The highly contested SOC II race continues into week eight as the 6-1 Waverly Tigers host the 6-1 Portsmouth West Senators in our week eight game of the week.
The Wheelersburg Pirates are undoubtedly the team to beat in the SOC II race after their thorough handling of Waverly last Friday night, 49-0. Portsmouth West, however, also has two impressive victories under their belt in their last two weeks of play against Valley and Minford. A 2-0 record in SOC play this season means that Portsmouth West is currently in first in the SOC II standings since no other team has played more than one SOC game.
If the Senators have hopes to knock off the Pirates in their final game of the regular season at ‘The Rock’, they must first take care of business against a 6-1 Waverly team who looked very impressive through their first six games prior to last weekend’s home loss to Wheelersburg.
Other than the Senators home loss to Raceland in week five, their defense has been one of the major story lines of the 2018 season. They were able to hold two of the best running backs in the county, Talyn Parker of Portsmouth and Ty Wiget of Minford, to less than a hundred yards on the ground, which is impressive to say the least. Even though their game against Valley this past Friday only lasted a half due to the inclement weather in the area, their staunch defense held the Indians to only 6 points, something no other team who has faced the Indians explosive offense can say.
The Senators also have one of the more high powered offenses in the county led by senior running back Garrett Hurd who on the season has rushed for 756 yards with 9 total touchdowns on 140 carries, good enough for 108 yards per game through the Senators first seven games.
Portsmouth West head coach Ben Johnson knows that facing the Tigers this Friday means another big test for his team, “Coach Crabtree does an excellent job and they are having anothe great season. They are explosive on offense and defense. We will have to be sound against the run and pass and not give up big plays. We need to control time of possession and keep their offense off the field. A big play in special teams could be the difference.”
On the other side of the ball is another tall task for West in the Waverly Tigers. Other than the Tigers shutout loss to Wheelersburg, their offense led by quarterback Haydn Shanks, running back Payton Shoemaker, and wide receivers Phoenix and Easton Wolf has been maybe the most explosive offense through the first seven weeks of the season.
Although the Waverly offense had six turnovers and were never able to get any momentum going offensively in their week seven matchup with the Pirates, Shanks still leads the SOC II in passing yards and touchdowns with 1418 yards and 19 passing touchdowns respectively. Shoemaker is neck and neck with Hurd statistically with 712 yards and 9 rushing touchdown so far on the season.
According the joeeitel.com, Waverly is expected to be ranked fifth in the Division IV Region 16 computer points rankings that will be official when they are released Tuesday afternoon, while Portsmouth West is expected to be ranked 2nd in the Division V Region 20 rankings, behind only Wheelersburg.
In the newest Division V AP poll that was released on Monday afternoon, Portsmouth West was voted 10th in all of Division V while receiving 37 points. Waverly was ranked 10th in the Division IV AP poll a week ago, but after their loss this last Friday, the Tigers were not ranked in the newest AP poll.
Needless to say, there is a lot on the line for both of these teams as the end of the regular season approaches and the playoff picture begins to clear up. For Portsmouth West to win, their defense will need to play another game like they have so many times when they’ve been called upon this season. For Waverly to come out on top, Shanks will need to make some adjustments after his two interception game against Wheelersburg to be able to perform at the high level he has shown through the Tigers first seven games.