By Dalton Tinklenberg
BUNKER HILL – The Tippecanoe Valley Vikings were seeking their first 7-0 start in over 30 years while the Maconaquah Braves hoped to play spoiler. Ultimately, Valley dominated the evening with a 57-6 victory.
In a game that started at 7pm, it took over an over to play further than three minutes into the game. That was due to two potentially devastating and extremely scary injuries. First, Maconaquah senior Gavin Love took a tumble after the very first play of the game. Unfortunately, there was not an ambulance on hand and Love was forced to remain on the field until one could arrive. After approximately 20 minutes, he was finally taken away for treatment.
Then just a few moments later, Maconaquah sophomore Kolton Pindell would wind up on the turf. This time, a suspected injury to the head or neck region took all of the air out of both crowds. Fans and players alike looked on as the young man lay surrounded in the middle of the field by team medical staffs, again waiting for another ambulance to arrive.
Coming out of the delay and already holding an 8-0 lead, Valley wasted little time further expanding its lead. After stopping the Braves on fourth down, a common theme on the night, Braden Shepherd took a handoff 26 yards for a rushing touchdown. That extended the Viking lead to 16-0.
“To keep your focus when you have injuries like this, you get hyped up and then there’s the low,” said Valley head coach Steve Moriarty. “Somebody got injured we have to wait 15 minutes. [It’s] hype up and then low. So for the players to stay focused and come out and continue to do their job, they are a very good offense. I’m very proud of their focus tonight. I think as coach Brown talked about after the game, we improved this week. You get better, you get worse, or you stay the same. I thought this week we got better in practice and I think it showed on the field because it’s a very good, tough quarterback and he throws the ball.”
As aforementioned, the Braves seemed to have given their punter the night off. Maconaquah went for it on fourth down and failed a staggering seven times on the night, including a few attempts deep in their own territory.
“Right at the beginning of the game, they tried two times in a row inside their own 30 to go for it on fourth down,” said Moriarty. “Our defense just was heads up and did a good job of knocking down the pass the one time and tripping the kid up the next. So I was very proud of doing our job tonight.”
“No, I called them off a couple times,” continued Moriarty when asked if he had expected Maconaquah not to punt. “Go out, don’t come back up. I figured that we would see a few punts maybe.”
By the time halftime rolled around, the Vikings held a 36-0 lead and had secured a running clock for the second half.
Unfortunately for the Braves, the second half was more of the same. Failed fourth down conversions and a dominant Valley offense controlled things early and often. The three-headed monster of Shepherd, Rex Kirchenstien, and Branson McBrier combined for two more scores in the third quarter before the backups began entering the game.
Junior Marcus Jansma added the final Valley touchdown on the night to put the Vikings ahead, 57-0. To Maconaquah’s credit, the Braves never gave in. To a surprising uproar from the home crowd, Maconaquah quarterback Braxton Birner completed a 25 yard pass to Kendel Ellis to score a touchdown as time expired.
Valley would easily claim the victory and hit the elusive 7-0 mark.
“It’s due to the coaches and players and all their hard work,” said Moriarty when asked about the 7-0 accomplishment. “It’s all combined. It is a great honor for the team and the staff to get to that point. We have a lot of work, this was a goal, but it is not the goal.”
McBrier completed six of eight passes for 162 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The rushing attack was led by Shepherd who amassed 111 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries. Shepherd also added 74 receiving yards and another touchdown on one reception.
The Vikings (7-0, 5-0 TRC) will travel to Wabash (1-5, 1-3 TRC) next Friday. The Vikings currently hold a half game lead on Northfield (5-1 TRC) with two weeks to go. The Vikings haven’t started 7-0 since the 1987 season when the team opened 9-0.