“It’s SOC, three letters, nothing else needs to be said” said Wheelersburg head coach Rob Woodward following his team’s masterful road win over the Waverly Tigers Friday night, 49-0.
The Pirates came into Friday night’s contest with only one blemish on their record with a week two loss to Bishop Hartley, while Waverly entered the game not having dropped a game prior to their matchup with the Pirates. That would quickly change as Wheelersburg came into Friday night’s game ready to pounce on any opportunity, and they did just that.
Waverly would receive the ball to start the contest before Tigers running back Payton Shoemaker fumbled on the first play from scrimmage at the 11:52 mark of the first quarter giving Wheelersburg the chance to score early off their mistake. A few plays later and Ashton Clevenger would have the first touchdown of the night for his team as Wheelersburg took a 7-0 lead.
A few back and forth drives made it seem as if we were in for a battle, but Shoemaker wasn’t able to hold onto the ball once again as he fumbled on Waverly’s own side of the field for the second time in the quarter. Wheelersburg, not one to lay off the gas in the early goings, would score on their very next play as all-around playmaker Makya Matthews found a wide open Tanner Holden on a halfback pass for a 34 yard touchdown pitch and catch with 3:19 left in the first quarter.
As storms plagued the area south of Waverly along the Ohio River, lightning was spotted in the distance multiple times. By rule, the officials must delay the game 30 minutes following the sighting of lightning, no matter how far away the strikes may be. While there was no alarm for strikes in the near area, officials continued to delay the contest and keep both teams in the locker room for nearly an hour and a half in order to ensure the highest level of safety precaution. Woodward said his team used some interesting tactics to try and keep his team loose during the extended break. “No matter what happens in a situation, they’re there to count on one another” said Woodward, “I had one of my guys run over to the Superquik and buy them out of all the granola bars they had just to make sure our guys had that energy they needed.”
Once play finally resumed, Wheelersburg picked right up where they left off. Makya Matthews would intercept Waverly quarterback Haydn Shanks pass and take the ball into the end zone from near midfield to give the Pirates a 21-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Wheelersburg forced Waverly to punt on the ensuing Tigers possession, and if you couldn’t guess who would be there to make another outstanding play, it was Makya Matthews. He would field the punt from Waverly and take the ball to the Tigers 14 yard line, setting up an Ashton Clevenger rushing touchdown with 1:11 remaining in the first quarter to give his team the 28-0 lead.
Waverly’s bad turnover habit wouldn’t stop there, however. Early in the second quarter, Shanks threw his second interception on the night to Tanner Holden who was anticipating Shanks throw before he even made it.
Both teams would trade punches back and forth, but neither team would ultimately score as the Pirates went into the intermission with a 28-0 lead.
Coming out of the break, Wheelersburg showed no signs of slowing down. With 9:48 left in the third quarter, quarterback Trent Salyers found Matthews in the flats which allowed him to use his patented speed to outrun the Waverly defenders on his way to a 68 yard touchdown reception to give the Pirates the 35-0 lead after Jalen Miller’s made PAT.
The next Wheelersburg score would come in the fourth quarter after Chase Greco intercepted Waverly backup quarterback Penn Morrison’s throw, setting up teammate Ethan Nunley’s 12 yard touchdown rush to put Wheelersburg ahead 42-0 with 7:53 remaining in the game. This would not be the Pirates last score of the game, however, as Carson Mullins intercepted Morrison once again in route to a 47 yard pick six to put Wheelersburg ahead 49-0 after Braxton Sammons’ made extra point. Morrison’s last interception brought the total number of Tiger turnovers on the night to six, a recipe for disaster anytime you play this tough and physical Wheelersburg defense.
The Pirates will host the 6-1 Minford Falcons next week in their second straight SOC game and their first home game since their week five contest with Jackson. “Everything else was in preparation for this” said Woodward of the Pirates upcoming conference slate, “Tonight, we started our story for the 2018 season on who we are in the SOC, and we’re going to look to write another chapter next week.”
Waverly will play host to a 6-1 Portsmouth West team who is coming off a 29-6 home victory over the Valley Indians, a game that was called at halftime due to inclement weather. Kickoff for that SOC matchup is slated for 7:00 p.m.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT