To put it simply, it looked like a Madden game in Akron on Friday night.
Not having beaten Culver Academy in its previous eleven tries, Tippecanoe Valley was able to snap its skid against the Eagles with an offensive explosion, winning 59-28 on homecoming to remain unbeaten this season.
“As a coach, I hadn’t beat them yet, so coming into this year that was a big goal for us,” Tippecanoe Valley head coach Steve Moriarty said after the game. “I think we’re starting to get everything all together and working together as a team is what got this monkey off of our backs.”
The Vikings, who totaled a video-game like 780 all-purpose yards, were led by another outstanding performance by Nate Parker. The senior finished with 383 total yards and contributed to five touchdowns. The game moves Parker to fourth all-time on the Valley rushing leaderboard.
“I’ve coached a lot of kids but he is special,” Moriarty said. “He’s so elusive and he doesn’t go down. To be in the top four on the rushing leaderboard at this school, that’s a big deal.”
Both teams began the game by trading three-and-outs, which was not at all indictive of how the rest of the contest would go. The excitement would begin on Culver’s second drive of the game, when senior Wade Jones would make a leaping interception to give his team the ball after the Eagles had put together a solid drive.
In the blink of an eye, Tippy Valley would take advantage of the visitor’s miscue. On the first play from scrimmage, sophomore Grady Moriarty would break free on an outside run, making a few defenders miss on his way to a 74-yard rumble to the house.
The opening score would open up the floodgates for both sides, as on the following Culver drive, quarterback Michael McColgan hooked up with a receiver for a 67 yard gain. The passing play should have been a touchdown, but Nate Parker, playing safety, turned on the burners and made the tackle at the one. It wouldn’t matter though, as the Eagles would punch it in on a run up the gut on the next play.
That would be all of the scoring In the first quarter, as both defenses came up big with drive-ending sacks on the following possessions. Two sacks of quarterback Cody Eastgate would stall the Vikings, while on the following drive for the visitors, Brock Derf and Asher McGriff would come up with some key stops to get the Valley offense back onto the field.
They wouldn’t be out there long. On the first play once again, the Vikings broke out the tricks, running a flea flicker to Parker who would complete the long pass downfield to Jones. The one defender trailing the senior would be no match, and Jones would take the ball 88 yards to the house.
Senior Wade Jones of Valley uses all of his 6'5" height to intercept a pass during Friday night's home game against Culver Academy. Photo by Gary Nieter
Now trailing once again, Culver was able to answer in a big way. McColgan would complete another long pass to a receiver, this time a 40-yard bomb that would tie up the game. Things would go from bad to worse on the following Viking drive, as Eastgate would throw an interception in his own red zone while trying to escape pressure from the Eagle defensive line. The visitors took a page out of the Valley playbook, scoring on the first play of the drive that followed to go up 21-14 with two touchdowns in a minute.
Now, it was the Vikings turn to answer, and answer they did. Not done making big plays, Parker would make a great move on a misdirection handoff to break free past the line of scrimmage and into a wide open secondary. Nobody would catch him, and the end result was his second touchdown of the first half, a 60-yard score.
After forcing a Culver punt with less than a minute remaining, the Vikings attempted to score some more points before the half. Eastgate would pass to Parker at the line of scrimmage, which ended up being a very beneficial decision. Parker weaved his way through the secondary, scampering 81 yards for the fourth Valley touchdown of at least 60 yards in the first half. It was the fourth Viking score in the half that came on the first play of a drive. The touchdown also gave the senior a hat trick, with one rushing, one receiving and one passing touchdown in the first half.
“It was huge for us to get those quick strikes because I felt like we were moving a ball well, but there was always a loss or a penalty that would push us back,” Moriarty said.
With his team getting the ball back to begin the second half, it was a perfect opportunity for Parker’s magical night to continue. For the first time in the contest, the Vikings were able to consistently move the ball down the field, cumulating with Parker breaking out of five separate tackles on a 17-yard touchdown run that would give Valley a 14-point lead.
It didn’t stop there. Needing something and needing it fast, the Eagles would fake a punt deep in their own territory, but the Vikings were able to snuff it out. Following the turnover on downs, the Parker show continued, with the senior scoring from 36 yards out for his fifth touchdown contribution of the game. Less than five minutes into the second half, the seven-point Valley lead had turned into a 21 point advantage.
The second-half onslaught didn’t stop there. After Kyler Johnson forced a fumble to give his team the ball right back, Wade Jones would score his second touchdown of the game on a 60-yard jet sweep. The score was Valley’s fifth of the game of at least 60 yards.
“Coming out of halftime we were fired up and focused. We made some adjustments that helped negate some of their pressure and were able to get it going,” the head coach remarked.
Now trailing by 28 before they could even compose themselves, the Eagles were able to put it together on their following drive, with McColgan picking up his fourth touchdown pass of the game with just under three minutes to go in the third. It would only shrink the lead momentarily, as a great kickoff return by Wes Parker would give the Vikings an instant red zone situation. After a 17-yard carry by Trent Marhall, Morairty would punch it in from a yard out for his second score of the night.
Even with second-string players getting a majority of opportunities in the fourth quarter, the highlights didn’t stop piling up for Valley. Freshman Owen Omondi brought in an interception off of a deflection, much to the delight of the Viking faithful. The only scoring that would take place in the final quarter would be a 35-yard field goal by Gage Overbey. Overbey came into this week leading the state of Indiana in field goals made with six.
Tippecanoe Valley (5-0) is back at home next week for a meeting with Jimtown.