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Mutka: Wheeler grad Gavin Voss relishes win over VU

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Updated: October 4, 2012 6:17AM



Kicking field goals was seldom an option for Gavin Voss at Wheeler High School. Why bother when the Bearcats were short-circuiting scoreboards with 50-plus points?

Before matriculating to St. Joseph’s College, he helped coach Dan Klimczak pile up a 57-6 record since 2006 with four straight undefeated regular-season seasons. In soccer, he also led the Bearcats to their first sectional championship, scoring a goal in their 2-1 victory over Hanover Central.

So, even though his longest field goal in high school was a modest 35-yarder, Voss punched his meal ticket with his foot.

On Thursday, Voss topped it in his college debut with a 39-yarder in the fourth quarter of a come-from-behind 36-34 victory at Valparaiso.

No big deal, according to the talented freshman. Without a trace of conceit, he talks about routinely kicking 55-yarders in practice.

Against VU, Voss also averaged 43-plus for three punts and 61 yards on seven kickoffs. Pretty impressive stuff for a rookie who prepped in VU’s backyard. Ironically, the Crusaders didn’t woo him.

“I didn’t get a single phone call from them,” he said.

Klimczak, a St. Joseph’s graduate, nudged him towards the SJC campus, which is surrounded by corn fields on the southwest edge of Rensselaer.

“One of their recruiters saw me kick two field goals and kick off into the end zone,” Voss said. “I got a phone call the next day.”

All it took was one visit to sell him. St. Joseph’s family atmosphere appealed to him.

“It’s just like Wheeler,” he said. “Everybody knows everybody.”

Everybody includes his roomie, fellow kicker Marcin Gawlak, a native of Poland who migrated to the United States eight years ago.

As soon as the Pumas signed him, Voss marked Valparaiso on his calendar.

“I’d been looking forward to it ever since they recruited me,” he said.

Contributing in front of family and friends, including his favorite coach (Klimczak), made it all the more enjoyable.

Teammate Tony Gallinatti’s recruiting experience was slightly different. He was belatedly contacted by the Crusaders, who were in a transition year.

By the time Dale Carlson was hired, Gallinatti had already made his decision.

“I was committed,” said the junior, who kicked an extra point against VU.

St. Joseph’s provided a comfort zone with its 1-on-1 approach.

“I love the small-school atmosphere which I’ve had most of my life,” said Gallinatti, who attended St. Paul Catholic School in Valparaiso.

“Grade one through eight,” he said. “my graduating class was 32 kids. I loved that place.”

Being a bio-chemistry major he values the personal touch to education.

“All my professors are on speed dial,” Gallinatti said. “If I need help with homework I just text them. That’s pretty important, especially with the demands football makes on my time.”

Playing a night game against VU in front of his former high school and Pop Warner coaches tickled him.

“Pretty cool,” he said. “About 50 people showing their support. It surprised me.”

The midweek game made it possible for him to reciprocate. He returned to Valparaiso Friday to watch his alma mater wallop LaPorte for its first victory.

“My younger brother, Mikey, plays DB and wide receiver,” said Gallinatti, who toiled as an outside linebacker in high school.

Opening game victories have been pretty rare for the Pumas, who were coming off a 2-8 season. Their lifetime record for game one is 23-65-2.

Sports information director Ken Badylak attributes much of the minus-42 standing to being a long-time independent. It often meant scheduling up with financially guaranteed games against opponents such as Southern Illinois and Indiana State, which only lost to IU by a touchdown on Saturday night. Guaranteed money usually guarantees losses.

“A couple of years ago, when Jerry Kill (now at Minnesota) was at Southern Illinois they scored in the 70s and called a timeout late in the game to kick a field goal,” Badylak said with obvious disgust.

Being abused by a physically superior opponent can also create lingering damage.

“In the Indiana State game we lost a couple of offensive linemen to (torn) ACLs and our quarterback and receiver got dinged up,” Badylak said.

That gave quarterback Billy VandeMerkt his college baptism of fire and he responded. Last year he stepped up with a 61-percent completion ratio, clicking for 1,650 yards and 11 touchdowns before an ankle injury sidetracked him.

On Thursday, he passed for 303 yards and two touchdowns in his 16th collegiate start. Eleven of his 21 completions went to Julian Walker, who accounted for 205 yards and two touchdowns.

St. Joseph’s was picked to finish fourth in the newly formed Great Lakes Valley Conference, which blended nine schools from the GLFC, Mid-States and GLIAC. Indianapolis, the only other state school in the GLVC, is favored, but look for that explosive combo of VandeMerkt-Walker to provide major fireworks. Walker, a redshirt junior who is working on his third letter, had 66 receptions last year.



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