INDIANAPOLIS – It was uncharted territory for all involved. For the Tippecanoe Valley Unified Flag Football team, it was grounds for future endeavors.
Valley reached the IHSAA State Finals of the Unified Flag Football tournament, winning against Noblesville, 31-24, before falling to Bedford North Lawrence, 50-26, in the championship game Saturday afternoon at the Indianapolis Colts practice facility.
Unified Flag Football, in its inaugural season with the IHSAA, had Valley take on Noblesville opposite Ben Davis versus Bedford North Lawrence in the two championship semi-finals.
Bedford blew out Ben Davis, 52-17, on one side of the field while Valley rallied to take out Noblesville, 31-24, to set up the championship.
Valley’s route to the final started as it has often this season, with Tanner Trippiedi sending a pass to Connor Frentzel, who made a nice jumping catch for the early 6-0 lead. Finding themselves down 18-6, Drew Thompson hit Trippiedi with a pass to cut the lead to 18-12.
After a Cade Brouyette interception, the Trippiedi to Frentzel connection again yielded a score, and a one-point conversion from Thompson to Frentzel made it 19-18 Vikings.
Trippiedi again hit Frentzel on a scoring play to push Valley’s lead to 25-18, and after the Millers pulled with one on a score, Trippiedi iced the game with a touchdown run.
“Our kids rallied and really we have to give it to Connor Frentzel, he made some big, big plays against Noblesville,” said Valley head coach Jeff Shriver late Saturday night. “Our kids showed a lot of fight to come back for that win. They did a great job.”
The Bedford Stars came into the final averaging 52 points in its three postseason wins, were “held” to just 50 by the Vikings. But as the game wore on, Valley found itself unable to keep pace with the shooting Stars.
Valley found itself leading the championship game 6-0 after Trippiedi intercepted a pass, and the combo of Trippiedi to Frentzel got the scoring started. The team speed of Bedford had them reclaim the lead at 16-6 before Thompson scrambled and threw a bomb to Trippiedi for a score.
At 16-12, that was the closest Valley would get to the eventual state champs. Bedford would rattle off 28 straight points to run out a 44-12 lead before Valley could get back on the board. Frentzel would then change roles and find Trippiedi for a touchdown pass, and Cheyenne Barngrover would get herself into the record books with a touchdown run, followed by the two-point conversion to wrap up the contest.
“We just ran into a Bedford buzzsaw in that second game,” Shriver said. “We didn’t have the team speed to keep up with their athletes.
“The runner-up trophy, though, is not a bad way to end the season. We had some struggles in that second game, but the way the kids finished it out, both in the huddle and afterwards, really made us coaches proud. There were some great lessons learned. And those are the most important things. The kids showed they care for one another, the consoled each other and that’s the biggest reward.”
Valley concluded its first Unified Flag Football season 5-1 overall.
“Football is an emotional game, played by emotional people,” added Shriver. “It means something. The relationships that you build, whether in victory or defeat, that’s what is important. This is a great day for Valley. We had great community support all this week, and we probably had the biggest crowd here. The kids loved it. They felt like they were playing for more than just themselves.”