INDIANAPOLIS — After weeks of speculation, opinions and everything in between, all that was left on Friday night was for the No. 3 ranked Tippecanoe Valley Vikings to take on the No. 1 ranked Indianapolis Bishop Chatard Trojans in the opening round of 3A Sectional 28 in Indy.
While Valley was able to start off hot on the defensive side, early turnovers doomed the Vikings in a 40-7 loss.
“This is a fantastic football team and there’s a reason why they’re No. 1 one in the state,” head coach Steve Moriarty said after the game. “I hope in my heart that they win the state title and I believe they will.”
The start was not the one the Vikings were looking for, as on the first drive of the game, Cody Eastgate was picked off on a long pass attempt, stopping the Valley drive in its tracks. Lucky for Eastgate, his defense had his back, coming out of the gates with a purpose. Wade Jones made a tackle for loss on the first play of the game, setting the tone. Chatard was able to put together a nice opening drive, getting into Viking territory, but Dalton Alber would come up huge with a third down sack, forcing a punt.
The Valley offense looked good on the next drive. Senior running back Nate Parker, who had missed the previous two games with a foot injury, made his return in this one, wasting no time showing why he’s one of the top backs in the state. Parker slowly got into a rhythm, picking up a few first downs before exploding for an 18-yard carry, his longest of the half. Unfortunately for Parker and his team, the turnover bug showed up once again, as a Trojan defender was able to punch the ball out at the end of the run, resulting in yet another giveaway.
“I thought we did a good job moving the ball coming out of the gate, but those turnovers were killer,” Moriarty said.
Once again, the defense would pick up the offense’s slack. After another solid drive by Chatard had the Trojans nearing field goal range, Kyler Johnson made a tremendous play on third and short, reading a quarterback keeper perfectly and making the tackle for a huge loss.
For the third straight drive following the stop, the Valley offense showed promise, getting into Chatard territory on a methodical drive. But for the third straight drive, the Vikings would be unable to turn it into points, as Eastgate would be sacked on a fourth down conversion attempt.
Getting the ball back near the 50-yard line was all the Trojans needed to take advantage. The home side put together its best drive of the evening thus far, resulting in wide receiver Colin Guy beating the defense on a go-route in the end zone, scoring a 25-yard touchdown to open up the scoring midway through the second quarter.
Valley was unable to answer, going three-and-out on the ensuing drive and giving the ball right back to the Trojans. Smelling blood in the water, Chatard once again was able to put together a slow, grinding drive resulting in points. This time, it would be running back Daniel Shaw finding the end zone on a one-yard run.
Things would go from bad to worse, as on the following kickoff, the Vikings fumbled the ball, giving it right back to the home side with just under a minute to go in the first half. For the third consecutive possession, Chatard was able to find the end zone, with Guy scoring his second TD of the half with 15 seconds left. The acrobatic catch made it 14 Trojan points in 45 seconds.
Getting the ball back to begin the third quarter, Chatard had a chance to put things away with a score on this drive and did so. The Trojans were able to work their way down the field, scoring their fourth touchdown of the game on a 22-yard screen pass to Jack Weybright. After a missed extra point, the score now stood at 27-0.
Moments later, a busted play resulted in disaster for the Vikings. Eastgate turned back to hand the ball off, but no back was behind him. The miscue would result in yet another Chatard touchdown, as Valley’s fourth turnover of the game would be returned 24 yards by a defensive lineman to make it a 34-0 game.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Chatard freshman Daniel Adams would rush for a touchdown to enforce the running clock. The Vikings were able to use some nice runs from Parker, Alber and Brandon Stiles got Valley into the red zone on its final drive of the game, resulting in Parker finding the end zone a nine-yard carry on the final touch of his Viking career.
“Those boys ended this game with a lot of heart,” Moriarty said. “The seniors wanted to stay out on the field for that final drive to give Nate one last score and he got it. It was very honorable of them.”
Valley wrapped up the game with 145 yards rushing as a team, led by 75 yards by Parker on 12 carries along with the score. Jones had 22 yards while Alber added 19. Eastgate passed for 17 yards.
The Vikings (9-1) will return next season.
“These seniors have absolutely nothing to hang their hats on,” Moriarty said. “I know tonight didn’t go the way they wanted but they will leave Valley in a much better place than they found it. They brought this program up another notch and it has been an honor to be able to coach them.”