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  • Val T.

Week 9 football previews: No. 4 Valley seeks undefeated regular season vs. Bremen

Caston to face Knox, Culver to face LaVille for final time; Pioneer, Judson to meet in back-to-back weeks; Winamac seeks 4th straight win vs. Triton


Sports Editor, RTC

  • Bremen (4-4) at Tippecanoe Valley (8-0), 7 p.m.

After beating John Glenn 37-14 on Saturday, the Vikings moved up from No. 5 to No. 4 in this Week’s Associated Press Class 3A poll and essentially changed spots with sectional rival Hamilton Heights, who dropped from No. 4 to No. 5 despite winning 51-6 over South Bend Washington last week.

Valley will again be without senior running back-defensive back Nate Parker against Bremen, who will miss his second straight game due to a foot injury, according to coach Stephen Moriarty. Moriarty did say that Parker will “hopefully” be back for the Class 3A, Sectional 28 opener against top-ranked and defending state champion Indianapolis Chatard on Oct. 27.

As for Bremen, they are a future Indiana Northern State Conference opponent added to the schedule. Valley is already 2-0 against future INSC teams, having beaten Jimtown in Week 6 in addition to the John Glenn game last week.

Valley will now try to contain the Bremen junior connection of quarterback Silas Laidig and wide receiver Tyrus Graverson. Laidig has thrown for 1,657 yards, 962 of which have gone to Graverson, who also has caught nine of Laidig’s 15 touchdown passes.

Laidig threw 27 passes in a 22-8 loss to South Bend Riley last week, three of which were intercepted.

“I would say that it is,” Valley coach Stephen Moriarty said when asked if throwing 27 passes in a game was typical for Laidig. “The thing about him is he’s got a great arm, and he’s not afraid about going deep. At one point during the season, he had the second leading receiver in the state, and he does a great job of finding the open receiver. That’s something definitely we’re going to have to contend with and get better at.”

Moriarty said that Bremen’s offensive balance tilts slightly – 53 percent pass, 47 percent run.

Of Bremen’s four losses, three have come to teams in higher classes.

Moriarty is 0-2 in his coaching career against Bremen, having lost to them in the 2017 and 2018 season openers.

In fact, Valley has lost their last four meetings with Bremen. Their last win over the Lions came when the Jeff Shriver-coached Vikings triumphed 21-7 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Aug. 25, 2012.

  • Knox (8-0, 6-0 Hoosier North) at Caston (1-7, 1-5), 7:30 p.m.

Due to a power outage in Winamac, Caston had to wait until 8 p.m. before last week’s game started, but the late start might have been worth watching the continuing development of freshman Landen Rigney, who accounted for 186 yards of offense – 143 rushing, 43 receiving – in a 28-22 loss.

It was not just Rigney who contributed. Caston accumulated 346 yards of offense, and they did it by spreading the ball around. Five different runners had at least five carries, and four different receivers caught a pass from either Gavin Mollenkopf or Grant Yadon.

Now Caston will face Class 3A, No. 10 Knox, who has already clinched a share of the Hoosier North title. Knox can clinch it outright with a win over Caston, but a loss to the Comets could leave an opening for LaVille to gain a conference title piece if they can beat Culver.

Knox sophomore running back Myles McLaughlin has already set the school rushing career mark, and junior running back Jake Conroy and senior quarterback Rowen Jordan are also formidable.

Knox is leaving the Hoosier North for the new Indiana Northern State Conference next year, which means this is the final meeting between the teams.

Caston is 0-9 all time against Knox, losing to them in the initial year of the program in 1969 and going 0-8 against them in Hoosier North play.

Seven of Caston’s nine regular season opponents will finish with winning records.

  • North Judson (4-4, 3-3 Hoosier North) at Pioneer (5-3, 3-3), 7:30 p.m.

Pioneer senior fullback Rylahn Toloza was not only back after a two-game injury-related absence against Culver last week, but he had one of the best games of his career, rushing for 217 yards and five touchdowns in a 46-8 win. The only time he has rushed for more yards was a 270-yard effort against Caston in 2022.

“Last week he started getting more reps at practice, and after we talked last week, he was getting more and more comfortable,” Pioneer coach Adam Berry said. “On Wednesday he got more reps than he did on Tuesday. So we felt pretty confident that he was going to be able to play on Wednesday. And then Thursday he was still feeling good, and Friday he was feeling even better, so he got the start on offense and defense. Just watching him live and watching on film, you could tell it took him a series-and-a-half or two to really start trusting it, but once he got that feeling that he could trust it, he started doing great things for us. Anytime you have over 200 yards and five touchdowns and a couple two-point conversions, you exceed expectations. So he played great for us.”

