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Week 2 football preview: Shepherd’s status uncertain for Valley game at Northfield

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

Tippecanoe Valley (0-1, 0-0 TRC) at Northfield (0-1, 0-0), 7 p.m. Friday

It would appear as if Valley junior Braden Shepherd’s days as a JV running back are over.

Valley had 134 yards of offense against Culver Academy in a 16-0 loss last week, and Shepherd accounted for 90 of those yards (73 rushing, 17 receiving) in his first varsity start.

“He’s very explosive,” Valley coach Stephen Moriarty said. “The thing about Braden is that he’s got very good hands. He has the ability to break tackles, and he’s that big-play threat every time he touches the ball. He did a great job in the first half, and in the second half, the offensive line, we got a little tired, and they adjusted well on defense and kind of wore us down.”

Moriarty was asked if Shepherd will need to have more than the 10 carries he had against Culver Academy.

“Yes, I would say so,” Moriarty said. “Without a doubt.”

Whether that game where he gets more than 10 carries is this week is in some question. Shepherd suffered a shoulder injury in the second half against Culver Academy, and he is waiting for a doctor’s clearance to see if he can go against Northfield.

“We’re hoping to see what the doctors say this week to see if he returns or not,” Moriarty said.

Moriarty also said that Jacob Davis should be able to play after being helped off the field against Culver Academy. Davis and Rex Kirchenstien could give Valley a 1-2 combination at wide receiver for quarterback Branson McBrier.

Moriarty also said Valley is dealing with “a lot of bumps and bruises” after the Culver Academy game.

Valley defeated Northfield 28-21 last year, but they have not won at Northfield since 2013. Valley’s win at Northfield in 2013 was their 17th straight in the series, but Northfield started a run of five straight wins over Valley before the Vikings’ win last year.

Northfield features quarterback Clayton Tomlinson and Jarret Shafer. Shafer led the Norsemen with 54 yards rushing in a 25-13 loss to Bluffton last week, and Moriarty said he is a “hard-nosed” running back who reminds him of 2020 Northfield grad Braden Ripllinger. Shafer also led the defense in tackles from his linebacker spot against Bluffton.

“Their linemen are very impressive, and their running backs run the ball hard,” Moriarty said.

Tomlinson threw the ball 15 times against Bluffton, but he is also a running threat.

“I would say he runs the option well,” Moriarty said of Tomlinson. “He’s very good at reading the defense and being able to know when to pitch and to keep it. I know that it’s his first year starting, but at the same time, the way he runs the offense, you would think he had been there two or three years starting.”

Moriarty said he expects Northfield to line up in a 4-4 defense. He said that Northfield has put extra men on the line against Valley in previous years because they didn’t expect Valley to pass much. That’s not likely this year given that Shepherd (if healthy), Kirchenstien and Davis are all pass-catching threats.

“They’re more stout,” Moriarty said of Northfield’s defensive line. “They’ve got guys that are decent-sized, but they move well. They’re a very aggressive defensive line, and they do well what they do.”

Asked what the key to a victory will be, and Moriarty responds “turnovers.” Valley had three giveaways against Culver Academy, including two in their first two possessions of the game. He also said they must keep Northfield’s option contained.

“They’re always a well-coached team,” Moriarty said. “So that’s one of the bigger things that we’ve been preaching to our kids is to get to the second level as offensive linemen, and I think that definitely Northfield does it well.”


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