Tippecanoe Valley junior Nate Parker attracts a crowd of Wabash defenders while picking up yardage during the first quarter. Photos by Gary Nieter
Tippecanoe Valley junior Nate Parker attracts a crowd of Wabash defenders while picking up yardage during the first quarter. Photos by Gary Nieter
The Tippecanoe Valley offense was unstoppable Friday night, using 32 first downs and 528 yards of total offense to score nine touchdowns on the team’s first nine drives in a 65-19 blowout victory over Wabash in the team’s final home game of the year. The Vikings are now 8-0 this season, 7-0 in the Three Rivers Conference. The win clinches at least a share of the conference title for Tippy Valley.

“This team is a family and part of being a family is honoring our seniors on Senior Night,” Valley head coach Steve Moriarty said. “We told our younger players all week the way you honor them is by playing hard for them and that’s exactly what we did.”

The Vikings would receive the opening kickoff and get to work immediately. After a short kick put the team in a favorable starting spot, a quick six play drive consisting of only running plays would be punctuated by a 13-yard touchdown run by Nate Parker to put Tippy Valley in front 8-0 just three minutes into the game.

On the team’s first defensive possession, the Vikings would force an Apache punt. After a first down on the team’s first play, Wabash quarterback Izaak Wright would fall victim to three consecutive incompletions. After getting back on offense, Valley quarterback Cody Eastgate would let it fly for the first time and pick up a gain of 18 yards to Trent Marshall. A few more running plays would put Tippy Valley at the goal line, where junior Dalton Alber would punch it in from two away to double the lead to 16-0.

That score would only hold for a few seconds. Wabash’s Trevor Daughtry would take the ensuing kickoff 90 yards and into the end zone for the Apaches’ first points of the game. The point-after try would be blocked and the Vikings lead trimmed to 10.

The special teams fun didn’t end there. Parker would take the kickoff that followed 60 yards and to the Wabash 30-yard-line. A few plays later Parker would continue his tear by ripping off a 26-yard run that would end in the end zone. With two minutes to go in the first quarter Valley’s lead would jump to 23-6 with everything going smoothly.

The next Wabash drive threw a wrench into things. After being unable to find anyone open on the team’s first drive, Wright looked crisp on his second offensive sequence. Using a combination of quick throws and bulldozing runs, Wabash moved the ball perhaps easier than anyone has against Valley up to this point in the season. About a minute into the second quarter, Wright would find a target in the end zone and make a beautiful throw on the run to pick up six points. Despite the offensive dominance, the Vikings lead was now just 10 points.

Even with things tightening up, Valley’s offense showed no signs of slowing down. The team used another methodical drive to find pay dirt once again thanks to Parker’s third score of the first half. Parker was phenomenal once again, totaling 170 yards rushing on 16 carries.

 On the defensive end following the score, The Vikings would find a spark. Alber would blow up a running back on a third-and-short play to force a two-yard loss and fourth down. His fellow junior Landon Durkes would end the possession on the next play, burying Wright with a bone-crunching sack and forcing a turnover on downs and give the home team the ball back at the Apache 35.

“We changed our mind set on defense. We were done bending but not breaking and wanted to shut it down. You have to try different things and the first didn’t work as well so we adjusted,” Moriarty said.

Durkes would be rewarded for his efforts on the other side of the ball. Lined up at tight end, Durkes would make three catches on the first three plays of the drive for 28 yards to set the team up inside the 10. It would be senior Karl Parker that would finish the drive off with the score, giving the Vikings a comfortable 37-13 lead with two minutes to go in the half.

After his defense forced its first three-and-out of the game on the next drive, Moriarty saw the opportunity for more points. Forced to go almost 70 yards with just 1:45 to go, Eastgate would answer the call with a surgical performance. The quarterback went 5-5 with passes completed to three different receivers, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Kyler Johnson with 10 seconds to go in the half. After six touchdowns on its first six drives, including 21 unanswered points, Tippecanoe Valley would take a 44-13 lead into halftime. Eastgate would finish his evening a perfect 10-10 for 124 yards and a score in just over two quarters of work.

“We ended up in that situation and were able to practice getting down the field in a hurry. Coach Weaver did a great job of calling it all the way down the field and Cody, wow. What an excellent night,” Moriarty said.

A 60 yard run by Wabash’s Keaton Fields on the Apaches’ second play of the second half would put the team at the one, and a play later Wabash would end the drought with a score to make it 44-19. It would be the last time the Apaches would score in the game.

The play of the game came on the ensuing Viking drive. With Valley threatening once again, Markus Bernicky took the hand off at the 30. He would get about 15 yards and appear to be stuff before Alber would come in and single handedly push the pile the remainder of the way for the touchdown, falling on top of Bernicky in the end zone.

The running clock would start on the next Tippy Valley drive after sophomore Wyatt Hart would scamper for a 15-yard score that would be his first varsity touchdown. The ninth and final score would come with a few minutes to go in the fourth quarter when freshman Grady Moriarty took the ball in from five yards out to give the game its 65-19 score line. The Vikings only scoreless drive would be the team’s final, as backup quarterback Marcus Jansma would end the game with a kneel down at the Wabash one-yard line.

The Vikings wrap up their regular season next Friday at Southwood. A win would clinch the outright TRC championship for Valley while also making this year’s squad the first in school history to secure a perfect 8-0 TRC record.

“It goes back to the work ethic, the summers. Being a student of the game,” Moriarty said. “The foundation was set a few years ago when we beat 6-0 Rochester, and now we believe and are going to be hard to beat.”