One of the area’s biggest rivalries will kick off tonight in Pike County, as the Piketon Redstreaks travel to Waverly to take on the Tigers.
Waverly has won the last four games of the series, and knocked off Piketon 39-0 on the road last season. Despite his team’s recent success in the rivalry game, Waverly head coach Chris Crabtree is preparing just as he would for any other game.
“You look at it on paper and look and compare each other, but the bottom line is you can kind of throw all that stuff out the window,” Crabtree said. “The game is played on the field, and we’ll see what happens there.”
On the field, Waverly returns one of the best quarterbacks in Southeast Ohio in Clayton Howell. Howell will run an offense that Piketon head coach Tyler Gullion said appears to already be “in midseason form.”
“They’re good, they’re fast, and they have a lot of returners back,” Gullion said. “It’s a great test for us early.”
As for the Redstreaks, the quarterback situation was up in the air throughout most of the offseason. Gullion said sophomore quarterback Connor Galloway will start, but that junior Cannon Pack will also take reps at quarterback in the game.
Although Piketon has a new signal caller, Crabtree feels that the Redstreaks won’t skip a beat offensively. “Tyler always does a really good job with his system,” Crabtree said. “The thing about it is, even though it’s a new quarterback he’s pretty consistent in what he does.”
Crabtree added that the situation lets him turn up the intensity a bit on defense. “It allows us to maybe be a little more aggressive and put some pressure on a kid that’s not started a varsity game yet,” Crabtree said.
Defensively, Piketon and Waverly appear to be pretty even. “We’ve got experience, and we can match their experience,” Gullion said about his defense. “We’ll start eight guys tonight that started the majority of last year. They know our system, and they’ve seen Waverly the last couple years and know what they run.”
Both coaches talked about the need for their teams to tackle well if they hope to have a chance at winning the game.
“It’s going to come down to making plays and not missing tackles,” Crabtree said. “That’s something we needed to clean up from the standpoint of the last scrimmage, and I think we’ve corrected that.”
Gullion echoed much of the same, and brought up Waverly’s team speed on offense as a concern. “Speed wise, we can’t let them get going. If they get in the open field and we miss a tackle or two, we’re not going to catch them,” Gullion said. “So, we’ve got to play in a phone booth, shrink the field down and play in closed quarters.”
The line of scrimmage is another point of emphasis for Piketon. The Redstreaks have six guys who could play on the offensive line, and a lot of depth to make frequent substitutions on the defensive line. Still, Gullion says he needs his team to win the battles in the trenches.
“They’ve got so many weapons, you can’t take everything away, but if they control the line of scrimmage it’ll be a long night offensively and defensively,” Gullion said.
Even with new faces across the field for both teams this season, their will certainly be no lack of motivation in this rivalry game.
“Our kids get pretty fired up about it, as I’m sure their kids do as well,” Crabtree said. “It’s one of those games where it’s the pride of the county.”
Piketon will make the trip to Waverly tonight to take on the Tigers at 7 p.m.
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 or on Twitter @BSpicerPDT