Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union

After receiving a handoff from teammate Adam Slabach, Warsaw's Alicia Johnson heads upfield against Homestead defenders. \
Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union After receiving a handoff from teammate Adam Slabach, Warsaw's Alicia Johnson heads upfield against Homestead defenders. \
Tippecanoe Valley’s Unified flag football team had a fun-filled, action-packed Saturday. The Vikings toppled Carroll 20-19 in the quarterfinals, convincingly defeated Homestead 38-12 in the semifinals, then held on to capture the sectional title 22-20 over Three Rivers Conference foe, the Manchester Squires.

Manchester’s road to the title match included wins over Fort Wayne Northside, 42-34, and New Haven 32-18.

“Our coaches told the kids this year will be tougher,” Walker remarked on the path to a title during the rainy Saturday. “We (had) to win three games in a single day to win today and play next week.”

Manchester’s Gavin Martin put the game’s first points on the board with a touchdown catch from quarterback Lindsey Dill.

Valley countered with a Cooper Walls TD scamper and a two-point conversion by Owen Kluesener to move ahead 8-6. Kluesener added another touchdown snatching a pass from Drew Thompson, the Vikings’ only quarterback since the program began in 2018. Thompson’s safety helped his cause and gave the Vikings a 16-6 halftime lead.

“Andrew Thompson is the only quarterback we’ve ever had,” Walker said. “I want to see him walk off the field a winner.”

Thompson’s contributions on and off the field are unnumerable.

“He has been the captain since he set foot on the field,” Walker continued. “The coaching staff, including myself, are all teachers, but everyone goes to Drew to ask about how the game went.”

Kluesener added another touchdown run before Manchester began to chisel at the Vikings’ 22-6 second half lead.

Gabriel Case snared a Manchester TD pass from Dill, then Dill then found Tanner Cooley for the two-point conversion closing the gap to 22-14.

Darson Bradley scored another touchdown bringing the Squires within a two-point conversion, 22-20, to possibly tie the fray, but Kluesener’s stop on the conversion’s coverage sealed the title clash for the Vikings.

The sectional champs had a long row to hoe with the two-time state finalist Carroll Chargers in their first game Saturday morning.

Cooper Walls’ interception (one of two for the opening game) on the final play kept the Vikings on the proper side of the scoreboard in a 20-19 seesaw battle. Walls added a touchdown and a two-point conversion along with scores by Kluesener and Owen Kirchenstein.

“(Carroll) is the best football team I’ve seen in a couple years,” Shriver remarked.

The Vikings convincingly defeated Homestead 38-12 in the semifinal match. Trystan Woodcox (TD), Owen Kirchenstein (2 INTs), Owen Kluesener (1 INT, 2 EXP) contributed to the win. Michael Wright, Riley Shepherd, Macartney Wright, Jessica Hoover each found paydirt in the semifinal victory.

Valley and the Warsaw Tigers were two schools who were 2018 charter members of Unified flag football. The Tigers were eliminated in the opening round by Homestead 34-26.

Mason Anderson, Andon Zehring, Drew Heckaman, and Jaxson Gould each scored TDs for Warsaw. Adam Slabach added a two-point conversion. Homestead took a 14-0 lead into halftime. Warsaw’s second half 26-20 rally fell short.

Tiger head coach Tricia Johnson commented on the year, and on the spirit of Unified flag football.

“It’s not about winning,” Johnson noted. “It’s about everyone playing together and everyone getting a chance to do something for the team. It IS lovely if you can win, though.”

“It’s an honor to host a diverse group on the field today,” Johnson continued. “We love this field; we love our school. A lot of it (the sport’s growth) is word of mouth, but a lot of information is posted on the IHSAA website promoting (Unified sports). I’ve promoted Unified sports to people I knew from other schools. I love it!”

 Unified flag football started four seasons ago with 22 teams. Now it has expanded to 41 teams on the post season road to state title hardware. Warsaw hosted the greatest number (seven) of sectional competitors among the state’s other fields.

Tippecanoe Valley moves on to the regionals (site undetermined at press time) Saturday. The other regional challengers include Valparaiso, DeKalb, and McCutcheon.