AKRON – There wasn’t a big celebration on the field Friday night, but believe West Noble celebrated on the way back to Ligonier after winning its first sectional game in 15 years in upsetting Tippecanoe Valley 30-28 Friday night in Class 3-A Sectional 26 football.
The Chargers scored with 8:26 to go in the game and held off Valley twice to advance in the state tourney. After DJ Heckman scored from three yards out to give Valley a 28-22 lead with 8:43 to go, Brandon Pruitt raced 57 yards to paydirt on West Noble’s first play following the Heckman score. The key became the two-point try, which Sebastian Loy converted to give the Chargers a two-point cushion.
Valley then was turned away on fourth down on its next possession, and had a halfback pass was intercepted on its final possession, Josh Gross doing the honors for the Chargers.
The win gives Charger head coach Monte Mawhorter his first sectional win since 2001, and the team a home game next Friday against Jimtown, which pounded Heritage 49-6. West Noble has never won a sectional in its program history.
“The difference in winning and losing is finishing plays and believing in each other,” Mawhorter said. “Tippy hit us with everything they had, and these kids kept stepping up. It was basically who had the ball last, and it happened to be us tonight. I’m just so proud of the effort we had tonight.”
Valley had taken a 21-14 lead out of the gate in the second half when Cam Parker rushed in from four yards. West Noble was up to the task, scoring on its next possession. A huge pass interference call in the endzone kept the drive alive, to which Chase Wroblewski was able to sneak in from a yard out. Tad Airgood scored the two-point try for a 22-21 West Noble lead.
Valley missed a big chance to take an early lead, deciding to fake a field goal after driving to the West Noble one, the pass falling incomplete. The Chargers then drove 94 yards, concluding with a Spencer Shrock 29-yard touchdown run.
Wroblewski had another one-yard touchdown run and Parker scurried 10 yards in the final minute of the first half to even the score at 14.
“This is exactly what we talked to the kids in the locker room about before the game,” Mawhorter said. “Last year, we had a group of kids who didn’t find it important to finish strong. This group, they got the message to go out and get it done. And they did that tonight. This is a big win for us.”
Valley had quite a night running the ball, gaining 327 yards on the night, led by Heckman’s 145 yards. Alec Craig added 59 yards rushing and 36 more passing in what was a conclusion for the two senior stars. Parker had 46 yards on the ground and Jaydin Conley added 42 yards rushing.
Pruitt gave West Noble (4-6) 70 yards on the ground, the biggest chunk the touchdown scamper. Shrock had a team-leading 82 rushing yards and had 42 more receiving. Wroblewski rushed for 29 yards and the two scores, and passed for 99 yards.
In what was a whirlwind season for Tippecanoe Valley (3-7), Tippecanoe Valley co-coach Jeff Shriver noted the loss will sting. Still searching for its first sectional win since 2012, and first sectional title since 1992, the Vikings will have to go back to the drawing board.
“It was a pretty evenly matched game, a hard fought game, and our kids did battle throughout the game,” said Shriver. “I am excited to see them have that tenacity and that effort. We just couldn’t overcome the flags and overcome a couple big plays.
“We definitely think we are headed in the right direction, it’s just a tough loss. Sometimes, a two-point loss is tougher sometimes than a blowout. Especially the way this happened. They didn’t really manhandle us. They made plays. It wasn’t without some aid of some flags. It is what it is.”