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  • Val T.

Week 11 preview: Valley defense will try to take it to the ‘Houze,’ Guerin Catholic


Sports Editor, RTC

Class 3A, Sectional 28 semifinal: Guerin Catholic (6-4) at Tippecanoe Valley (9-1), 7 p.m.

(winner plays Indianapolis Chatard-Hamilton Heights winner in final)

The Valley football team made adjustments in the second half to their running game and turned a tenuous 6-0 halftime lead into a 43-0 rout after three quarters in an eventual 50-0 win over Peru last week.

Nate Parker led the way with 15 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown, but Parker was one of nine different Valley ball carriers that combined for 6.4 yards per carry for the night.

A successful running game might be crucial against a Guerin Catholic defense that allowed 236 rushing yards in a 24-21 win over No. 3 Oak Hill last week.

Valley coach Stephen Moriarty said the team took on an “enough-is-enough-let’s-go” attitude at halftime.

“I feel that we started running a little bit about to the weak side because they were really overloading really towards the strength and even to motion, so coming back across motion and then we found a few little holes and wrinkles where we could really hit the passing game,” Moroarty said. “(Markus) Bernicky had that one catch and long run that really set us up for that first score. And then the defense had a couple turnovers which really set that third quarter, where we scored 37.”

Wade Jones returned from a two-game injury-related absence – Moriarty declined to specify the injury – and had four receptions for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Jones, a state qualifier in the 200 meters in track, could be Valley’s best athlete, and his offensive skills only covers part of how he helps the team, according to Moriarty.

“The big thing is on defense, he’s that blanket that kind of covers the middle,” Moriarty explained. “And it’s hard to go deep across Wade. Having him back there, it does set the tone a little bit different on the defense. It makes us play a little bit freer on the corners.”

Defensively, Valley held Peru to 122 total yards, and that marks the sixth time in 10 games this season in which they have held their opponent under 200 yards.

Stopping Guerin Catholic, however, might be a task on a different level.

Guerin Catholic averages 31 points per game, and they have done that against a schedule that included six Class 4A and 5A teams, and they have done so with a backup quarterback for the last seven games.

And last week, they took out previously unbeaten Oak Hill in the quarterfinals. Oak Hill came in allowing just five points per game and had notched shutouts in three of their last four regular season games. The 24 points allowed were a season high.

Sophomore lefty Malcolm Houze took over at quarterback for Ryan Zimmerman, a junior and a Division I prospect who passed for 1,035 yards before suffering a season-ending injury on Sept. 9.

Houze has averaged 142 yards passing and has thrown 10 touchdown passes in place of Zimmerman.

“He can fling it,” Moriarty said. “He’s a southpaw. … A lot of his yardage comes on their screens. They run a lot of now screens and bubble screens to try to get their quick receivers the ball in open field and let them make a move and make something happen. They do a good job of the RPO (run-pass option). They try to bait you in with the run, which they had success with (against Oak Hill), which leaves it open then for their RPO pass, which is a quick-hitting pass.”

Houze’s main target is Will Fremion, who made the IndyStar’s “Under the Radar” list of Indianapolis-area players after Week 5 and who has five games of 100 or more receiving yards this season. However, Oak Hill held Fremion to a season-low two catches for 17 yards last week.

“He’s definitely their number one target,” Moriarty said of Fremion. “They’re going to find a way to get him the ball. And I think that could hurt us if we don’t pay attention and at least stay accountable for him. You’ve got to know where he’s at on the field.”

Houze also has a threat in the backfield in Justin Zdobylak, who leads the team with 894 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. He set career highs with 37 carries for 194 yards and a touchdown against Oak Hill.

“It’s all like power read,” Moriarty said when asked how Guerin Catholic likes to get him the ball. “Most of the time, they have the option to giving it to Justin or the quarterback keeps it to the other side. They run the same play over and over again until they find what they want.”

Another factor could be at kicker where Valley’s Gage Overbey and Guerin Catholic’s Evan Guenthner could be factors. Guenthner kicked the go-ahead 36-yard field goal in the fourth quarter against Oak Hill last week.

This is the first meeting between the schools. Opening its doors in 2004, Guerin Catholic is a private school affiliated with the Roman Catholic diocese located in Noblesville.

If Valley wins, they would play Indianapolis Chatard on the road or Hamilton Heights at home in the final. Valley has not reached a sectional final since 1993.

Valley is 0-12 in their last 12 sectional semifinal games. Eleven of those 12 games have been played at Smith-Bibler Memorial Stadium Home of Death Valley Football.

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