Pioneer will host North Judson this week in the regular season finale and then face the Blue Jays again next week in a Class 1A, Sectional 41 quarterfinal in Starke County.

This marks the first time Pioneer has had to face the same opponent in both the regular season finale and the sectional opener since 1986, when they faced Winamac two weeks in row and lost both games.

“It’s definitely an interesting situation, but you go into every game wanting to win,” Berry said. “And so we’re going to play our game, and in a way gives both teams an idea of going back and watching film and how to make some adjustments to better execute, whether it’s offensively or defensively. It’s definitely a situation not many teams experience. … But we’re approaching this Friday like we would if we didn’t have North Judson in Week 1 of sectionals.”

  • Culver (0-8, 0-6 Hoosier North) at LaVille (7-1, 5-1), 7:30 p.m.

The Culver offense was held to 71 yards of offense in a 46-8 loss to Pioneer last week while the defense allowed 217 yards rushing and five touchdowns to fullback Rylahn Toloza.

The highlight might have been on special teams when Anthony Sommers blocked a punt, and Isaiah Gonzalez picked up the loose ball and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown.

Pioneer uses a rugby-style punt where the punter takes a couple steps to his right and angles his punt towards the sideline, but Sommers was ready for it.

Culver coach Austin Foust credited assistant coach Kyle Klinge for having players prepared for the play.

“We’ve done a pretty good job on special teams, and coach Klinge had a pretty good punt block dialed up, and we were able to execute on the first three-and-out we got,” Foust said. “Obviously, our kids were excited and felt good. We had a good first drive and stalled out on a fourth-and-one. Defensively, we got off the field on a three-and-out. It was one of those things where I think after the first quarter, we were within eight. But again, we talk to our guys, and we’ve got to try to stop happening is we have one bad quarter. We gave up one touchdown in the first (quarter), and we gave up one touchdown in the second half, but it was the second quarter that snowballed on us. So we’ve got to do a better job of sustaining our intensity and physicality and not letting teams kinda take the game away in one quarter.”

As for Class 2A, No. 5 LaVille, the Lancers have won two straight games on the road over John Glenn and North Judson and are 21-3 in their last 24 games dating back to 2021. They have already wrapped up their 10th consecutive winning season.

LaVille has won the last 11 meetings in the series. Culver has not beaten LaVille since 2013.

This is their final scheduled meeting. LaVille is leaving the Hoosier North for the Indiana Northern State Conference next year.

  • Triton (5-3, 4-2 Hoosier North) at Winamac (3-5, 2-4), 7 p.m.

It might have been an uneven night, but Winamac beat Caston 28-22 last week for their third straight win following an 0-5 start.

First, they had to wait through a one-hour delay due to a power outage that hit the entire town.

Then they let a 22-8 lead slip away but bounced back and scored the winning touchdown on a 25-yard pass from Cash Roth to Maddox Bucinski.

And incredibly, they won the game despite committing five turnovers.

Jadon Jones’ school-record 100-yard interception return for a touchdown was a highlight.

“I was happy with our resiliency the whole game,” Winamac coach Josh Burgess said. “Things didn’t go very well. We had that power outage that messed things up at the start. We had a lot of turnovers. … There are some things that we need to clean up. But our kids didn’t put their heads down, and I thought we made some big plays both offensively and defensively as the game went on.”

While the Warriors have won three straight, Triton is coming off a 42-7 loss to undefeated Knox. Knox held Triton quarterback Cole Shively to 15 yards rushing last week.

Shively missed one of Triton’s losses due to injury, and he had only 16 yards rushing total in their other two losses. He is a four-year starter and also starts at safety on defense.

“He’s a dual threat kid,” Burgess said of Shively. “He’s played a lot of football. They’ve started him since he’s been a freshman. He’s very familiar with their system and what they try to do. Very athletic, he does a good job in their run game and their pass game. They had a rough time with Knox last week, but Knox has done that to a lot of teams throughout this season. … We’ll definitely have to be prepared for him, but they’ve got some nice skill kids too that complement him. They’ve got good size up front offensively, and defensively, they’re pretty aggressive with their 4-3. They’ll roll up into a little bit of a 4-4 too.

“Just like any week in our conference, we’ll have our hands full, and we’ll have to make sure that we’re prepared in all phases of the game for Friday.”

The teams have split their 10 meetings since 2015. Winamac is 5-3 against Triton in regular season games but 0-2 in sectional games during that time.

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