AKRON — The Vikings grew up some in their home-opener with Culver Military Academy Friday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough to get them in the win column.
The Eagles burned Tippy Valley with some big plays and scored in all three phases of the game — on offense, defense and special teams — en route to a 33-7 CMA win in Akron Friday night.
“I think we got better. I saw some fight out of our players,” said Valley head coach Steve Moriarty. “Even after we gave up those first 14, which were by big plays, we seemed to rally a little bit.”
The visitors put up a pair of touchdowns within the span of under two minutes and led their hosts by a 14-point margin with more than eight minutes remaining in the first quarter. Both came on big plays.
The Eagles scored on the game’s opening possession when quarterback Michael Bocker connected with slot back Brian Loudermilk on a 64-yard catch-and-carry up the CMA sideline at the 9:57 stop of the clock. After holding Valley to three and out on the ensuing possession, Loudermilk took it to the house again, this time returning Alex Morrison’s punt 70 yards to push the Eagles out to a 14-0 advantage at the 8:07 mark with Alejandro Septian’s second successful point-after kick.
“Last week we gave up the same thing — second play of the game against Bremen we get scorched for 80 yards. Same thing,” said Moriarty. “We came out and stopped them on defense — they couldn’t run their jet sweep — but that long ball that just seemed like it hung in the air forever and went deep on us and then the punt return. Those two plays, you take those away, pretty close game.”
The Vikings rallied after that second touchdown to keep CMA out of the end zone the remainder of the first half, but the Eagles scored on three more big plays in the third stanza to balloon their lead to 33-0.
First, Alec Stathakis found a seam up the middle and ran one in from 29 yards out at the 7:06 mark of the third. After a three and out by Valley, CMA needed just two plays to run it in again, this time on a 54-yarder by Carson Bellman — replacing Bockman under center as he sat out the second half in Akron — at the 4:31 stop. The Vikings put together a long drive into CMA territory, but Jake Rogers picked off Valley QB Tanner Trippiedi and rambled a long 61 yards, diving into the end zone with just 22 seconds left in the frame to push the Eagles out to a 33-0 cushion when Septian missed his fifth point-after try.
But it wasn’t all bad news for the Vikings.
Valley scored the first touchdown by a CMA opponent in two games this season when backup quarterback Noah Miller hit Jalen Shepherd for a 25-yard TD strike on fourth and 25 with only 48 ticks left to play.
It was a big play by the first-year tight end.
“In the offseason he worked really hard in the weight room with Coach (Danny) Thompson,” said Moriarty of Shepherd. “He’d shoot hoops and then he’d come work, and you could tell his vertical jump just kept getting better and better. His hands are phenomenal. I think he’ll be a good asset, too, for (basketball coach Chad) Patrick, but we’ll use him until then.”
The Vikings also made strides in their run defense. After allowing 353 rushing yards versus Bremen in Week 1, Valley limited the Eagles to 133 net yards on the ground Friday.
“I think one of our biggest emphases this week was getting back to fundamentals in tackling, and we really spent a lot of time on defense and I think it showed a little more this week. Not all the time, but we did show little improvements,” Moriarty said.
While CMA moves to 2-0 with the win, Valley slips to an 0-2 start in Moriarty’s first year at the helm. At halftime, the Vikings paid homage to another team that started the season with an 0-2 mark — the 1992 sectional championship team. Players from that squad, including Moriarty himself, were recognized at halftime, and some even took the opportunity to talk with this year’s team.
“A few of them got to talk to them when they came out on the field. A lot of those players that I played with were great role models. I was a sophomore then so it kind of set the tone for the rest of my high school career,” said Moriarty. “The first three we lost, but then we came back, improved and ended up winning the sectional. Pretty neat.”
After tough losses to Bremen and CMA, Valley now looks ahead to its Three Rivers Conference-opener at North Miami next week. It’s been a tough start for the Vikings, but it should be good preparation for the rest of their schedule, says Moriarty.
“I like playing the non-conference schedule. It kind of squares you up more for the state tournament later on,” he said.
“I don’t mind playing better teams for better competition. The TRC is tough, but it’s also nice to get out and play other conferences.”