The Tippecanoe Valley-Whitko football game needs nothing to spice it up.
The longstanding rivalry is always about pride between the pair of Three Rivers Conference counterparts.
This year, the annual clash is also about a TRC championship.
The Wildcats play host to the Vikings Friday night in South Whitley in the regular-season finale with the league title on the line.
The Vikings have won a share of the last two TRC championships, while Whitko’s last league crown came in 2010.
“To have the opportunity to win three TRC championships in a row is a pretty special thing,” said Valley coach Jeff Shriver. “Our kids are excited, optimistic and feeling good right now.”
Valley, Whitko and Rochester all sit at 5-1 in league play. The Zebras, who have shared the last two league titles with the Vikings, are a huge favorite at home versus North Miami (1-7) in another TRC game Friday night.
Whitko coach Josh Mohr has been a part of many of these rivalry games as a former Wildcat player and assistant coach.
“We know what’s riding on it, but it’s the Valley game and that’s all that needs to be said about it,” said Mohr, in his first season as the Whitko head coach. “It’s a pride thing. It’s all about pride. It’s a rivalry game.”
The Vikings, who beat Whitko 55-14 last year, have won four in a row since stubbing their toe with a 34-33 TRC home loss to Southwood back on Sept. 13. Whitko won five straight, all in TRC play, before a 26-9 home loss last week to Rochester.
“We’ve been in a playoff mentality for the last few weeks,” said Shriver, whose team was 1-3 early on this fall. “This is a big game because we’re playing for something. It comes down to who wants it more.
“I think the way our offense is playing right now that it’s tough to stop. But, we have to show up and play football Friday night. We have to execute, take care of the football and be disciplined defensively. Whitko is big and very physical. They have very talented running backs in that triple option attack.”
Mohr is impressed with Valley and knows what his team needs to do.
“Valley has a lot of talented football players with experience and they seem to be hitting their stride right now,” Mohr said. “We have to work about ourselves and put 48 minutes together. We’re going to do what we do. I expect a hard fought game between two teams who are ready for each other.”
Whitko, which averages 33 points-per-game, has rushed for over 2,400 yards this campaign with its prolific triple option offense. Tanner Hughes has 994 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns to lead the Wildcats. Devin Gerding has 517 yards, quarterback Ethan Nicodemus 505 yards and eight scores and Trace Killian 375 yards.
Valley counters with a prolific passing attack featuring the senior connection of Ben Shriver to Tanner Andrews. Quarterback Shriver, who holds most of the school records, leads the TRC with 1,796 yards passing and 17 touchdowns. Star receiver Andrews is the top pass catcher in the league with 39 receptions for 827 yards and nine scores. The Vikings, who average almost 39 ppg., also count heavily on and Chris Torpy (559 yards) and Nolan Sponseller (422) to lead their ground game.
The kickoff Friday night is set for 7 p.m. in South Whitley.
Wawasee (4-4, 3-3) at Goshen (0-8, 0-6), 7:30 p.m.
Another rivalry game.
That’s what Josh Ekovich is telling his Wawasee team as they face the winless Redskins.
“We have to treat this like both teams are 0-0,” said the first-year Wawasee coach. “It’s a rivalry game for us with a trophy on the line and it’s their Senior Night. The records don’t matter. We respect Goshen and by no means are we looking past them.”
You couldn’t blame the Warriors if they are at least peeking though.
Goshen has scored a grand total of just 90 points this season. The Redskins lost 35-12 to Plymouth last week and barring an upset Friday night or a first-round sectional win over Elkhart Central on Nov. 1, Goshen will post just its’ fourth winless season in over 100 years of football.
Wawasee will host powerful Leo, undefeated and ranked No. 5 in Class 4-A, in a first-round sectional game next week.
“This is a big springboard game for us for the sectional,” Ekovich said. “I just want to see us play intense with play with passion Friday night. Everything else will fall into place if we do that.”
Jimtown (6-2, 5-1) at Triton (2-6, 1-5), 7 p.m.
The Trojans welcome in the Jimmies for the Northern State Conference finale on Senior Night.
“Our seniors (seven of them) have done everything we’ve asked of them this year,” said first-year Triton coach John Johns. “I would love to have this group for another year.”
Triton has lost seven straight games on the field. The Trojans, who have struggled to score points, did receive a forfeit win over NSC foe Glenn.
“We know that Jimtown is a very solid team,” said Johns. “We have to play good consistent football, which we can do. It’s been a consistency factor for us. We’ve played some really good football at times.
“My guys are pretty resilient. They are ready to play every week. We’re still kind of banged up, but we should have everyone back this week.”
Jimtown, which averages 28 points-per-game, has lost to NorthWood and undefeated New Prairie this season.