Dayton looks to wrap up PFL championship
(STATS) - Dayton has never gone five straight seasons without securing a Pioneer Football League championship. One more victory will keep that streak alive and put the program in the FCS playoffs for the first time.
The Flyers look to wrap up their record 12th PFL title Saturday when they host red-hot Marist.
Dayton (9-0, 6-0) put itself in this position by remaining one of three unbeaten teams in the FCS with a 20-15 win at Morehead State last weekend. The Eagles dropped to 4-2 in the league while defending PFL champion San Diego (5-1) beat Campbell 31-27 to keep pace.
The Flyers, though, own the tiebreaker with the Toreros because of a 13-12 win Oct. 10, meaning they need one victory in their final two games - Dayton visits Drake (4-5, 3-3) next weekend - to win the championship for the first time since 2010.
A trip to the playoffs comes with that title after the NCAA gave the PFL winner an automatic bid while expanding the tournament to 24 teams in 2013. No league team had ever received an at-large bid.
"We started this PFL in 1993 ... and by far this year has been the most competitive," said Rick Chamberlin, who is in his eighth season as Dayton coach and 41st with the football program. "Everybody has players, everybody has good coaches."
Dayton's 11-game win streak is the second-longest in the FCS behind Harvard's 22-game run. The Crimson (8-0) are ranked 12th in the STATS FCS Top 25 and the other unbeaten team, McNeese State (9-0), is No. 3. The Flyers received 104 votes in Monday's poll, putting them 30th.
Marist (5-4, 4-2) has stayed in the race with four straight league wins, beating Stetson 49-14 last Saturday. Its two PFL defeats have come by a combined seven points to Jacksonville and San Diego.
"We knew early on in the season that we were close and the kids kept believing and we made that improvement week by week," coach Jim Parady said.
Michael White was named the PFL offensive player of the week after going 13 of 18 for 234 yards and three touchdowns while running for 50 yards and two more scores against the Hatters.
Fellow sophomore Lawrence Dickens was the co-special teams player of the week thanks to a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD, the longest in Marist history.
"It's huge, everyone played their part, and now it's just great momentum going into the top team in the league," said senior wide receiver Matt Tralli, who tied a program record with three touchdown receptions and is the Red Foxes' all-time leader with 189 catches.
White will need to keep an eye out for Dayton senior safety Danny Leach, who earned defensive player of the week honors after having two interceptions in the fourth quarter against Morehead State - one in the end zone and one on the Eagles' final drive.
The Red Foxes have lost five of six all-time meetings, with the win coming 31-20 at Dayton in 2013. That's one of three losses in the past 19 at home for the Flyers, who won 31-21 at Marist last year.
"(The Red Foxes) are just so confident in what they do," Chamberlin said. "They don't care what you do. They're going to do what they believe in and they're going to just come out with the intensity of showing and proving to everybody their way's the best.
" ... They're one of the top teams. The only reason they're not contending for the league championship right now is they had a slow start."
Marist shared the PFL title with Butler in 2013, but the Bulldogs earned the automatic bid to the playoffs based on the league's tiebreaker system.