JU win sets up PFL title match next week
Rudell Small
Rudell Small
For the quarters, the JU football team looked like it had fallen into the dreaded trap game.

A 27-point outburst in the fourth quarter ended Drake’s hope for an upset as the Dolphins won their sixth straight, 41-9, on Saturday at D.B. Milne Field.

The win, coupled with Dayton’s 14-13 loss to Morehead State, sets up a showdown next Saturday for the Pioneer Football League title as the Flyers visit JU.

“We didn’t come out as sharp as we needed to, but we were able to find a way to win,” said JU head coach Kerwin Bell. “This was set up as a trap game and we were not very focused early.

“Now, we’ve got a chance to play for a championship – which was our goal at the beginning of training camp. These guys have fought hard to get to this point and now we’ve got the chance we’ve been hoping for all year.”

The Dolphins (8-3, 5-1 PFL) were led by Rudell Small, who became the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with two on top of his sixth 100-yard rushing effort, toting the ball 23 times for 178 yards. He also caught one pass for a 13-yard touchdown.

The win for JU came after freshman quarterback Josh McGregor went down in the first quarter with an injured shoulder. Sophomore Erik Stepelton came on in relief and completed 10-of-12 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns to lead JU to the critical win.

Small wasn’t the only record setter for JU, as Geavon Tribble extended his school-record streak to 28 straight games with a catch – snagging two passes for 20 yards and a touchdown, the 15th in his career and putting him atop the school’s all-time list.

Despite a sloppy a first half that saw JU put up a season-low 105 yards in the first half, the Dolphins were clinging to a 14-9 lead thanks to McGregor’s touchdown pass to Josh Philpart and Small’s 2-yard run in the second quarter.

With the Bulldogs (5-5, 3-4 PFL) not going away, JU put on a scoring barrage in the fourth quarter – starting with Small’s 2-yard run with 12:36 left in the game to go on top 21-9.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Drake return man fumbled the kickoff and Andy Sainvil recovered the fumble in the endzone to make it 28-9.

A few minutes later, Stepelton hooked up with Tribble for the record setting reception and put the game out of reach, 34-9. Small put the icing on the cake with a 13-yard reception from Stepelton for the final margin.

Kickoff for next week’s PFL title matchup is set for Noon. The winner receives the PFL’s spot in the Gridiron Classic to travel to the champion of the Northeast Conference – Albany, on Dec. 6.