BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
AKRON –- Addressing the Tippecanoe Valley football team after their game against Rochester Friday, 2013 Valley grad and former quarterback Ben Shriver told the current players about how his dad left two-a-day practices to be there for his birth.
They then repeated the mantra that the late Jeff Shriver, the former Valley coach, said. It’s the same thing inscribed on the Valley players’ helmets.
“Good better best.”
Valley could not play much better Friday, beating visiting Rochester 54-0 in the Bell game at Smith-Bibler Memorial Field – Home of Death Valley Football.
Alex Craft ran for 107 yards and three touchdowns and also had two bruising sacks from his outside linebacker spot on defense.
Branson McBrier ran for two touchdowns on quarterback sneaks and also completed all six of his passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns. McBrier is 12 for 12 for 430 yards through the air in his last two games.
Jamasyn Virgil ran for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass, and Rex Kirchenstien caught a 51-yard touchdown pass.
Hunter Eherenman had two interceptions on defense, and freshman Wade Jones also had a pick.
Valley improved to 3-2 overall and 3-1 in the Three Rivers Conference.
“It was nice to see that we could spread the ball around like that,” Valley coach Stephen Moriarty said. “It’s hard to cover us as much as you can because you never know who’s going to hurt you. And I think with the fullbacks coming and getting some carries and getting some yards tonight, it truly opened up Craft on the outside and then in turn with McBrier being perfect again tonight, that doesn’t hurt when you can throw the ball and complete them all the time.”
The win allowed Valley to retain the Bell for the third straight year. Jeff Shriver was Valley’s head coach from 2006-13 – he oversaw the last Valley three-peat from 2011-13 in which his son, the school’s all-time passing yardage and touchdown pass leader, starred – and was also an assistant from 1990-2005 and again from 2014-16.
The win was the second largest margin of victory ever in the Rochester-Valley rivalry, following a 57-0 Valley win in 1981.
Coming off a 60-0 win over North Miami the previous week, Valley recorded consecutive shutouts for the first time since blanking Northfield and Wabash in 2011. They have five shutouts in their last 11 games dating back to last year.
It was also Valley’s first shutout of Rochester since 1994.
“They just physically handled us up front,” RHS coach Sean Kelly said. “We didn’t open any holes. We usually try to establish the run and set up some play-action passing. When you can’t establish the run, the play-action is usually not very good. So then you’re looking at trying to get some going throwing, and we just couldn’t.”
Valley led 33-0 at halftime, and Craft’s 34-yard touchdown run with 10:22 left in the third quarter triggered the running clock rule for the remainder of the game.
The Valley onslaught was relentless. After a Quentin Aldridge fumble recovery, McBrier threw a 34-yard deep seam route to Jamasyn Virgil for a touchdown to make it 47-0.
And after a Wade Jones interception and subsequent 29-yard return, Craft shed multiple tacklers almost 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage before straddling the sideline for a highlight film 10-yard touchdown run to make it 54-0.
“We just came to practice focused and being ready,” Craft said. “The seniors, we’ve been on everyone. We’ve been leading the team trying to get everything we can do to try to be the best team we can be. It’s coming out the past two weeks and coming good. We need to keep working to finish out the season on top of everyone.”
The youthful Zebras (0-3, 0-3) managed just 64 yards of offense and five first downs while committing four turnovers. The 54-point margin of defeat made this RHS’ worst loss since a 70-6 loss to Northfield in 2016.
RHS started last season 3-1, but they have gone 1-9 since.
“They had a predominantly senior and junior lineup,” Kelly said. “They’re playing a lot of seniors, and we’re throwing kids out there that are 15, 16 years old trying to go against senior kids that are 17 and 18 years old. And it showed. We just have to be patient and try to bring these kids along and get them to improve and try not to get too discouraged.
“They need to see that their future’s bright. But right now, they’re young kids trying to go against a lot of older kids.”
RHS two-way junior lineman Braedon Pinder left the game with an apparent ankle injury, but Kelly said he participated in light conditioning work Saturday.
Junior running back-defensive back Braden Shepherd missed his fourth straight game with an injury. Craft has filled in at running back despite never having played there in a varsity game.
“It’s kind of random,” Craft said of his play at running back. “It just came to me, and I said, ‘I\’ll do anything you need me to do, Coach.’”
Tippecanoe Valley 54, Rochester 0
Rochester 0 0 0 0 – 0
Valley 8 25 21 0 – 54
TV – Branson McBrier 1 run (Alex Craft run)
TV – McBrier 1 run (Joel Cisneros kick)
TV – Jamasyn Virgil 2 run (pass failed)
TV – Rex Kirchenstien 51 pass from McBrier (kick failed)
TV – Craft 3 run (pass failed)
TV – Craft 34 run (Craft run)
TV – Virgil 34 pass from McBrier (pass failed)
TV – Craft 10 run (Cisneros kick)