Week 8 preview: Undefeated Valley tries to get it Wright against Wabash passing attack
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Tippecanoe Valley (7-0, 5-0 TRC) at Wabash (1-5, 1-3), 7 p.m.
Being 7-0 is not a new thing for the Tippecanoe Valley football program. But it’s been awhile.
Starting their program in 1975 when the school opened, Valley wasted no time in being good. They started 7-0 or better six times in an 11-year span from 1977-87. That included their Class 1A state runner-up season of 1977 and their Class 1A state championship season of 1979.
Valley has not had a 7-0 start since 1987, which also happens to be the last time they had an undefeated regular season. Valley started every season from 1989-96 against Warsaw, every season from 1997-2004 against North Judson and every season from 2005-20 against Culver Academy, which might have limited their ability to be undefeated by the time conference play started.
The Class 3A, No. 7 Vikings moved to 7-0 with a 57-6 win over Maconaquah last week.
Maconaquah quarterback Braxton Birner attempted 41 passes, but the Braves didn’t score until the final play of the game.
“I don’t think we’ve played a team quite like Maconaquah where all they do is throw the ball,” Valley coach Stephen Moriarty said. “I think that gave a good test to our secondary. I was proud of our coverage. I thought we did a good job of bending but not breaking too much. We gave up the one score with two seconds left in the game, but besides that, we pretty well held thekm down to nothing score-wise. Defensively, we did a good job of making those plays when we needed to when they went for it on fourth down.”
They are 15th in the state in scoring (44.3 ppg) and tied for sixth in the state in scoring defense (6.4 ppg). Valley, Eastbrook and Adams Central are the only three teams in the state that are in the top 15 in the state in both categories.
Senior quarterback Branson McBrier continues to lead the Valley offense. He completed 75 percent of his passes against Maconaquah and has completed 73 percent of his passes for the season. He’s averaging 19.3 yards per completion and has thrown just one interception.
“He’s just steady,” Moriarty said. “He’s done a good job of keeping his composure, and this season, you can tell a lot of time in the offseason of reading defenses and being more comfortable with the offense, being able to get the ball in space to the players that can handle it. He just does a good job of finding the open receiver every time.”
The Valley defense will face another pass-happy team and play on another turf field when they visit Wabash. The Apaches snapped a six-game losing streak dating back to last season when they routed North Miami 48-7 last week.
Wabash has 1,028 yards passing and just 409 yards rushing this season, but against North Miami, Wabash had more yards rushing (166) than passing (141). Wabash senior running back Colton Learned had a career-high 121 yards rushing on just nine carries against North Miami.
Sophomore quarterback Izaak Wright guides the Wabash offense, and he has three capable receivers in Antonio Grant, Trevor Daughtry and Jared Brooks. Grant has caught six of Wright’s nine touchdown passes.
“I think Wabash has more of those crossing routes,” Moriarty said. “I think Maconaquah sometimes will take those deep shots. Maconaquah definitely passes the ball a lot more than Wabash, but Wabash, 52 percent of the time, they’re throwing the ball. So they have a very balanced attack, so you’ve got to be ready for both this week, not only the pass but the run as well.”
Valley and Wabash are playing for the first time since Oct. 5, 2018. They have split their last six meetings.