For a team that lost all those starters to graduation, Tipp’s playing like they’ve all come back for ‘graduate’ school. Red Devils open the Labor Day weekend with an impressive romp over Springfield Shawnee!
By Greg Billing
Tipp City – Captain America, Thor, Wolverine and the Incredible Hulk – Marvel Comics characters famous for their super-hero efforts on the big screen – led the Tippecanoe Red Devils pre-game charge onto the City Park football field for Thursday Night Lights.
But on this night, a rare Thursday night game broadcast live on TV by ABC 22/Fox 45, their services were relegated to cheering for the football team from the stands. Tippecanoe did just fine without its television stars.
An enthusiastic student cheering section including a group dressed as super heroes had plenty to … wait for it … Marvel at as Tipp knocked off former league rival Springfield Shawnee in a 35-7 runaway victory.
This win boasted some unsung heroes, too. An offensive line with five new starters threw quite the block party, helping the Red Devils rush for 381 yards on 52 carries (7.3 yards per carry). The biggest beneficiary was junior Cole Barhorst. Seeing his first action of the season after healing from a shoulder injury, Barhorst battered the Braves with 242 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. His longest run was an 84-yard blast up the middle that gave Tipp a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
“We ran a belly up the middle, I saw the cutback and I just took it to the house,” said Barhorst, who after breaking through the line went untouched and won a foot race covering nearly the final 80 yards. “I thought they were going to catch me from behind.”
There was no catching Tipp on Thursday. Not even for a Shawnee team that had beaten Tipp two straight games and five of the last six prior to this season. The teams are no longer league rivals with Tipp’s move from the Central Buckeye Conference to the Greater Western Ohio Conference. But this one still had all the emotion of one of their classic CBC title clashes.
“I think it’s huge. I think everybody in our locker room believed we could win,” Tipp coach Joel Derge said. “They’re ready to prove it as we transition into the GWOC in a couple weeks. Our focus is on Milton-Union now.”
Barhorst’s 8-yard run about four minutes into the game put Tipp up 7-0. He capped the scoring midway through the fourth with a 52-yard touchdown.
“I love my line. They’re amazing,” Barhorst said of junior left tackle Noah Bledsoe, junior left guard Matt Garber, senior center Grant Carlson, senior right guard Ryan Bolton and senior right tackle Isaac Haas.
As for that shoulder injury? Barhorst had no trouble carrying the Red Devils’ ground game against Shawnee. He’ll tell you it wasn’t as easy as it looked, though.
“I was struggling on that run, let me tell you that,” Barhorst said, smiling. “That was my first (game) contact. My first play I got hit I was like, ‘Holy Cow, I remember what it’s like to get hit again.’”
He had no trouble remembering where the end zone was, either.
Shawnee’s lone score – a 45-yard scamper by quarterback Michael Guyer – pulled the Braves to 14-3 with a minute left in the first quarter.
It stayed that way until 0.3 seconds left before the half. And not even Fox 45 meteorologist Jamie Simpson could have predicted what was brewing at City Park.
Shawnee faced third-and-10 on its own 41-yard line. Instead of taking a shot downfield or running out the clock, Shawnee’s screen pass was tipped into the hands of Garber. He sprinted 35 yards for the stunning touchdown and 28-7 halftime lead.
“We’ve been so prepared this week. We were ready for it,” Garber said. “I didn’t think about it, I just went for it and it landed in my hands. It just kind of happened.”
“That was the turning point in the game, for sure,” Derge said. “He’s a great kid. That’s what we call relentless effort. The kids play hard until the whistle blows. … The previous play I was kind of upset because I thought the clock should have run out. (The screen pass) definitely surprised me.”
Garber also came up big in the second quarter with a fourth-down stop. Shawnee had fourth-and-1 on the Tipp 15 but Garber met the running back at the line of scrimmage and drove him back for the turnover on downs.
“That was pretty exciting, too,” Garber grinned.
Tipp held Shawnee’s dual-threat quarterback in check with 87 yards passing and 67 yards rushing. Guyer accounted for 232 yards of offense (146 passing and 86 rushing) in Shawnee’s 31-6 win against Thurgood Marshall last week.
Offensively, Tipp outgained Shawnee 379-253.
Senior quarterback Aaron Hughes added to the rushing total with a 25-yard touchdown in the second quarter for the 21-7 lead. He faked the hand off, rolled right as the Braves bit on the fake and strolled in for the score untouched.
“Our offense put up the points,” Barhorst said, “but our defense played outstanding.”
Senior Cade Rogers and sophomore Josh Walland led Tipp with nine tackles each. Walland also had a sack.
One of the game’s biggest pile of bodies came before kickoff. As those students dressed as super heroes led the Red Devils onto the field, the one dressed as Thor slipped and fell. That created a log jam and a small pileup ensued as players tried to avoid him.
“It was a big stampede and everybody was stepping over everybody,” Barhorst said. “Crazy. It was kind of funny.”
And with those TV cameras stationed around City Park to catch the action, Derge turned to a movie to help inspire his players. Normally the pre-game talk is used to pump up the players. Not this time.
“Today it was calming them down,” Derge said. “You pull the Hoosiers line about the basket is 10 feet high. The football field is 100 yards even when the TV cameras are on. We calmed the guys down and told them we thought the team that executed the best would win.”
On Thursday, it was the Tippecanoe Red Devils that turned in the Marvel-ous effort.