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  • Val T.

Valley football preview: Moriarty on new schedule: It’s OK to be ‘uncomfortable’

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

The Tippecanoe Valley football team will open its season with a road game against Wawasee at 7 p.m. Friday. The Vikings are coming off a 9-2 season in 2022. They shared the Three Rivers Conference title in what turned out to be their last year in the conference.


Tippecanoe Valley informed the other nine schools in the Three Rivers Conference that they were leaving the conference on March 31.

Three weeks later, the other nine TRC schools voted 8-0-1 to remove Valley from the TRC effective at the end of the 2022-23 school year. Valley finished in a three-way tie for the conference title last year with Rochester and Southwood.

Valley coach Stephen Moriarty said leaving the TRC was like leaving “good friends” and said he will miss the “good memories.”

“I would have liked to have had one more chance at it,” Moriarty said of not being able to win a conference title. “But the positives outweigh the negatives in the fact that it will prepare us for the future in the playoffs. The other thing is it will be in a situation where our kids aren’t going to be comfortable every time. There’s kind of a routine in the TRC. You know who you’re playing the next week. You know where the locker rooms are. And that’s OK, but I want them to be uncomfortable a little bit, so when they get in the playoffs, they’re used to being uncomfortable. And seeing teams that look like small colleges as they warm up, so we’re not shocked when we get there.”

Lewis Cass accepted an invitation to join the conference and essentially inherited Valley’s conference schedule.

So facing a year as an independent, how did Valley put together a schedule for 2023? Actually, it was not so hard given that Valley was coming off a 9-2 season in 2022. They are 39-16 since 2018.

“It came together relatively quickly,” Moriarty said. “Being one of the first ones to leave the conference, and then it kind of roller coastered from there. We had a lot of calls very quickly, knowing that we would have an opening.”

For one thing, they wanted to keep Rochester on the schedule. In fact, the Zebras and Vikings will meet at Rochester on Aug. 25. The teams have played every year since 1978 with the exception of 2021, when the game was canceled due to pandemic-related reasons.

Moriarty described the agreement between the schools to play as a “forever deal.”

“Probably our number one priority,” Moriarty said when asked how important it was to keep Rochester on the schedule. “You know, we knew right off the bat that was our first scheduled game. Because of the rich tradition, and it’s so good for both communities. To lose them would be devastating to Valley football, not just to Rochester football but to Valley football. Losing that big rival, and that’s a game that means something for both communities.”

Valley will also play Jimtown, John Glenn and Bremen in Weeks 6, 8 and 9, respectively. All of those schools will be in Valley’s new, yet-to-be-named conference that will begin play next fall. All of those schools were scheduled to play South Bend Clay in those specific weeks. South Bend Clay is closing after this school year, and they are fielding their final football squad this fall.

Knox and LaVille are the other schools in the new conference, and those schools will be added to the schedule next year.

Wawasee is back as Valley’s season-opening game for the third straight year.

Additions to this year’s schedule include West Lafayette, who went 13-1 last season and won a regional title; Twin Lakes, whose coach Kevin O’Shea coached Lafayette Central Catholic to state titles in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015; Tipton, a 10-time sectional champion who was in the state finals as recently as 2013; and Culver Academy, who has won their last 11 meetings with Valley and who has not lost to the Vikings since 2010.

“Playing West Lafayette, I knew that was one we had our eye on for awhile,” Moriarty said. “Because they had gotten beat by Chatard and Brebeuf in the semistate the last two years, and we knew that would be good prep for us going into a sectional where you could possibly face Chatard or Guerin Catholic.”

Smaller, quicker offensive line

Cody Eastgate will return as quarterback for Valley, and returning weapons include running back Nate Parker and Wade Jones, the regional 200-meter champion in track whom Moriarty will play more receiver this year. Cody Black and Brason Smith will join him at receiver.

Landon Durkes, who is listed at 6-4 and 240 pounds, returns at tight end.

“He will definitely play in college at the next level,” Moriarty said.

Brock Derf and Grady Moriarty figure to get more carries at fullback.

The part of the offense that might see the biggest changes is the line. Issiac Ramsey moves from fullback to center, and Dalton Alber moves from fullback to left guard.

Asher McGriff is the right guard. Cameron Mason, who missed last season with a knee injury, is the right tackle. Phil Smith will protect Eastgate’s blind side at left tackle.

“His aggressiveness,” Moriarty said when asked what he liked about Ramsey, who weighs approximately 170 pounds. “He’s just very fast and flies off the ball. He’s one of those kids that everytime, he just sells out. We had to find a spot for him on the field because of his aggressiveness and his good leadership.

“You’re going to see a common theme on the offensive line that we’re smaller and faster. Kind of like the guards were last year.”

Valley has a mixture of veterans and newcomers in their front seven on defense, which includes Mason and Smith at defensive tackle, Alber and Kyler Johnson at defensive end, Brock Derf at middle linebacker and Grady Moriarty and Durkes at outside linebacker.

Jones, who led the state in interceptions at safety in 2021, highlights the secondary.

“This will probably be the best defense I’ve coached,” coach Moriarty said. “If not, top three. They’re fast and hard and just very aggressive.”

Schedule

Aug. 18 – at Wawasee, 7 p.m.

Aug. 25 – at Rochester, 7 p.m.

Sept. 1 – vs. Twin Lakes, 7 p.m.

Sept. 8 – vs. Tipton, 7 p.m.

Sept. 15 – vs. Culver Academy, 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 – vs. Jimtown, 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 – at West Lafayette, 7 p.m.

Oct. 7 – at John Glenn, 7 p.m. (Saturday)

Oct. 13 – vs. Bremen, 7 p.m.

Oct. 20 – Class 3A, Sectional 28 quarterfinal

Class 3A, Sectional 28

Valley

Guerin Catholic

Hamilton Heights

Indianapolis Chatard

Maconaquah

Northwestern

Oak Hill

Peru


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