Waverly and Piketon met Friday night in their annual battle of Pike County.
The two teams entered the game looking to get a big win over their rival in week one. Both the Tigers and Redstreaks expect to contend for their respective conference championships this season, and were looking to build some early season momentum.
There was no time wasted from Waverly in their opening drive, as the Tigers methodically drove the ball down the field. Waverly was able to convert four third downs to continue the series, with the third conversion coming from a roughing the passer penalty against Piketon.
On the fourth third down conversion of the drive, Waverly’s Drew Kritzwiser punched it in from two yards out. With the opening series of plays in the books for the Tigers, they held a 7-0 lead with 7:38 left in the first quarter.
Piketon was unable to create the same success. After a run for no gain from Zane Barker and a two yard completion to Chase Grooms, the Redstreaks threw an incompletion on third down. Piketon went three and out on their opening possession, and a bad snap on the punt allowed Waverly to take over at the Piketon 40 yard line.
The Tigers cashed in and kept on rolling. Kritzwiser continued to pound the ball, and a pass from quarterback Clayton Howell to Kayne Jordan put Waverly inside the redzone.
From five yards out, Kritzwiser pounded his way in for another score. With just over seven minutes played in the game, the Tigers had a 14-0 lead. It looked as though Waverly couldn’t be stopped early on.
Facing a 14-0 deficit, the Redstreaks kept their composure and were able to put a drive together in response to the Tiger touchdown. Piketon drove all the way down to Waverly’s 31 yard line, but was faced with a 4th down and 15.
Redstreaks quarterback Connor Galloway had his intended receiver, but the pass was knocked away by Waverly safety Easton Wolf, who laid a monster lick on his man.
Following the turnover on downs, Waverly took over at their own 31 yard line. The Tigers continued their offensive prowess, driving down to Piketon territory once more. The Redstreaks were able to make a stand, sacking Howell on a 3rd down and 8 at the Piketon 13 yard line.
With a 4th down and 19 yards to go, Howell found Wolf on a 24 yard pass to put Waverly back in scoring position. Kritzwiser then barreled ahead once more for his third score of the day, and Waverly held a 21-0 advantage with 9:07 left in the second quarter.
Piketon was now faced with a three touchdown hole, and their opponent was gaining a lot of confidence. However, the Redstreaks weren’t going to bow down to their foe.
“We got down 21-0, we didn’t quit,” Piketon head coach Tyler Gullion said. “We moved the ball well all night, we just didn’t punch it in at times.”
That quote was illustrated on Piketon’s next drive, as they picked up several first downs, but again were unable to come away with any points.
Waverly took over and did much of the same, but their drive stalled as well. Piketon received the ball at their own 20, and needed to put something together to draw closer before the half.
Fighting to get back into the game, the Redstreaks put together a well-executed drive and found themselves in Waverly territory once more. The same narrative as before, except this time their scoring effort would not be denied.
Barker raced in for an 8 yard touchdown, and suddenly Piketon had some life with 3:33 remaining in the first half.
Waverly head coach Chris Crabtree knew that his team needed to put away the stingy Redstreaks, otherwise they could be in for a game.
“When you allow someone to hang around a little bit and get a little confidence, they got some momentum there at the end of the half and came out and did some things well offensively,” Crabtree said.
Piketon tried to steal even more momentum, electing to go with an onside kick after their score. The Tigers recovered, and looked to capitalize on the good field position. It looked as though Waverly was going to score, but the Redstreaks stood tall in the redzone.
On 4th down and 7 from the Piketon 18 yard line, the Tigers chose to gamble and go for it. With a touchdown, they could head into halftime with a three score lead. Instead, the Redstreaks came up with a sack of Howell, and forced the turnover.
At halftime, Piketon was hanging around. Waverly held on to a 21-7 lead at the intermission.
Coming out of the break, the Redstreaks orchestrated some success once more. A pass interference penalty against Waverly helped Piketon move to midfield, and from there they got several nice runs and completions from Galloway.
Once again, though, the Redstreaks had issues once they got close to scoring. 10 yards out and faced with a 4th down, Piketon attempted to throw, but their pass was broken up by Waverly freshman Zeke Brown.
Again, Waverly was able to take advantage of the Piketon miscues. Another long drive put the Tigers back in Redstreaks territory, and Howell took advantage of it with a 23 yard touchdown lob to Wolf. With 1:51 left in the third quarter, Waverly led 28-7.
Piketon still would not give in. The Redstreaks put together another long drive, aided by several fourth down conversions. Grooms made one of those plays, snagging a pass for a 22 yard gain to put Piketon in position to score.
This time, the Redstreaks would make the most of their chance. Barker dashed in for his second touchdown score, this time from a yard out. The extra point attempt was blocked, though, and Piketon’s onside attempt again was recovered by Waverly.
The Tigers continued to gain momentum, but a holding penalty set them back. A big third down screen pass to Kritzwiser gained 20 yards, but Waverly was still faced with 4th down and 5 yards to go. Piketon was able to hold their ground, and forced a Tiger turnover on downs.
Once again, the same story was told for the Redstreaks. They put together another solid drive, and were able to convert another crucial fourth down. What appeared to be a 22 yard touchdown catch was overturned, and just two plays later Piketon suffered a setback.
A quick pass in the flat for the Redstreaks was fumbled and recovered by Waverly’s Cobe Marquez.
“You can’t beat a team like that doing those things,” Gullion said about his team’s costly turnover after the game.
Piketon continued their stingy play, and forced a three and out to get the ball back with 2:56 remaining in the game. However, their comeback prayers went unanswered, as Waverly’s Kayne Jordan intercepted a pass thrown by Galloway.
From there, Waverly was able to run out the clock and escape with a 28-13 win.
Although his team had to overcome a late surge from Piketon, Crabtree was thrilled to come out on top. “From year to year, you look forward to this game,” Crabtree said. “Our kids look forward to it, it is a big county rivalry. We get to enjoy another year of coming out on the winning end, and that’s good for the program.”
A late rally came up just short, but Gullion still liked the effort he saw from his team. “I’m proud of our effort, how physical we played,” Gullion said. “We had our chances, we just made too many mistakes. For us to win tonight, we had to play almost mistake free and we didn’t.
For two teams who breed success, the opener was a hard fought game to the very end. On the winning end of the spectrum, Crabtree enjoyed the victory but kept the big picture in focus.
“It’s nice having a victory, going out 1-0,” Crabtree said. “That’s our goal each and every week, and hopefully we can do that.”
Waverly will travel to Zane Trace next weekend, while Piketon will face off with Vinton County in their home opener.
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 or on Twitter @BSpicerPDT