AKRON – From the opening kickoff Friday night, Culver Academy instilled its will. A crushing hit on the first play of the game set the tone, as the Academy romped to a 47-0 win over Tippecanoe Valley in football’s week one.
Valley’s Shane Ellis was walloped on the opening kickoff, which left the hard luck senior injured and eventually out of the game with a knee injury. Ellis, who missed his junior season after an injury at Culver Academy, was just the first of a trio of Valley players to be lost for the night and likely longer. Sophomore lineman Jose Rivera was carted off on a stretcher just before halftime with what was reported as a concussion and senior lineman Dalton Prater also was hurt just before half with a hand injury and did not return.
It was ugly for Valley in many ways, in a game that unmercifully lingered until 10:30 p.m. local time.
“We couldn’t replace what we lost in Shane,” stated Tippecanoe Valley head coach Darin Holsopple. “Then losing another two-way starter in Dalton and also having Jose go down as well, it was a tough night in that aspect.”
With the ball, Culver also did the asserting. On its first play from scrimmage, Tommy Polhamus rushed around the end for a 61-yard score. If the tone wasn’t set on the Ellis hit, Polhamus certainly drove the point home.
Culver’s next possession ended with Jakob Young taking the ball in from a yard out after Michael Bocker found Jack Rich for a 21-yard completion inside the one.
Trent Lipsett then scored on an 11-yard reverse after Tippy fumbled inside its own 15, and Kirby Hart made it 26-0 on an 11-yard run of his own with just 5.4 seconds left in the half.
Polhamus, Bocker and Jacob Bird all scored rushing touchdowns in the second half, Bocker’s going for 82 yards on a designed sneak. In all, the Academy rushed for 300 total yards and Bocker threw for 145 more.
The Eagles defense held dual threat Alec Craig and the Vikings to just 30 total rushing yards. Craig had 106 passing yards, and nearly got a touchdown when a pass to Jon Humes connected, but the ball was knocked loose at the two and Culver scooped up the fumble, negating what was Valley’s best scoring chance of the night when the game was only 20-0 in the second quarter.
One anomaly from the game was miscues. While Culver posted 47 points on the scoreboard, it was sloppy on several occasions. The Eagles committed 14 penalties for 150 yards, missed two extra points and turned the ball over three times. But Valley did nothing with the three extra opportunities, which will become talking points for Holsopple this week.
“I was very disappointed with how we played tonight,” Holsopple said. “We just didn’t execute on either side of the ball. We didn’t tackle. We didn’t block. We struggled to run and catch as well. We did not execute tonight. There will be a lot of ‘look at this’ film and a lot of teaching.
“I think we have a good team, I like our team. But that wasn’t our team tonight.”
Tippecanoe Valley did have a very bright spot, albeit a somber memory as the new pressbox, dubbed the Scott Bibler Memorial Pressbox, was officially dedicated at halftime. The Bibler family, along with over a dozen friends and family, were part of the ceremony, as were the nearly packed home grandstands that now face east. Bibler, a former player and head coach for Tippecanoe Valley, died in a plane crash last October and his wife, Stephanie, spearheaded the building of the new pressbox in Scott’s memory.
Tippecanoe Valley (0-1) will travel to Western (0-1) next Friday while Culver Academy (1-0) will host Grand Rapids Christian.