The Wheelersburg Pirates handed the Waverly Tigers their first loss of the season with a 24-13 victory in a match both teams’ coaches recognized as their most important game thus far in the season.
It was anyone’s game all the way until the final moments.
“I knew this was a good football team and that they’d challenge us,” Wheelersburg head coach Rob Woodward stated.
The Pirate offense started out strong, making beautiful passes across the field. Tiger defense figured out quickly that they needed to intercept those passes, an approach that Wheelersburg would ultimately use to run the game.
In a phenomenal display of high school football, both teams grew from the experience. Both entered the game undefeated, both had scored high in previous games, and neither had given away many points this season. With strong defense on both sides, neither had a chance for a 40 point ball game. Burg finished the first quarter with only one touchdown. Waverly wasn’t far behind quarterback Drew Harris came out halfway through the second quarter running the ball 65 yards for a touchdown that had Tiger fans roaring through the stands. The Pirates, however, fought to maintain their lead and responded with a touchdown with just under a minute in the half. Waverly was down but only by four.
Though there Tigers played hard in the first half, they come back from halftime ready to tear the field apart. The third quarter belonged to Waverly as just a minute in Drew Kritzwiser hit the Pirates with a 49 yard run for the Tigers’ second touchdown of the night. Defense also came back harder in the third, fighting to stop the Pirates. Two false starts back to back would slow the Tigers, and in this game small upsets are significant. With the Tigers needing every inch of turf they could gain, they couldn’t afford to lose yards. Then, when Waverly could get a pass off, the Pirates intercepted, setting the tone for the final quarter. Additionally, with just more than minute left in the third, Tiger superstar Harris was injured, taking on out of the game until into the fourth. Kritzwiser went in with some power, but that just wasn’t enough. Wheelersburg shut down Waverly’s scoring game.
Though the Pirates entered the last quarter of the night with the advantage, their lead wasn’t great. Waverly could recover. With 1:08 left on the clock, Tigers passed to the end zone. The score was 24-13 with Pirates winning. Waverly had a chance to take the game. It wasn’t until Wheelersburg intercepted in the the end zone that Waverly knew their fate.
Waverly Coach Chris Crabtree said it was at that moment that he thinks his team finally quit fighting.
“Once they threw the interception, that really sealed the deal,” he stated.
Though Crabtree says it was a tough loss, he acknowledge that he know Wheelersburg would be tough, saying it just wasn’t a game where mistakes could be made. The Tigers are going to use this loss to their advantage and are still hoping to make it on to the playoffs.
“I’m very proud of my kids and their effort,” Crabtree commented. “A game of this magnitude is new for us. It’ll be a great learning tool if we make it to postseason.
He added that the Tigers still face West and Minford and are overlooking neither.
Despite their victory, Woodward was able to look constructively at his team’s effort stating, “We were our own first enemy in the first half.”
The coach went on to say how proud he was off the offensive lines, especially at the end for the final drive. Both Tanner Bivens and Keaton Newsome ran the ball hard. Woodward showed a lot of pride in their accomplishments. Though he says the Pirates are looking forward to postseason, he says right now the SOC is the focus.
“I told our kids they really grew up tonight,” Woodward said.
And, the Pirates will continue to grow, taking it one game at a time.
Both teams have much to be proud of. The Pirates will carry that pride on to face Minford next week while the Tigers meet West at home.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1924.