Dayton travels to San Diego for PFL opener

Flyers, Toreros each have won a PFL-best 12 championships

The Pioneer Football League was years ahead of the curve in creating a nationwide conference.

The league started play in 1993 with five Midwest programs, including the Dayton Flyers, and also San Diego. Jacksonville, which has since moved to the Atlantic Sun Conference, and Davidson joined the PFL in 2001 as the league expanded to the East Coast. The current membership group includes schools from New York, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, California, North Carolina and Florida.

TV money was not the driving force behind the PFL’s creation and expansion, as it has been, for example, the Big Ten in its decision to add four Pac-12 schools. In 1992, the NCAA mandated schools compete in the same division in all sports. The original PFL teams couldn’t compete at the Division III level anymore but didn’t want to add scholarships in football, so they formed a new league for non-scholarship programs.

Ever since, Dayton has traveled across the country every two years — through 2019 at least — to play San Diego. The latest trip started Thursday with a flight from Dayton. The Flyers (2-1) play the Toreros (0-3) at 5 p.m. (EST) Saturday in California in their PFL opener.

“I think the biggest challenge with San Diego is you take a West Coast trip and it’s a little different than normal,” Dayton coach Trevor Andrews said Wednesday. “San Diego has to do this four or five times a year. It’s a situation where you’ve got to focus a little bit earlier in the week on the travel plans. We’re leaving on Thursday morning, as opposed to Friday. You’ve just got to stay focused through the logistical side of things. Once you get to the football game, football is a 60-minute game with a 100-yard field, and you line up and play. Getting out there and moving 64 players through different airports and guiding them through practicing at different facilities, that’s where the issues come in.”

Dayton leads the series 16-11 but has lost the last four games. At San Diego, Dayton has a 7-6 record. It has lost four straight road games in the series since a victory in 2010.

San Diego was picked to finish fourth in the PFL preseason poll. Last year, it finished 5-5 overall, ending a streak of 11 winning seasons, and 4-3 in the PFL.

This will be the first meeting between Dayton and San Diego since 2019. San Diego has a new coach, Brandon Moore, a former Oklahoma linebacker who spent seven seasons in the NFL and was named the Division II national coach of the year last year with Colorado School of Mines.

The previous coach, Dale Lindsey, was 70-30 in 10 seasons with seven PFL championships. The school announced he retired. He told reporters he was fired.

San Diego is off to an 0-3 start for the second time in three seasons. The 2021 team started 0-4 but won its last seven games to tie Davidson for the PFL regular-season championship.

“It’s interesting because some of the the issues that they’ve dealt with on their team through preseason,” Andrews said. “What we’re looking at on film isn’t necessarily who we’re going to see in the game, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. It’s kind of like a first game for us as opposed to a fourth game because you don’t know exactly who’s going to play for them, and you don’t know exactly what they’re going to do. So let’s look at it like the first game, and let’s worry about ourselves, worry about our details, focus on what we do and do that well. I’ll be happy with the outcome if we can do that.”

Dayton will try to build on two straight offensive outbursts at Welcome Stadium. It beat Central State 62-24 and then beat Taylor 52-20. Those victories followed a 41-0 loss at Illinois State in Week 1.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence because we believe in what we’re doing here,” wide receiver Derek Willits said, “and it’s really paid off so far.”

This is the first of eight PFL games for Dayton, which seeks its first league title since 2015. Dayton and San Diego each have won 12 PFL championships. No other team has won more than six.

“The intensity has changed a lot (in practice),” defensive end Jerell Lewis said. “(The coaches are) just more on us. They want perfection every day, and that’s how you make a championship team at the end of the day.”


Dayton at San Diego, 5 p.m., ESPN+, 1290, 95.7

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