hell are we doing?’”

Introspection took place, practices became more urgent, and the Vikings regained the form that made them Indiana’s 5A champs a year ago.

And Friday night, they worked out whatever remaining frustration they had in a 49-0 blowout of La Porte in the Duneland Athletic Conference opener.

It was a beautiful night at Kiwanis Field – at least there was that – but what happened on the gridiron was pure ugly.

The No. 5-ranked Vikings scored on each of their first seven possessions and the entire second half was run with a continuous clock. The only time they didn’t score was at the very end, when a backup QB took a knee in victory formation.

LaPorte, meanwhile, crossed the 50-yard-line into Valpo territory only twice during the contest, and the second time the Slicers fumbled away the ball.

Senior running back Jon Laine gained 13 yards on 10 carries for the Slicers, while junior Tre’ Beghtel totaled 14 yards during mop-up time at the end.

Aiden Penziol, LaPorte’s sophomore quarterback, completed 4-of-16 passes for 31 yards, all on short slants to Ollie Kring. And, in fairness, Penziol kept his poise despite being pressured pretty much all evening.

“He’s doing exactly what we asked,” said La Porte coach Austin Epple. “He doesn’t get rattled. Mentally, Aiden is beyond his years. He’s still young and he’s still a sophomore and sometimes he makes sophomore mistakes. But he’s our guy and there’s stuff we can work on.”

Valparaiso quarterback Justin Clark threw for 116 yards and ran for 117 more, including a 24-yard touchdown run just before halftime.

And then there was Davis, a 6-foot, 230-pound back who resembles a bowling ball with legs. It took him a little while to get warmed up, but once the juices were flowing, he rumbled for 108 yards on 19 carries, scoring three touchdowns in the process.

“I just feel out the game,” said Davis. “We have a good line and very versatile team. We have a lot of chemistry. When they hand me the ball, I just try to get the job done.”

Davis did most of his work in the first half, rushing eight times during Valparaiso’s opening touchdown drive, an 80-yarder that took about five minutes. Davis capped it off with a six-yard dive.

He also scored Valpo’s second touchdown three minutes later, a four-yarder this time, and increased the Vikings advantage to 28-0 in period two with a five-yard bolt.

“We didn’t fire on all cylinders against Penn, and they will expose some things about your team,” said Valparaiso coach Bill Marshall. “When that happens, you have to look inside, you have to be super critical of yourself and decide, ‘what can we do?’

“The last two weeks, we’ve had some great opponents and we were able to spread the wealth around with the versatile athletes we have.”

Valparaiso improved to 2-1 and La Porte falls to 1-2.

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