AKRON – There really wasn’t a time that Tippecanoe Valley head coach Steve Moriarty looked comfortable Friday night. While his Vikings were piling up a 48-14 win over visiting Three Rivers Conference neighbor Whitko, Moriarty continued to belabor points to his impressionable squad.
Those teaching moments could come in handy real soon.
“Tonight was the same thing we’ve had the last four games, the turnovers and shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties,” stated Moriarty. “Those are things we have to clean up. With hard work this week, the seniors brought up the team and said look at all this hard work this week. Even though we had some bad things happen to us, we didn’t fold up the tent. It actually made us stronger, made us madder. We fought pretty good, I thought.”
The Vikings looked very uncomfortable in the first quarter, finding themselves down 14-12 with a whole bunch of Wildcats on the other side of the ball playing with nothing to lose. It took Whitko only three offensive plays to get to that lead. After Valley fumbled a punt on Whitko’s first possession, Cade Berg took the first handoff and sprinted 20 yards to paydirt. Bhrett Weese later blocked a Valley punt, setting up the Wildcats inside the Valley 10. Two plays later, Mason Lehman punched in the one-yard run and a two-point conversion, giving Whitko the stunning lead.
But where Whitko was making up ground on Valley miscues, the Vikings were also creating extra chances. Valley forced a fumble on a Whitko punt return that set up a 32-yard touchdown pass to Jace Potter.
After Whitko went from fourth and one to fourth and 11 after two penalties, the alternating possession to Valley after the punt saw Cam Parker bust off a highlight reel run. Parker got into space on a handoff, then used a stiffarm and looked like Bo Jackson in week one of Tecmo Super Bowl, throwing off defenders en route to a 52-yard score. After Alex Morrison finished off the two-point conversion, it was suddenly 26-14 Valley just before the half and any air left in Whitko was leaking out of the balloon.
Parker later added a 10-yard scoring run and a two-point conversion as part of his video game numbers. He carried 20 times for 175 yards, caught two passes for 60 yards and even threw a 29-yard pass.
“Wow,” emoted Moriarty when asked about Parker’s night. “To watch him, it’s just wow. He makes life easier. If you miss a block, he’s going to make a juke. It’s too bad the game wasn’t broadcast so you could see his athletic ability. His ableness to make people miss is awesome.”
Dakota Gaff added 65 yards rushing and a touchdown, and Wes Melanson scored the easiest defensive touchdown of his career, having a tipped pass land right in his lap on the one-yard line and stepping into the end zone.
The Valley defense, which looked extremely shaky in the first quarter, settled in and did a number on the Wildcats as the game progressed. Whitko amassed just 173 total yards in the contest, 91 of those on the ground from Berg. Whitko did itself in in part to 11 penalties for 90 yards.
Moriarty’s club moves to 2-3 overall and evens up at 1-1 in the TRC, a game back of 2-0 Northfield, which beat the Vikings last week. Whitko falls to 0-5 and 0-2.
“I thought this was kind of the pivot game,” said Moriarty. “Northfield was a very good team. Yes, we could have beat them but we didn’t play very well. This is a team you should beat. If you don’t win the ones you should, then I thought we would be in trouble. I wanted to make sure we got it in convincing fashion. I say we did that.”