AKRON – Jeff Shriver has some very fond memories of Tippecanoe Valley High School football teams playing in the old RCA Dome in Indianapolis during his early days as an assistant football coach for the Vikings.
One of his most special ones is captured in a photo of him with his young son Ben standing on the horseshoe emblem of the Colts at midfield.
The elder Shriver on this trip to the Circle City Saturday would love to to see his son, now the starting quarterback for the Vikings, standing in the end zone of Lucas Oil Stadium a few times.
Shriver, now in his seventh season as the head coach at TVHS, takes his talented team to Indy to face Class 2-A No. 6 Bremen as one of four games in the Horseshoe Hall of Fame Classic.“My first thought when we found out about this was for our kids,” said Shriver, a Rochester High School and Purdue alum. “It’s just a great opportunity for them to play in one of the greatest football venues in the country. I think about how fortunate we are as a program to get to do something like this.
“We’ve gotten to be a part of a lot of special experiences, like playing at Ball State last year. I want our kids to understand and appreciate the blessings we have and I think they do.
“For me, it brought back a lot of memories for me about playing in Indy. I think we played in the Dome three times when I was an assistant as part of the TRC days.”
Valley’s players are obviously pumped to get to play in a fantastic professional facility, which just hosted the Super Bowl in February.
“I get shivers down my spine just thinking about playing there,” said senior Jacob Ritchey at practice Tuesday. “It’s crazy. But we are blessed to get to do something like this.”
The Vikings focus has to be on one thing though according to their coach.
“Our No. 1 focus is how do we win this football game,” said Shriver, whose team is 0-1 after a 27-22 home loss to CMA last Friday night. “It’s a business trip. We’ve told them that all summer. We need a win to get on track. That’s by far the most important thing Saturday.
“Everything else about the experience is a bonus and you can sit back and enjoy it later. It’s a lot funner trip if you win the game.”
Tanner Andrews, the record-setting receiver for the Vikings, agrees completely with his coach about the No. 1 goal for Saturday.
“The whole trip means nothing if we lose the game,” said the junior standout who had 32 receptions for 810 yards and 10 scores in 2011. “I don’t want to tell my grandkids someday that I lost the game I played in Indy. I hate to lose even more than I like to win.
“It’s really exciting, but the reality is that it’s another game. We have to stay focused on the game and not on the fact that we’re playing in Lucas Oil Stadium.”
Senior Mason Teel was taken aback when the team found out about the trip to Indy.
“I was like seriously?, this can’t be right,” said Teel of his initial response to the great news. “We just have to make sure everyone stays focused and sticks to our game plan.”
The chance to play in the massive stadium, which has a capacity of 70,000 and opened in 2008, is a dream come true for many of the Vikings.
“I’ve always dreamed of playing in a big stadium and I always said that one way or another I would get to do it,” said Justin Gunter. “This guarantees me at least one game there.”Bremen, which has won 17 straight regular-season games, beat a short-handed Plymouth team 42-26 in week one. The Lions lost 18 players from last year’s team that finished 13-1 and won NSC, sectional and regional championships along the way. The league title was their first since 1995 and the regional the first since 1997.
The Classic kicks off Saturday at noon with South Putnam versus Tri-West. The Vikings then face the Lions at approximately 2:30 p.m., followed by Danville-Crawfordsville at 5 and Indianapolis Scecina taking on Speedway in the finale at 7:30.