Shepherd’s 3 TDs lift Valley past North Judson
Defense holds Jays to 113 yards in improving to 5-0
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
NORTH JUDSON –- It’s not the Bell, but the Tippecanoe Valley football team got the satisfaction of beating an undefeated, ranked team on their home field Friday.
Braden Shepherd scored three touchdowns – two scores rushing in the first half and one touchdown receiving in the second half – and the Valley defense held North Judson to 113 total yards and made a crucial fourth down stop on North Judson’s first possession in recording a 26-10 win at Liberty Field Friday.
Jamasyn Virgil also had a 10-yard touchdown run for Class 3A, No. 9 Valley, who improved to 5-0. Class 1A, No. 7 North Judson fell to 4-1.
“You know, it’s great,” Valley coach Stephen Moriarty said. “It’s a good feeling. I’m glad for the kids. All their hard work has paid off.”
Cheyenne Allen had a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter for North Judson. Blay Gomez kicked a 27-yard field goal with 7:03 left to complete the scoring.
Valley was scheduled to play Rochester in their annual Bell brawl this week, and North Judson was supposed to play Class 1A, No. 5 Winamac in their first meeting since dropping last year’s sectional final to the Warriors.
But when Rochester and Winamac could not play due to coronavirus-related reasons, Valley and North Judson agreed to a game approximately 52 hours before kickoff. This was their first meeting since 2004.
“Their defense, I'm telling you, is the best defense we’ve seen all year,” Moriarty said of North Judson, who came in allowing fewer than 10 points per game. “They do a great job. There’s a reason that they’re 4-0 – because of their defense.”
No opponent or lack of preparation time – the players were handed a game plan on Thursday afternoon at practice – has been able to impede Valley. The only time they have trailed at any point in any game was 2-0 in the first quarter against Peru two weeks ago.
Already leading 14-7 at halftime, Valley held North Judson without a first down in the third quarter.
Valley took a 20-7 lead on their second possession of the second half. The drive included two personal foul penalties on North Judson – one on a Shepherd punt return that put the ball on the Valley 49 and a face mask foul on a run by Shepherd.
Virgil, who was limited to four yards of total offense in the first half, had three carries for 27 yards on the drive and finished it off with a 10-yard touchdown run on a counter.
After another North Judson three-and-out, Valley went on a nine-play, 85-yard drive. Branson McBrier dropped a 21-yard pass on third-and-five from the 20 right over Virgil’s shoulder and into his hands. Dalton Alber also converted a third down with a 19-yard rumble.
Two plays after a Shepherd 34-yard touchdown run was called back by a penalty, McBrier threw a middle screen to Shepherd in space. He cut it outside to the left sideline for a 44-yard touchdown reception and a 26-7 lead.
“We've ran it two times, and we’ve scored on it two times,” a smiling Shepherd said of the middle screen. “A lot of cuts involved and a lot of vision, but it seems like whenever I get that, the whole game just slows down, and I can see the line that I need to follow, all the cuts I need to make, all the blocks develop perfectly. It’s just great.”
While the Viking defense inhibited the North Judson offense in the third quarter, their biggest moment might have occurred two minutes into the game.
North Judson faced a fourth-and-1 from their own 30 on the opening possession and decided to go for it. Quarterback Aldric Harper handed to freshman Brock Benson, but middle linebacker D.J. Estep, Evan Maish and Alber stood up Benson and dropped him with help from Virgil at outside linebacker.
“I think that set the tone for the defense for the rest of the night,” Moriarty said.
Estep had never played middle linebacker before but moved there after Joel Cisneros suffered a season-ending injury.
“A lot,” Estep said when asked how much he had to learn about playing middle linebacker. “I know a lot about football, so I just read the fullback and go where he goes and hurt. … I’m the captain and leader of the defense, so that’s my job.”
Valley faced their own fourth down on the ensuing possession, and McBrier looked for Wade Jones. Jones fell down, regained his footing and caught an 11-yard pass from McBrier to extend the drive.
Shepherd turned the corner around the left side for a 15-yard touchdown run on the next play. Virgil’s two-point conversion run made it 8-0.
Shepherd straddled the left sideline on a sweep on Valley’s first possession of the second quarter and took it for a 61-yard touchdown to make it 14-0.
Allen’s punt return, in which he spun out of a tackle attempt from Jones the punter, cut the lead to 14-7.
Estep said it was “shocking” when he found out on Wednesday that Valley would not be playing Rochester.
“We’ve got a competition game, and we’ve got a ranked team, and we came out and handed it to them, so it feels great,” Estep said.
VALLEY 26, NORTH JUDSON 10
Valley 8 6 6 6 – 26
North Judson 0 7 0 3 – 10
TV – Braden Shepherd 15 run (Jamasyn Virgil run)
TV – Shepherd 61 run (run failed)
NJSP – Cheyenne Allen 65 punt return (Blay Gomez kick)
TV – Jamasyn Virgil 10 run (pass failed)
TV – Shepherd 44 pass from Branson McBrier (run failed)
NJSP – Gomez 27 FG
Watch entire game here: