WARSAW – It’s been quite a weekend for Tippecanoe Valley football.
After a Friday night for the ages, life went on Saturday and saw Valley notch another football win for the archives. The first-ever running of Unified Flag Football had its sectional Saturday at Fisher Field in Warsaw. Valley did something a football program in Akron hasn’t done since 1992, hoist a sectional championship.
Valley put on an offensive showcase in blowing out Warsaw, 36-12, in the semi-finals, then came back and ran past Wawasee, 24-12, to claim the inaugural championship.
With IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox looking on from the field, Valley started from the first whistle and just kept on going. Its first play from scrimmage saw Tanner Trippiedi take the ball and run 35 yards untouched for six. The two-point try was good, with Valley up immediately 8-0 on the Tigers. The Vikings would take a 16-6 lead into the half, Warsaw getting its first score of the tournament from Kendra Keene.
A long run and score by Cade Brouyette put the Vikings out of reach and into the finals.
On the opposite field, Wawasee did a number to the Goshen RedHawks. Carr Reinhard had a touchdown catch to help the Warriors to a 20-0 halftime lead, and Cam Mangun opened the second half with a long catch and run for a score. Shelby Bolt added a touchdown catch for the Warriors.
Goshen’s lone score came on a long run by Jeremiah Close, but at 34-7, Wawasee had advanced to the championship game.
The final had Trippiedi exhibit his pure speed. He scored on a catch and run, a rush, and another touchdown catch, the third with just 17 seconds to go in the half. Valley was up 18-0 at that point and looking pretty good.
Preston Pruitt got Wawasee on the board with 9:38 to go, but any hope of a Warrior comeback ended when Connor Frentzel raced down the sidelines and through a pair of pull attempts to score for the Vikes.
Jaydon Boyer would get a late score for the Warriors, but it wouldn’t stop Valley’s run to a sectional championship.
“We need to work on the long tosses,” Frentzel said, still all business after winning the title. “We make a really good team and there are things we can work on, but we played really good today. I’ve never felt anything like this before, but it feels good to win a sectional.”
Added quarterback Drew Thompson, who spent his time on the sidelines Friday night with the varsity Vikings in their win over Rochester for the Bell Trophy, “Oh, man, I didn’t sleep. I went to bed at 1:30 and got up at 11. I couldn’t sleep, the feeling was with me. Last night was awesome and I was also excited about today. Today was great. If there is one thing we can celebrate, it’s the Bell. Now we can celebrate this and work towards a state championship.”
Tippecanoe Valley head coach Jeff Shriver, who has spent many a moon on the Valley football sidelines for much of the last two decades, was just as proud of his kids Saturday as any team on Friday night.
“It’s very exciting for us right now at Valley,” stated Shriver. “When I first said I would coach this, I had no idea how much time and commitment would go into this. But you know what, that’s a credit to the kids. They take it serious. I thought at first we would get a sliver of the corner of the football practice field and get some time in between football practices. It isn’t like that at all. I’m proud of the state of Indiana for putting this together, the IHSAA has really embraced this as a sanctioned sport and made this into a great thing for the kids.”
Wawasee head coach Andrew Wilson offered similar sentiment in defeat, pointing to the introduction and the time spent in his team’s month together and five games, to which the Warriors bow out 4-1.
“I don’t feel like this is a loss at all,” Wilson said. “We were there to have fun, and we succeeded. We’ve had kids ask to join after we had to turn in a roster to the IHSAA, so I can promise Wawasee flag football will be bigger next year. I’m hoping this helps to grow our Unified Track team as well. Getting kids involved at Wawasee is the most important thing. A lot of times, having after school activities helps during the school day as well.”
Tippecanoe Valley (3-0) will host the regional next Saturday against Griffith, which advanced after a forfeit from LaVille. The Valley-Griffith winner will move onto the state finals on Oct. 13 in Indianapolis, where it will take on either Fort Wayne Carroll or Noblesville in the first championship semi-final. The south state bracket has Zionsville at Ben Davis and Bedford North Lawrence at Jasper in its two regionals next weekend.