WHEELERSBURG — For anything Waverly’s Payton Shoemaker can do — and did on Friday night — Wheelersburg’s Makya Matthews can certainly do too.
And — in fact — Matthews joined Evan Horsley, Hunter Ruby and the Pirates’ offensive line in racing past the visiting Tigers, and thus took over inside track position towards another outright Southern Ohio Conference Division II championship.
Matthews mustered an estimated 300 all-purpose yards, Wheelersburg rushed for 457 as a team, and the Pirates withstood Shoemaker’s big plays en route to capturing a critical 42-28 victory inside an electric — and even overflow — Ed Miller Stadium in Wheelersburg.
While Waverly’s playmaker Shoemaker — the Tigers’ all-Ohio Division IV running back — showed off in the form of 202 rushing yards and all four of the Tigers’ touchdowns, the Pirates put it together in a variety of ways while spreading around the wealth.
With the victory, the Pirates are now 5-3 while Waverly dipped to 6-2 — as both squads entered Ed Miller Stadium with identical 2-0 SOC II records.
It was a total team triumph for Wheelersburg, which won its third consecutive contest — and extended a pair of impressive streaks.
The five-time defending division champion Pirates took a gigantic step, or two, towards their sixth straight title — winning their 24th straight SOC II tilt dating back to this time back in 2013.
In addition, Wheelersburg won over Waverly again — a now 13-game stretch which dates back to the Tigers’ two victories in 2005 and 2006.
Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward has headed up the Pirates for now a dozen meetings with Waverly, and only Friday’s contest — along with the 11-point outcome (24-13 Wheelersburg win) three years ago — have been within two touchdowns.
But at least this one lived up to the amped-up build-up, as most observers around Southeastern Ohio had obviously dubbed the matchup as the region’s “game of the week”.
With Wheelersburg’s pedigree, however, it seems like every week is that way with the tradition-rich Pirates.
The trio of teams which have defeated them this season are a combined — and staggering — 22-2, as the Orange and Black overcame early-season injuries and adversity to successfully save their season and right their ship.
As of early Saturday morning, Wheelersburg “controls its own destiny” towards a Division V, Region 19 playoff berth.
“Our kids understand how hard we’ve worked. We had such a tough battle early on in the year, but all it did was strengthen us and exposed things that we needed to work on as a coaching staff and do better as a team. It put guys in pressure situations, and we’ve tried to work and figure out what the best scenarios are of the personnel that we have,” said Woodward. “We’re playing our best football right now at the end of the year.”
But, the first goal against Waverly was conquering the club which many observers believed was the one most likely to unseat the Pirates atop the SOC II.
With Shoemaker touching the football, he can score on any given snap — which he did twice on Friday night with touchdown dashes of 75 yards in the second quarter and again from 40 yards midway through the third.
Of the Tigers’ 250 total carries this season, the five-foot nine-inch 155-pound senior Shoemaker now has 189 — while rushing for 1,668 yards and 23 touchdowns, which is good enough for almost nine yards per tote.
He also tallied two short TD plunges — from a yard and three yards out — accounting for 24 of the Tigers’ 28 points, with all-Ohio placekicker Grayson Diener drilling all four of his extra-point kicks.
But only one player could, and would, outdo Shoemaker — that being the Pirates’ Matthews.
Matthews, often on jet sweep plays or inside isolation calls, managed a healthy 29 carries for a hefty 267 rushing yards — and had a hat trick of touchdowns.
He also caught two passes for 25 yards, and would have added more return yards — had he not fumbled a Diener punt or had Diener not sent three kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.
His short seven-yard run put the Pirates ahead 14-7 just a minute and 47 seconds into the second quarter, and capped a 10-play, 65-yard, four-minute and 24-second scoring drive — which was kept alive by a Waverly roughing-the-punter penalty.
After Shoemaker sprinted for his 75-jaunt on the next play from scrimmage that spanned exactly 19 seconds, Matthews immediately answered — taking a straight isolation up the middle for 49 yards to make it 21-14 at the 7:16 mark.
That drive last just two minutes and 20 seconds, and covered a quick 80 yards in only seven plays.
His third and final touchdown, with only a minute-and-a-half remaining, was a 42-yard burst in which he broke free — and occurred as Wheelersburg was basically attempting to run out the clock with a 35-28 lead.
