Week 6 football preview: Valley defense seeks 3rd straight shutout, but Whitko no Schuh-in
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Tippecanoe Valley (3-2, 3-1 Three Rivers Conference) at Whitko (3-2, 2-2), 7 p.m.
The good news for Whitko is that they have three wins this season after winning just one game the previous three seasons combined.
There’s more good news: Whitko beat North Miami 53-24 last week. They had over 400 yards of offense, and quarterback Ethan Schuh threw three touchdown passes
and also ran for a score. Meanwhile, junior running back Cade Berg ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns and also caught two touchdown passes from Schuh.
The 53 points were their most since scoring 57 points against Rochester in 2016.
Now here’s the bad news: Whitko has lost their last three meetings to Tippecanoe Valley by a combined score of 133-21. That includes a 42-0 loss at Smith-Bibler Memorial Field – Home of Death Valley Football last year.
And here’s some more bad news: Valley has won their last two games by a combined score of 114-0 over North Miami and Rochester. Of the 24 second-half minutes they played against North Miami and Rochester, 22 of them were played with a running clock.
“I definitely do,” Valley coach Stephen Moriarty said when asked if a 21-18 loss to Peru on Sept. 4 was a turning point. “I think they understand that if you don’t come ready to play that you can be beat on any night definitely has set in. And that’s one of the points that we’re going to definitely make against Whitko is if you let your guard down or think if you can go through the motions, sometimes you can be beat.”
Despite the injury to junior running back Braden Shepherd – he will miss his fifth straight game this week – Valley has shown a variety of weapons in running backs Alex Craft, Joel Cisneros and Johnny Gonsalez, wingback Jamasyn Virgil and wide receivers Rex
Kirchenstien and Jacob Davis.
But Valley has also shown improvement on the offensive line, according to Moriarty. Guards Ben Bowser and Wade Melanson form the interior of the line with junior center Grady McGriff. Left tackle Michael Sexton and right tackle D.J. Estep are returnees from last year.
“At the start of last year, Bowser was a back-up as a guard,” Moriarty said. “I’ve coached 16 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a guard that can pull like Ben Bowser. He does a great job of pulling around and finding his linebacker when he needs to, and he’s always under control. I think our offensive line is growing slowly, and I knew that this would be a good line. When they play well, we play well.”
As for Whitko, coach Phil Jensen has switched the team’s offense to a spread and has had success. This is Jensen’s second year at Whitko and his 24th year as a high school head coach. He previously was at Churubusco and had two stints at Warsaw from 1996-2003 and 2008-17.
“Coach Jensen has a record that speaks for itself,” Moriarty said. “He’s always been
successful. And for that many years of experience, I think that’s starting to rub off. He has a good, calming way of making players buy into his system. And even when I coached against him at Warsaw, they bought into his system. Now, in only a short two years, they’re already back to getting to where they’re competitive if not winning most of their games.”