Week 4 preview: Valley defense sets their sights on stopping Manchester’s Sites, Rooney
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Tippecanoe Valley (3-0, 2-0 Three Rivers Conference) at Manchester (0-3, 0-2), 7 p.m.
The Valley boys track team’s 4 x 100 relay missed going to the IHSAA state finals by less than 0.01 seconds last spring. That team had multiple football players on it.
This year’s football team is passing the baton in its running game like a relay team. No Valley back has more than 247 yards rushing individually, but five backs have had at least 10 carries, and Valley has 762 yards rushing at a 6.3-yard per carry average. Valley also has 12 rushing touchdowns in three games.
Whether it’s Nate Parker, Wade Jones, Brandon Stiles, Karl Parker or Dalton Alber, Valley backs run behind an offensive line that might not be as big as some of the lines coach Stephen Moriarty has developed in his seven years as coach.
Still, it’s a group that blocks surgically and gets to the second level quickly.
“When we say small, they’re still all 200-pounders,” Moriarty said. “And we’ve still got Evan Maish and Alex Bailey at the tackles, but having those quick guards and a quick center, it allows us to pull more and get up on linebackers, which is very key to our success of our offense.”
Meanwhile, the Valley rushing defense has held Wawasee, Northfield and Peru to 35 yards per game rushing, but the run defense might have their biggest test against Manchester Friday.
Manchester ran for 312 yards in a 28-27 loss to Wabash last week. Garrett Sites ran for 199 yards, and Mason Rooney added another 108 yards on the ground.
“I do think the running backs for Manchester, both of them run very hard,” Moriarty said. “Wabash had a difficult time stopping them, but so have a lot of other people. Bluffton had a hard time stopping both of them. So lucky our run defense is OK at this time to at least slow them down a little. … They went away from that power running game that they did last year with (Seth) Gaerte and (Braxton) Ream. This year, they basically have trips or twins, and it is spread out. They still do play a tight end, but it’s more of a single-back set, and they do like to run the ball, but they’re pretty darn even. It’s 53 percent of the time they run the ball; the rest, they pass it.”
Valley has won the last seven meetings in the series, including a 36-0 win at home last year. Moriarty is 5-0 in his career against the Squires.