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  • Val T.

Week 7 preview: Maconaquah’s Birner to test Valley pass defense in first-place TRC showdown

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

Maconaquah (5-1, 5-0 Three Rivers Conference) at Tippecanoe Valley (6-0, 5-0), 7 p.m.

The Valley offense spread the wealth in a 60-6 win over Whitko last week.

No Viking had more than four carries on the ground or one pass reception, yet Valley still managed 447 yards of total offense, or about 19 yards per snap.

Valley led 46-0 at halftime, and no Valley starters played in the second half.

“We got to see some of those younger kids get some carries in the second half,” Valley coach Stephen Moriarty said. “We tried to spread the ball around. Got a lot of experience being able to play. … We did get a lot of time to get those kids in defensively and offensively.”

That should help them conserve energy for this week’s showdown with Maconaquah, the only other team in the TRC that is undefeated in conference play, and their quarterback Braxton Birner.

Maconaquah is coming off a 28-26 win over North Miami last week. The win was their fourth straight since a 20-14 loss to Lewis Cass in Week 2.

Birner attempted 48 passes in that game, completing 32. Birner has thrown for 1,712 yards so far this season on 34 pass attempts per game.

“They zip it around all the time,” Moriarty said. “With that Air Raid offense, you can’t get to him.”

In the Air Raid offense, which is generally credited to current Mississippi State coach Mike Leach and former Kentucky coach Hal Mumme, there are four wide receivers and one running back. It’s often a no-huddle offense and the quarterback has the ability to audible based on what he sees at the line of scrimmage. The quick throws are designed to be blitz-proof, though there are some max protect blocking schemes designed to help the 5-8 Birner buy time for his receivers to go deep.

“If it’s a long passing situation, they’ll keep in both backs to block for him, and they’ll go deep,” Moriarty said. “They do like to take shots. That’s for sure.”

In Fuddy Kile, A.J. Kelly and Kaleb Shelton, Maconaquah has three players with over 400 receiving yards. They want to “flood the zone,” according to Moriarty, and put a Valley defender in a bind where one guy gets caught covering two receivers.

“He’s one of those kids that if he catches in open space, you better be ready,” Moriarty said of Kelly, who was 13th in the state in the 400 meters in track last spring as a freshman. “To have him on the football field in open space, he’s hard to bring down. They do a lot of over-the-middle crossing routes, picking routes, bubble screens, but they don’t take long to get it off. And if they do, they’re going to keep in extra blockers and try to hit you deep. … They have so much talent, and they are so young.”

The 6-2 Kile is able to “high point” the ball, according to Moriarty and use his height to outleap defenders. He caught 14 passes against North Miami.

Defensively, Maconaquah gave up 376 yards rushing to North Miami last week out of their 4-2-5 scheme last week.

“Their linebackers are very quick, and of course, their secondary are the same kind of kids that play on offense,” Moriarty said. “The thing about them is they are very good tacklers, and I think they are well coached.” The teams have split four meetings since Maconaquah joined the TRC in 2015. Valley won 57-6 last year.

Landon Durkes will return after missing the Whitko game with a shoulder injury. Cameron Mason remains out.


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