Tippecanoe Valley opens the season Friday with a home game against Culver Academies. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union
Tippecanoe Valley opens the season Friday with a home game against Culver Academies. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union
AKRON – The more things change, the more they stay the same.
While Tippecanoe Valley High School’s football program is headed in a new direction, it is certainly a familiar one.
Scott Bibler, who compiled a 98-68 record while leading the Vikings for 16 seasons, is back as head coach.
Bibler replaces Jeff Shriver, who stepped down after eight seasons at the helm of the program. Shiver, however, is staying on the staff as defensive coordinator, the position he filled during Bibler’s first stint.
“The kids have accepted the change well,” said Bibler, who led the Vikings to at least seven wins in each of his previous three seasons as head coach. “Not much has changed. Coach Shriver is still on board, and he’s excited about working with the defense. The transition has gone well.”
When Valley hosts Culver Academies in Friday’s 7:30 p.m. season opener, a new head coach won’t be the only noticeable change for the Vikings.
Among those graduated from last year’s team, which finished the season with a 5-5 record, are standouts Tanner Andrews, Ben Shriver and Nolan Sponseller.
Andrews, now playing Big Ten baseball for the Purdue Boilermakers, owns every imaginable receiving record at TVHS.
Likewise, the younger Shriver shattered nearly every passing record as a three-year starter at quarterback.
Sponseller, who was also talented on the offensive side of the ball, was named Times-Union Defensive Player of the Year the past two seasons.
“We lost a couple great athletes when you look at what Tanner Andrews, Ben Shriver and Nolan Sponseller did for the program,” said Bibler. “They left some big shoes to fill.”
According to Bibler, sophomore Alec Craig has the nod at quarterback, while junior Brandon Webster and senior Deontee Smith will play receiver and seniors Jarred Littlejohn and Dylan Hoffman will line up in the slot.
Senior Jonah Mikel will get time at tight end, while junior Garrett Bell will fill the hole at fullback left by the graduation of Chris Torpy.
Seniors Michael Thacker and Brandon Murphy will play a wing position for the Vikings.
Among those responsible for protecting the aforementioned skill position players are seniors Austin French, Jack Boldry and Jordan Fraser, and junior Isaac Sponseller.
“We’re a young team, we’re developing,” said Bibler. “In my mind, we’re gonna go out and win every game. At least that’s what we’re gonna try and do. The kids have been working hard, they’ve accepted the changes, and I’m excited about being back. We’re looking forward to the season and getting better each day.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings will use a 4-4 scheme.
Among those that will get reps on the defensive line are French, Mikel, Sponseller, Boldry and Bryce Webster.
Bell and junior classmates Dylan Myers and Andrew Lee will anchor the linebacking corps, while Smith, Thacker, Hoffman, Brandon Webster, Craig and Hoffman could see time in the secondary.
“We’re looking for three things,” said Bibler. “We want to be tough, that means mentally and physically. We want to be more physical than we’ve ever been. And we want to be smart. We can’t make mistakes that are going to hurt us.”
Following Friday’s home game with Culver Academies, the Vikings play at Bremen on Aug. 29 and then host rival Manchester on Sept. 5 in the Three Rivers Conference opener.
“We want to be in the hunt to win the TRC,” said Bibler. “That’s something we want to win every year. We’re also going to work hard to be ready for the sectional. It’s hard to win a sectional, but we’re going to work hard. It’s been a long time.”
Valley hasn’t won a sectional championship since 1992.