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  • Val T.

Wade’s world: Jones throws TD pass, runs for TD as Valley wins 4th straight Bell

Deming runs for 2 TDs for Zebras in 26-17 loss


Sports Editor, RTC

AKRON — The Tippecanoe Valley football team had tried the halfback pass in practice where Wade Jones throws to Nate Parker.

It works about one out of every four times they try it, according to Valley coach Stephen Moriarty. But in the Bell game against Rochester, where legends can be made in one night, Jones threw a 47-yard touchdown strike to an open Parker on the first pass of his varsity career and later ran 4 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter as the Vikings beat visiting the visiting Zebras 26-17 at Smith-Bibler Field, Home of Death Valley Football.

Dalton Alber also had a touchdown run, and Cody Eastgate threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Landon Durkes for Valley, who improved to 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the Three Rivers Conference.

Valley won their 14th consecutive regular season game and their fourth straight Bell game. They beat Rochester from 2018-20 before the pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2021 game. They have not lost to Rochester at home since 2014.

Alex Deming had touchdown runs of 5 and 1 yards for Rochester, who fell to 4-1, 3-1 TRC. Junior kicker Parker Wallace connected on both of his extra points and also booted a 37-yard field goal in the first quarter.

Rochester’s streak of six consecutive regular season wins dating back to last year was snapped. They were limited to 151 yards after going over 400 yards in three of their first four games.

Moriarty credited his defensive players for playing assignment football and its “gap control” – essentially clogging the space between offensive linemen and giving fullback Deming and his wingback associates nowhere to run.

Valley was aware of what they had accomplished afterwards.

“For the most part, I think we held our own,” Moriarty said. “But what a good team. Rochester is a tough team, and they won’t lose the rest of the year.”

Jones’ touchdown toss to Parker came just 4:02 into the game to give Valley a 6-0 lead. He was lined up at a left wingback spot and was in jet motion when Eastgate pitched him the ball on the move to the right. Parker was 10 yards open behind the defense, juggled it at the Rochester 15 and raced to the end zone.

“That is actually something we just recently put in, and it hasn't worked that good in practice yet, so I was glad to finally put it in a game, and it worked out like I did,” Jones said. “So I was really excited for that pass.”

Rochester coach Ron Shaffer said it was a breakdown in coverage.

“We got a guy running up thinking he’s going to run-support, and he’s got to be in pass coverage, and he’s got to be deep,” Shaffer said.

Valley remained ahead the rest of the way, overcoming two turnovers that led to 10 Rochester points in the first half and a yellow-hanky parade – three personal fouls in a three-play span – which Deming capped with a 1-yard run into the end zone in the third quarter.

Jones’ 4-yard touchdown on a rocket sweep to the left gave Valley a 26-17 lead with 10:33 left. Parker’s 64-yard kickoff return to the Rochester 19 keyed the drive.

“Nate impacts the game every time he touches the ball, whether it be defensively, offensively, special teams, running the ball, catching the ball,” Moriarty said. “Nate Parker is very elusive and does a great job.”

At that point, the Rochester offense, which had been held to 55 yards of total offense, embarked on an eight-play drive that gained 48 yards, but it ended on a fumbled quarterback-center exchange between Aaron Swango and center Austin Rogers, and Valley recovered at their own 21 with 7:33 left.

Valley drained 3:31 off the clock and punted. Rochester drove another 48 yards, which included a 22-yard pass from Swango to Luhnow on fourth-and-7.

But that drive ended with Parker intercepting Swango, and Valley spilled the last 1:16 off the clock.

After committing only two turnovers all season in the first 19 quarters of the season, the Zebras committed turnovers on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter.

“We just didn’t control the line of scrimmage until later in the game and then a lot of mental mistakes, and we put the ball on the ground,” Shaffer said. “We can’t put the ball on the ground when we’re driving inside of their 25 or whatever it was. We knew we were going to be up against a really good defense, and I thought attrition would be a part of it, and it was. We just can’t fumble the football and put it on the ground.”

After that, it was bedlam on the field, a mass of green-jerseyed Valley players and black-shirted members of the student section converging amidst a scented smoke bomb cloud, all while singing the fight song in front of the bleachers. Then came a mass of photos in front of the Bell adjacent to the student section.

Rochester’s first score was set up when Eli Swango forced a Landon Durkes fumble after catching a 7-yard pass from Eastgate. Hunter Campbell picked up the loose ball and returned it 40 yards to the Valley 20 before fumbling it out of bounds, and Wallace kicked his field goal four plays later.

After an exchange of punts, Valley went on a 10-play, 65-yard drive for a score. One play after a Jones 11-yard run on a counter, Eastgate feathered a 23-yard pass to his right to Durkes, a junior tight end, for a touchdown. Gage Overbey’s extra point made it 13-3.

But on Valley’s next possession, Eli Swango forced another fumble and then fell on it himself at the Valley 15.

Two runs later, Deming scored to make it 13-10.

Valley drove down to the Rochester 25, but Overbey missed a 40-yard field goal with 27.5 seconds left in the half.

Valley got the ball again to start the second half and drove 75 yards in 10 plays with Alber driving straight ahead from the 7 for a touchdown. Parker had four carries for 43 yards on the drive, including a 5-yard quarterback sneak on third-and-1 from the 12.

All 75 yards came on the ground.

“A lot of power, a lot of off-tackle stuff,” Shaffer said of Valley's second-half offense. “We talked about adjustments at halftime, and we just couldn’t quite get it executed tonight physically.”

Rochester responded with its own 62-yard touchdown drive on its first second-half possession. Three Valley personal foul penalties accounted for 45 of those yards, including a double personal foul called after a Luhnow 1-yard run that moved the ball from the Rochester 39 to the Valley 29.

Later in the drive, a Luhnow 12-yard counter to the right gave Rochester a first-and-goal at the Valley 1, and Deming churned his legs to the end zone on the next play to cut the Valley lead to 20-17.

But Rochester would get no closer.

About a half-hour after the game, with the stands mostly vacant, the Valley seniors came out for one more round of photos with the Bell before carefully lifting it as a group and taking it back to the locker room, a quiet-by-comparison moment of a football family that contrasted with the carnival-like atmosphere – loud music, intoxicating food aromas – that started more than an hour before the game.

Consider it a joint community celebration for football programs that have reclaimed their former glory. But only one team gets to celebrate in the end.

Tippecanoe Valley 26, Rochester 17

Rochester 3 7 7 0 – 17

Valley 6 7 7 6 – 26

First quarter

TV – Nate Parker 47 pass from Wade Jones (run failed)

RHS – Parker Wallace 37 FG

Second quarter

TV – Landon Durkes 23 pass from Cody Eastgate (Gage Overbey kick)

RHS – Alex Deming 5 run (Wallace kick)

Third quarter

TV – Dalton Alber 7 run (Overbey kick)

RHS – Deming 1 run (Wallace kick)

Fourth quarter

TV – Jones 4 run (kick blocked)

Watch the Game Here:

Tippecanoe Valley players and students sing the school fight song in front of the home bleachers after the Vikings beat Rochester 26-17 at Smith-Bibler Memorial Field, Home of Death Valley Football, Friday.

Tippecanoe Valley students, players and cheerleaders celebrate in front of the Bell following the Vikings’ 26-17 win over Rochester Friday. Valley has won the last four Bell meetings from the Zebras.

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