By Nick Goralczyk
AKRON – There was a chill that swept through Smith-Bibler Memorial Field just before kickoff Friday night, but it had nothing to do with the dropping temperature. A large home crowd stood in silence as Tippecanoe Valley seniors Quentin Aldridge and Trey Hardesty lead the Vikings across the field, to the home sideline, displaying a banner of Valley’s late coach and teacher Jeff Shriver.
As the banner made its way to the home bleachers, the crowd broke out into a loud cheer. What started as a cold chill in a moment of reverence for a man that embodied the Viking spirit, quickly evolved into a fever pitch before kicking off against bitter rival Rochester in the latest installment of The Battle for the Bell. The Vikings dedicated their play to ‘Shrive’ and they did not fail to honor him in what would be a 54-0 throttling of the visiting Zebras.
“I think he’d be really honored,” remarked Valley head coach Steve Moriarty when asked about the team’s performance in honor of coach Shriver. “The fact that we scored so many points was big, but the big thing that he always loved was that shutout. He was defense first, through and through.”
Shriver was known for his sayings, perhaps none more than yelling, in only the way he could, “Ya fired up!?” From carrying the banner and Bell onto the field before kickoff to the last snap, there was no doubt that the Vikings were fired up Friday night.
Valley forced a fumble on Rochester’s opening drive then went down the field in five plays, capping the drive with sneak at the goal line from Branson McBrier. A two-point conversion from Alex Craft made it 8-0 Vikings in the first quarter.
That score held until the second play of the second quarter when McBrier again found the end zone to make it 15-0. A Hunter Eherenman interception gave the ball back to the home team and set up a Jamasyn Virgil touchdown run to put Valley up 21-0. The staunch Viking defense forced its third punt of the first half on the ensuing drive. McBrier and the offense wasted no time in getting back on the scoreboard as the junior gunslinger found Rex Kirchenstien for a 51-yard passing score. Valley led 33-0 at the half following a short touchdown run from Alex Craft.
While Craft’s score before the half was the first time he found the end zone on the evening, it was far from the first time he made his name known on the field. Craft was everywhere on defense, wreaking havoc on Rochester signal caller Reece Renie with constant pressure and some “remember me” take downs. As impactful as Craft was throughout Friday’s game, one play truly stood out among the rest.
With Valley lead 47-0 in the third, the senior took a handoff and was met by a swarm of Zebras defenders in the backfield. Craft looked as if he would be dropped for a small loss, than escaped the pressure briefly only to be met by more Rochester would-be tacklers. What now looked like a 10-yard loss miraculously turned into a 15-yard touchdown run to put Valley up 54-0. The Zebras simply had no answers for Craft or anything that the Vikings had to offer.
Craft finished the night with 107 rushing yards to go with three touchdowns. McBrier added 32 rushing yards, ran for two scores and threw for another pair. McBrier was 6-6 on the night for 195 yards through the air. Eherenman had two interceptions in the game while freshman Wade Jones added another pick-off for the Vikings. Valley tallied 458 yards of total offense against Rochester.
The postgame celebration was emotional and electrifying. Aldridge and Hardesty led the team in singing the fight song, in front of the home crowd, Shriver banner in hand. Ben Shriver, son of the late coach and former Vikings quarterback, spoke to the team after the game to put a bow on top of a memorable evening. While football was a prominent role in Jeff Shriver’s impact on the Valley community, it was how he impacted students both on and off the field. That was the message that Hardesty had for his former coach after the game.
“Coach Shrive helped me a lot,” Hardesty began. “He helped me with my grades, he helped me with football, he helped me become a better man. It was such an honor to hold that banner in his memory. Everything we did tonight was for Shrive.”
The Vikings (3-2, 3-1) travel to Whitko (3-2, 2-2) next Friday. Valley beat the Wildcats in 2019 by a score of 42-0.