Matthews’ final 42 yards occurred on the Pirates’ 64th play from scrimmage, and gave them 457 rushing yards with 27 first downs, as Horsley hammered out 94 yards on 17 totes from the quarterback position — and playing almost the entire time on an injured and taped-up ankle.
“They (Pirates) had some formations that we knew and we had practiced, but sometimes we didn’t get aligned right. And the kids sometimes don’t get to practice that speed. Matthews is fast, and sometimes you don’t get as a realistic look as maybe you need to,” said Waverly coach Chris Crabtree. “It wasn’t anything we didn’t see or didn’t expect, but at times, we probably didn’t tackle as well we needed to. Matthews probably got an extra few yards every time we did tackle him. That’s a credit to him being a strong and fast kid, but we just couldn’t get off the field when we needed to.”
Horsley, who has quarterbacked the Pirates for the past two-and-a-half games, also completed 7-of-12 passes for 91 yards — with Ruby making five receptions for 66 yards while rushing for 72 on a dozen attempts.
“Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games,” said Woodward of his top trio from Friday night. “Makya Matthews and Hunter Ruby were a great one-two punch, and Evan Horsley had to battle through getting banged up early on, and what a warrior he was out there. But he takes command of our offense. He still was able to run the ball that much and do the job that he did. All three of them wanted to make sure they played and battled through this game and they did that. But our best our defense was our offense and our offensive line. Our backs ran hard and our line blocked well. That was the best performance our offense put together tonight.”
Especially in the second half, when Woodward and Wheelersburg went ball-control mode, attempting to keep Shoemaker — who already had rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 15 first-half carries — off the field.
The Pirates took the second-half kickoff and played keep-away, marching 80 yards in 11 plays and consuming five minutes and seven seconds off the third-quarter clock.
The Pirates, with all 11 plays coming on the ground, picked up five first downs — as Carson Williams went in from five yards out to finally double the lead to 28-14 at the 6:53 mark.
Sure enough, Shoemaker scored only a minute and 11 seconds later — with his 40-yard dash that followed five plays.
But the Pirates then crafted yet another impressive 80-yard scoring march — this one even more accomplished, in the form of 13 plays and devouring exactly six minutes and 53 seconds.
Ruby ran in from three yards out just 1:11 into the fourth quarter — making it a two-score game again at 35-21.
“That’s (ball control) what we really wanted to do the entire game,” said Woodward. “Take chances when we could, but make sure that if it took a few plays to get the chains moving, then that’s okay. That keeps a very explosive Shoemaker off the field.”
But right on cue, the Tigers and Shoemaker wasted little time to answer — 40 seconds in fact following a 49-yard, three-play drive.
Waverly quarterback Haydn’ Shanks, who was limited with his mobility and playing on an injured knee, still completed nine of his 17 passes for 162 yards — including a half-dozen to Will Futhey, whose deep 45-yard reception following a false-start penalty put the Tigers in business at the Wheelersburg 9-yard-line.
That was Waverly’s longest pass play, as Futhey finished with six catches for 126 yards, including his final two receptions of 27 and 24.
Shoemaker covered the final nine yards of that Tiger series — scoring from three to make it 35-28 with 10:07 remaining.
However, Waverly wouldn’t score again — and when it needed to the most.
The Pirates moved to the red zone again in only eight plays and 43 yards, but once again and more importantly controlled the clock — this time holding the football for five-and-a-half minutes.
But a 41-yard field goal attempt by Braxton Sammons, who successfully converted all six of his extra-point kicks, missed just short and to the right with 4:37 to go.
The Tigers tried to hurry-up with their no-huddle offense and tie, but they turned the ball over on downs at midfield, following back-to-back sacks of Shanks that lost 10 yards to the Waverly 48 — and an incomplete pass on fourth down.
On that particular possession, Shoemaker carried just once for six yards.
“We just didn’t convert on offense there. We didn’t hit it all on all cylinders like we needed to do at times,” said Crabtree.
Matthews then put the contest on ice, taking his final carry his 42 yards to the house to make it 42-28 with Sammons’ sixth and final extra-point boot.
To add added injury to insult, the Pirates forced three more Shanks incompletions on the Tigers’ final series that covered eight plays and only a minute between the 30-yard-lines, but they sacked Shanks twice more — and the junior signal-caller had to be assisted off the field following the second one.
