Parker, Jones catch 2 TDs each, Vikes force 3 turnovers
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Seniors on the Tippecanoe Valley football team pose with the Bell after a 39-8 win over Rochester at Barnhart Field Friday. Valley has now won five straight Bell games. This was the first nonconference Bell game. The Bell was instituted as part of the rivalry in 1987, the same year Rochester joined the Three Rivers Conference. Valley is no longer in the TRC and is playing this season as an independent.
On a sticky August night, the Tippecanoe Valley football team enjoyed a sweet victory over host and archrival Rochester in the teams’ first nonconference regular season meeting since 1986.
Cody Eastgate threw for 239 yards and four touchdowns, and the Valley defense held host Rochester scoreless after the opening possession to earn a 39-8 win in the Bell game at Barnhart Field Friday.
Valley scored 39 unanswered points after allowing Alex Deming’s 43-yard touchdown run on Rochester’s opening drive.
Afterwards, the seniors posed with the Bell on the field, and Valley coach Stephen Moriarty recalled a text message that former Valley quarterback and 2013 grad Ben Shriver sent sophomore fullback-linebacker Grady Moriarty before the game.
The text quoted Jeff Shriver, Ben’s late father and the former Valley coach: The only bad thing about winning the Bell is that you have to wait a year to do it again.
Valley continues to win the Bell again and again. They have won it five straight times and have not lost it since 2017. (The 2021 Bell game was canceled due to the pandemic.)
Valley is 2-0. Rochester fell to 1-1.
Eastgate had more touchdown passes in this game than he had total completed passes (three) in last week’s 23-12 win over Wawasee.
“It feels great,” Eastgate said. “My last Bell game, good to keep it home. … I don’t know what it feels like to lose the Bell. Feels nice.”
Eastgate threw two touchdowns each to Nate Parker and Wade Jones. Parker also had a nifty 82-yard touchdown run with 1:05 in the first quarter that put Valley ahead for good. He took a sweep along the right sideline and cut back to the middle of the field and outraced Rochester’s defenders to put Valley ahead for good at 15-8.
Parker finished with 12 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown, and he also had five receptions for 92 yards. Jones, Valley’s regional champion track star, had three receptions for 96 yards.
With Valley ahead by 31 points, neither Parker nor Jones were needed to touch the ball in the fourth quarter.
Landon Durkes had two receptions for 65 yards, including a 56-yard pass from Eastgate that hit the lumbering 265-pound Durkes in stride and set up a field goal.
“I think a little bit,” Rochester coach Ron Shaffer said when asked if he thought Eastgate and the receivers were trying to exploit the Zebras’ sophomore defenders. “Just we’re struggling to defend their run the way we wanted to, so now you’re pressing there a little bit more. Not press coverage but just pressing to try and stop the run, and all of a sudden now, you know you’re in bad positions for the pass. Just a lot of work to do there.”
Deming ran 17 times for 121 yards and a touchdown for the Zebras. Brant Beck toted the ball seven times for 82 yards, including a 47-yard run on Rochester’s second possession.
Beck’s long run might have been Rochester’s final offensive highlight. Three plays later, Colton Ferverda took a pitch from quarterback Carson Paulik, and Valley defensive end Kyler Johnson swarmed him as he took the pitch. Ferverda dropped the pitch as Johnson hit him, and Cameron Mason recovered.
Two plays after that was Parker’s 82-yard run.
Rochester has averaged 39 points per game since the start of the 2022 season. But in two games against Valley during that time, they are averaging 12.5.
“The kids tonight sure played with heart,” coach Moriarty said of his defense. “We moved our defensive front quite a bit to keep them off balance a little bit. Confusion sometimes helps.”
Rochester got a defensive stop on Valley’s next drive despite Valley taking over at the Rochester 25 after a 12-yard punt and a Rochester personal foul penalty. But officials cited Valley for three penalties on the drive (false start, holding, illegal use of hands), and Gage Overbey missed a 35-yard field goal wide right.
