Week 9 football preview: Valley banged up at RB for TRC showdown with Southwood
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Tippecanoe Valley (6-2 overall, 6-1 Three Rivers Conference) at Southwood (8-0, 6-0), 7 p.m.
The Tippecanoe Valley football team led Manchester 29-18 at halftime before holding them scoreless in the second half and cruising to a 48-18 win last week.
“We changed up our coverages a little bit,” Valley coach Stephen Moriarty said. “The way we were covering them in the first half seemed to leave open some holes in our coverage, I guess, and we started locking them down a little bit more and trying to take care of 34 (Seth Gaerte). Wow, that kid was fast.”
Valley had 424 yards rushing even though both Braden Shepherd and Alex Craft were out. Jamasyn Virgil and Hunter Eherenman both had over 100 yards rushing.
Moriarty praised the offensive line, including senior Brandt Alber. Alber was filling in for the injured Ben Bowser at guard.
“The offensive line did a great job,” Moriarty said. “That’s the most consistent throughout the whole game I’ve seen them play. They did a really good job of communicating and being able to work together to find out their blocking assignments too. I thought they did a good job communicating and just being physical and being able to get up to middle linebackers was key.”
That Valley had an effective rushing attack without Shepherd and Craft might be a good omen given their injury problems. Moriarty said that not only are Shepherd and Craft out again but Eherenman is also out with a leg injury.
That’s not ideal given that Valley is playing Class 1A, No. 3 Southwood this week. The Knights are the only undefeated team left in conference play, and Valley is the only team with one loss. Though teams have played an uneven number of conference games, Valley could lay claim to the conference title with a win.
There is much to suggest that Southwood is good defensively. Southwood has recorded three shutouts this year and 10 shutouts during their 31-game regular season winning streak. Then again, they have never shut out Valley in a rivalry that dates back to 1976.
“Their athletic ability,” Moriarty said when asked what impressed him about Southwood’s defense. “The same athletes that play on the offensive side play on the defensive side. They’re very aggressive. They like to blitz a lot. … So what they do is they allow themselves to maintain by their front four and blitz the rest or use them as contain. And they’ve got a lot of speed to cover a lot of ground very quickly.”
Instead of testing Southwood’s speed, Valley’s success might come down to whether they can move the ball between the tackles. Southwood two-way lineman Memphis Hiner suffered an apparent knee injury against Rochester last week.
“If we’re able to move it in the middle, that would be a big benefit to our team,” Moriarty said.
Bowser will also miss his second straight game, and Alber will start at guard on offense while Karl Parker will see increased playing time at outside linebacker on defense.
Meanwhile, the Valley defense will try to stop Southwood quarterback Alex Farr and the Knights’ spread offense. Top receivers include Carson Rich, Logan Barley and Dawson Filip. Moriarty said that Farr has such a quick release that it makes it difficult to pressure him. Farr is also an accomplished runner who is capable of big runs on the read option play.
“He is a very explosive player,” Moriarty said of Farr. “His ability to get to the next level and to be able to be a (two-way) threat is very impressive. We’ll have to be able to contain him to be close to winning the game.”
Valley has not beaten Southwood since 2012. Valley lost to Southwood last year 21-7 at home. They lost to Southwood 21-20 in overtime in 2018 in the final TRC championship game in the two-division format.