The San Diego Toreros football team picked up a big win Saturday in comeback fashion to keep their Pioneer Football League Championship hopes alive winning 17-14 at Drake. After never leading in the game, the Toreros got a late touchdown when Keith Williams connected with Chris Campano for a go-ahead touchdown with 1:21 left in the game to seal the win.
This was no small victory as Drake has been the toughest road game in the entire PFL for a long time. This marks the first time in five years that a PFL team has won at Drake, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Toreros. They improve to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in PFL play, but they still are trying to keep pace with a red hot Jacksonville team.
The Dolphins entered play on Saturday at a perfect 5-0 in PFL play including a dominant 35-18 win over San Diego back in September. But in addition to getting the win today, the Toreros got some much needed help as Marist squeaked out a 17-16 win over Jacksonville to hand the Dolphins their first PFL loss. With that loss and the win by San Diego, the teams are now both 5-1 in PFL play and tied for first place.
While the Toreros and Dolphins are now tied for first right now, if both teams win out Jacksonville will take the title thanks to the head-to-head win. The Toreros must win their final two games and hope Jacksonville drops one more to have a chance. Jacksonville has last place Davidson next, but their final game against Campbell will be a test and represents the best chance for the Toreros to get the help they need. The Camels are currently 4-2 in PFL play and both their losses came by narrow single digit margins.
USD has an easier road to the finish which puts even more pressure on Jacksonville. They finish PFL play with home games against Morehead State and Valparaiso, two teams in the bottom half of the standings who have a combined 2-9 record this season in PFL play. They stand a good chance to win out meaning Jacksonville will need to do the same.
At stake is not only the championship but an automatic bid to the FBS Tournament, a March Madness style 24-team tournament used to crown a national champion at the level below NCAA Division One. You may know it as the tournament that has produced national FCS powerhouses like Appalachian State and North Dakota State. The winner of the PFL currently receives an automatic bid to play in the tournament. Last year Butler won the bid on a tiebreaker after finishing the season tied with Marist. The Bulldogs fell 31-0 to Tennessee State in the first round.
This opportunity is especially meaningful for San Diego. Last year was the first season the PFL had an automatic bid to the tournament, no small thing as the PFL doesn’t normally qualify at-large teams. The Toreros would have won the PFL if it weren’t for violations found relating to the scholarships of some of their players.
The PFL is a non-scholarship conference, meaning no players can receive financial aid based on their athletic ability. It was discovered during last season that some players at San Diego were receiving non-athletic financial aid that may have been determined based in part due to their athletic merits, and after an internal investigation USD opted to forfeit their PFL wins and remove themselves from postseason consideration. To come back this year and win the PFL and automatic bid officially would mean a lot to the players who endured losing their shot last season.
Stay tuned to West Coast Convo over the coming weeks as this race should go down to the wire.