- Val T.
Week 11 football preview: Undefeated Mishawaka Marian comes up smelling like a Bogunia with star QB
After beating SB Washington, Valley hopes for repeat running game performance from Cisneros, Virgil
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Class 3A, Sectional 26 semifinal: Mishawaka Marian (8-0) at Tippecanoe Valley (7-3), 7 p.m.
Trailing 14-13 at halftime, Valley broke loose for 24 points in the third quarter and went on to beat South Bend Washington 49-22 in a Class 3A, Sectional 26 quarterfinal last week.
Joel Cisneros finished with 128 yards rushing, and Jamasyn Virgil added another 89. Valley had success running behind right guard Wade Melanson and right tackle D.J. Estep.
“Offensively, we started running some plays back away from the grain,” Valley coach Stephen Moriarty said. “Jamasyn Virgil broke those first two runs and went deep, and that kind of set the tone for the second half.”
Virgil also played an important role on defense. Moriarty said the defense was attuned to South Bend Washington’s alignment in the heavy formation. At halftime, Valley adjusted back to their base defense, but Virgil received an important instruction: Keep an eye out for the counter play and do not get sucked in the wrong direction.
Valley wound up forcing six turnovers, and Karl Parker returned a fumble for a touchdown to close out the scoring in the fourth quarter.
The challenge for Valley this week figures to be steeper. Mishawaka Marian is undefeated and ranked No. 2. They have won five consecutive sectional titles, and they are also the defending regional champion.
While Valley doesn’t have any wins over teams in higher classes, the Knights have five wins, including a win at Class 6A Penn back on Sept. 25.
Mishawaka Marian beat Lakeland 40-6 last week.
Quarterback Maddix Bogunia and running back Malcom Anderson highlight the Mishawaka Marian attack.
Bogunia has passed for over 1,100 yards and run for over 300. He has accounted for 25 touchdowns either passing or running.
Moriarty calls Mishawaka Marian’s offense a “quarterback zone option.” If the opposing defensive end comes down too hard on Anderson, then Bogunia might fake it if he thinks he can break contain.
Jayson Johnson, Greg Atkinson and Davion Taylor are all receivers who are in double figures on the season in receptions and all three have at least three touchdown receptions.
Moriarty said the key will be to get Bogunia to make decisions he doesn’t want to make.
“Bogunia is a very good athlete, and he is a general,” Moriarty said. “He does a very good job of avoiding contact and being able to get rid of the ball. The other thing he does very well is his play-action play fakes, where he draws you in and zips it as soon as you bite. … It’s more of a spread offense. Their goal is to get it in open spaces to their wide receivers and let them make plays. So coverage-wise, it will be difficult to cover all of them because they’re all pretty well equal in talent. Anderson out of the backfield does a good job of running the ball. He is a very good north-and-south runner.”
Meanwhile, the Mishawaka Marian defense has allowed only six points in their last two games combined.
Junior linebacker Setefano Sete – “probably the best linebacker we’ve played all year,” Moriarty said – averages over eight tackles a game. Senior safety Gavin Stefanek also averages over eight tackles per game.
“Their linebackers are outstanding,” Moriarty said. “Their defensive front is very tall and athletic, and it gives their linebackers free roam to fly to the ball. … This is a very sound football team. They don’t have a lot of letdowns or mistakes on defense.”
Valley will be without Braden Shepherd, Alex Craft, Hunter Eherenman and Wade Jones, but Ben Bowser and Johnny Gonsalez are back from their ailments.
But they know the stakes of this game. If they win, they will advance to a sectional final for the first time since 1993.
“They understand that this is a big game,” Moriarty said. “This is probably the biggest game we’ve played in four years, probably the highest-ranked team that we’ve played in four years. They’re excited. The fact that they get to come to Valley means a lot, so they get to defend their home turf. They were very excited with the big win last week. Their confidence is up. They know that there’s a challenge at hand, but they’re ready for it.”
This is Valley’s first game against Mishawaka Marian since 2008. Valley hasn’t beaten Mishawaka Marian since the 2003 sectional.
Valley broke a 10-game losing streak in postseason home games with their win over South Bend Washington.
The winner plays either West Noble or Jimtown in the sectional final.