Seemingly buoyed by the miss, Rochester gained 44 yards rushing on the next six plays, but Jones and Nate Engstrand forced a Deming fumble – it’s a technique that they practice, according to coach Moriarty – and Valley’s Cody Black recovered at his own 27 with 4:00 left in the half.
Durkes’ catch and Overbey’s 41-yard field goal – it’s his second 40-yard-plus field goal already – made it 18-8.
And then more disaster for the Zebras.
A low, buzzing onside kick deflected off the hand of a player on Rochester’s front wall, and Valley’s Kolyn Grossmen recovered at the Zebra 48.
On the next play, Eastgate rolled to his left and found Parker, a senior, getting one-on-one coverage from a Zebra sophomore. He hit Parker for a 48-yard touchdown, and the 10 points in nine seconds helped Valley to a 25-8 lead at halftime.
“Week 1 can be rough sometimes,” Eastgate said. “I think that’s all it was. My wide receivers made some good plays. I’m not going to lie, some nice catches. Nice win.”
Rochester did not get a first down on their first four possessions of the second half.
Valley junior middle linebacker Brock Derf complimented Zebra fullback Deming, saying it takes a few guys to get him down.
Derf said he got a text message before the game from the man he replaced, Class of 2023 middle linebacker Noah Prater. He said Prater gave him tips on how to handle Rochester’s offense. Derf later called Prater his “role model.”
“It feels amazing,” Derf said. “We started putting more on the line. We stopped the run game, We started getting more aggressive. We shut them down. It made us mad. We took advantage of that.”
Shaffer complimented Valley’s run defense.
“They just physically got off the ball faster than us,” Shaffer said. “They took it to us. We got tired unfortunately, and that falls on me. I didn’t have us ready physically and didn’t have us ready for what was going to be part of the second half. We’re going to have to get better.”
Meanwhile, Valley scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the second half.
The first came on a 17-yard pass from Eastgate to Parker in the left flat in which he took the ball down the left sideline.
The second was a 45-yard pass where Jones took Eastgate’s pass and slalomed through the Rochester defense as if he were playing a video game.
For Rochester, the start was auspicious.
Valley took the opening kickoff down to the Rochester 32 after a 21-yard Parker reception, but two plays later, Beck picked off Eastgate and returned the ball 18 yards to the Rochester 37.
Rochester ran three straight off-tackle toss plays to Ferverda with Paulik helping out with the lead blocks as they ran to the side of Valley defensive end Dalton Alber.
Rochester would convert a fourth-and-5 when a Paulik hard count at the line of scrimmage drew a Valley offsides penalty. On third-and-13, Deming scored on a 43-yard run, and Ferverda scored a two-point conversion untouched.
On the ensuing possession, Rochester tacklers buried Parker for a 6-yard loss on a reception as Eastgate was under heavy pressure.
But on third-and-16 from the Rochester 37, Eastgate had Jones, a senior, being covered by a sophomore.
Jones beat him one-on-one for a score, and Parker tacked on the two-point conversion to tie the game at 8.
Eastgate was given specific instructions as to how to attack the Zebra defense. More specifically, avoid Beck in the middle of the field.
“He had calmed down,” coach Moriarty said of Eastgate. “We had put him in some positions where we tried to set him up, I guess you would say. ‘Hey, safety comes over the top, go deep. If he drops, hit the out route.’ And to get his rhythm up a little bit. Starting out with short passes was the plan, and then he went deep to Wade. I was very pleased with his ability just to stay poised.”
Valley 39, Rochester 8
Valley 15 10 14 0 – 39
Rochester 8 0 0 0 – 8
RHS – Alex Deming 43 run (Colton Ferverda run)
TV – Wade Jones 37 pass from Cody Eastgate (Nate Parker run)
TV – Parker 82 run (Gage Overbey kick)
TV – Overbey 41 FG
TV – Parker 48 pass from Eastgate (Overbey kick)
TV – Parker 17 pass from Eastgate (Overbey kick)
TV – Jones 45 pass from Eastgate (Overbey kick)