Crabtree said he expects Shanks “to be okay”.
“He obviously has an injury on that knee, and he got hit from behind on that last play and went down on that knee. He got up and came off the field, and right now, he’s moving around pretty good,” said the coach. “It’s been week-to-week for him so we’ll have to see how it goes, but I think he will be fine.”
Both the very end, and the very beginning of the game, were disastrous for the Tigers.
That’s because Shoemaker fumbled on the game’s first play, and Wheelersburg recovered at the Waverly 33.
Horsley hit Matthews for 16 yards to the Tiger 23, then two plays later, found Ruby with a nice touch pass from 19 yards out to get the Pirates on the scoreboard just two minutes and 19 seconds in.
“With an explosive offense like what Waverly has, that turnover we turned into points was an extra possession for us that we weren’t counting on,” said Woodward. “That was good.”
Crabtree admitted that mistakes and subsequent field position played a major role, as the Tigers trailed from opening kickoff until the final whistle.
“In that first half, we were our own worst enemy. We probably beat ourselves more than they did,” he said. “We had that turnover, we had the roughing penalty that led to their second touchdown. We talked about whomever makes the least mistakes is going to come out on top. We made a few more than they did. Ultimately, those things are going to come back and get you when you play against really good teams. But I am proud of my kids for coming out and competing and playing hard. It would have been easy for them to hang their heads and back down after that first play, but they didn’t.”
Waverly will host fellow 6-2 Minford next week, as the Oak Hill Oaks upset the host Falcons on Friday night, kicking a last-second field goal to win 17-14.
Wheelersburg, which played at Ed Miller Stadium for the first time in a month, will return to the road — and return to SOC II action — at Valley next week.
A win over the Indians will lock up at least a share of the Pirates’ sixth straight SOC II title.
“Our first goal is to win the SOC. Tonight, we took the next step we needed to take,” said Woodward. “We will work towards the next step next week.”
* * *
Waverly 7 7 7 7 — 28
Wheelersburg 7 14 7 14— 42
WBurg — Hunter Ruby, 19-yard pass from Evan Horsley (Braxton Sammons kick), 9:41, 1st (7-0 WBurg)
Wave — Payton Shoemaker, 1-yard run (Grayson Diener kick), 2:41, 1st (7-7 tie)
WBurg — Makya Matthews, 7-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 10:13, 2nd (14-7 WBurg)
Wave — Payton Shoemaker, 75-yard run (Grayson Diener kick), 9:48 2nd (14-14 tie)
WBurg — Makya Matthews, 49-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 7:11, 2nd (21-14 WBurg)
WBurg — Carson Williams, 5-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 6:33, 3rd (28-14 WBurg)
Wave — Payton Shoemaker, 40-yard run (Grayson Diener kick), 5:42, 3rd (28-21 WBurg)
WBurg — Hunter Ruby, 3-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 10:49, 4th (35-21 WBurg)
Wave — Payton Shoemaker, 3-yard run (Grayson Diener kick), 10:07, 4th (35-28 Wburg)
WBurg — Makya Matthews, 42-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 1:33, 4th (42-28 Wburg)
First Downs 13 27
Scrimmage Plays 43 77
Rushes-Yards 25-177 64-457
Passing Yards 162 91
Total Yards 339 548
Cmp-Att-Int 9-18-0 7-13-2
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-0
Penalties-Yards 6-40 8-48
Punts-Average 3-40.3 1-32
RUSHING —Waverly: Payton Shoemaker 21-202 4TD, Haydn’ Shanks 4-(-25); Wheelersburg: Makya Matthews 29-267 3TD, Evan Horsley 17-94, Hunter Ruby 12-72 TD, Carson Williams 5-15 TD, Aaron Masters 1-9
PASSING — Waverly: Haydn’ Shanks 9-17-0-162, Wade Futhey 0-1-0-0; Wheelersburg: Evan Horsley 7-12-1-91 TD, Makya Matthews 0-1-1-0
RECEIVING — Waverly: Will Futhey 6-126, Phoenix Wolf 2-9, Mark Stulley 1-27; Wheelersburg: Hunter Ruby 5-66 TD, Makya Matthews 2-25
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved