AKRON – If Friday night was any indication for the 2019 Tippecanoe Valley football team, the coaching staff may not have any hair left on its collective heads by season’s end.
A game mostly controlled by Valley for much of the first three quarters turned into a heartstopper in what became a 28-21 Viking win over the Northfield Norse at Death Valley.
Valley led 21-10 in the third quarter thanks to a 66-yard touchdown run by Tanner Trippiedi which was scripted to be a pass, but Trippiedi’s vision downfield saw openings and the senior speedster took it. Northfield, however, came right back with an impressive drive ending with Clayton Tomlinson catching a five-yard touchdown pass from Levi Fulkerson. The two-pointer from Tomlinson to Seth Forsyth cut the lead just like that to three at 21-18.
Where Viking head coach Steve Moriarty and his staff were pulling out their hair came early in the fourth, where Valley had embarked on a drive that had them inside the Norse five. Rather than running the ball, Trippiedi tried to fit a pass into tight coverage, and was picked off at the one.
After trading punts, Northfield drove inside the Valley 10 with five minutes left and settled for a Trent Osborn 22-yard field goal to tie the game.
Where Moriarty feels his team has turned a corner, citing sentiment to the Culver Academy game a week ago, his team didn’t fold. Four long runs from Dakota Gaff got Valley inside the Norse 15. The drive then capped with Jacob Eherenman toting the rock seven yards for the go-ahead score with 1:33 left. After Valley fell behind 17 at CMA last week and rallying to it a one-score game, then seeing the team’s resolve this week, Moriarty feels his team is on to something.
“Yeah, we’ve seen it now two weeks in a row when we could have been down and out, we decided to fight,” Moriarty said. “We came back and almost caught Culver Academy, and this week after they tied it, that would have been real easy to find a reason to just say here we go again. But the guys dug down, our offensive line made some big blocks, and we ran down the field and got the score. That was very nice to see.”
Eherenman would put a bow on the win with a sack of Fulkerson on fourth down on a well-timed blitz from the outside.
Trippiedi accounted for three of the four Valley scores. His 25-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Potter to open the second quarter started the scoring. Then using his legs, Trippiedi cut through the heart of the Norse defense for a 49-yard sprint and score. Trippiedi only had three rushes for positive yards on the night, but had 105 on the ground to go with his 123 yards passing.
Gaff ran nine times for 72 yards, 46 of those coming on the final drive. Gaff was also in on over a half dozen tackles, twice making stops on third down that halted Northfield drives.
Jaydin Conley added 80 yards of total offense.
“At the end of the game, Dakota was running the ball so hard and refused to go down,” Moriarty said. “That’s just Dakota Gaff in general. He’s a hard-nosed kid. And the nice thing about him at safety, we just say ‘see ball, get ball.’ There’s a lot of coverages and things with the 4-3 we run, it lets him sprint up. He’ll be a very key player against a very improved Peru team with a running back that can really run the ball well.”
Alex Haupert had a 19-yard score for the Norse and, in traditionally is a rushing offense, Fulkerson was 12-28 passing for 119 yards. Northfield ran the ball 33 times for 128 yards in its multi-dimensional rushing attack.
Valley, which snapped a five-game slide to Northfield Friday night, moves to 1-1 on the season, but gets a leg up on the Three Rivers Conference race with the win. Valley will visit upstart Peru next week, which starts 2-0 for the first time since 2013.