AKRON – There’s going to be a lot of new names playing key roles for the Tippecanoe Valley football team this fall.
That being said, coach Scott Bibler expects the same old same old from his Viking program.
Bibler, who served as head coach from 1990-2005 and has been an assistant since then, takes over a team missing a wealth of experience and talent at the skill positions from last year’s 5-5 squad.
That fact does not faze Bibler, a Tippecanoe Valley graduate who went 98-68 in his first tenure as head coach, in the least.
“I like what I’ve seen from this group,” said Bibler after the first week of practice. “I’ve been really pleased with the effort and the attitude. I like how we are progressing.
“Yes we lost a lot of good, skilled players from last year. But, this is not a rebuilding year for us. We expect to win now and believe we can do that.
“More so than probably ever, positions are up for grabs right now in a lot of spots for us. That means a lot of opportunities for players.”
The Vikings finished 5-5 overall and 5-2 in the Three Rivers Conference in a somewhat disappointing campaign a year ago. Valley started the season 1-3 and allowed 30.8 points-per-game. Gone from that team are record-setting quarterback Ben Shriver, along with record-setting receiver Tanner Andrews, top rusher Nolan Sponseller and standout lineman Nick Gamble.
Valley does return talent, led by the likes of senior tight end Jonah Mikel, senior flanker Jarred Littlejohn, senior lineman Austin French, senior back Brandon Murphy, junior running back Garrett Bell, junior flanker Brandon Webster and junior lineman Isaac Sponseller.
“Everyone can be leaders for us if they think about the team first,” said Bibler. “It may take us some time and we have to be patient. The key for us early on is to see improvement.
“It starts with us wanting to run the ball and stopping the run. That all starts with our play on the offensive and defensive lines this year. We’ve focused on our defense. We’ve changed practices in that we are now working on offense and defense both every day.”
Sophomore Alec Craig will take over at quarterback for Shriver, who passed for nearly 2,300 yards and 22 touchdowns a year ago.
The Vikings will count on several key players on defense, including Bell, Littlejohn, Sponseller, French, AJ Long, Jack Boldry and Kyle Vandiepenbos.
Valley opens the season by hosting Culver Academy Aug. 22. The conference opener is a home contest with Manchester on Sept. 5.
Tippecanoe Valley Schedule
Aug. 22 – Culver Academy
Aug. 29 – at Bremen
Sept. 5 – Manchester
Sept. 12 – at Southwood
Sept. 19 – Northfield
Sept. 26 – at Wabash
Oct. 3 – Rochester
Oct. 10 – at North Miami
Oct. 17 – Whitko