WAVERLY — Simply put, odds are that the Waverly Tigers are the fastest team of 10-play scoring drives you’ll ever see.
On Friday night, the Minford Falcons found that out first-hand.
In scoring on five drives of at least nine plays, and in five minutes or less for each of them, the host Tigers officially punched their tickets to the 2019 Division IV state playoffs — defeating the Falcons 38-22 in a fast-paced Southern Ohio Conference Division II tilt at festive Raidiger Field in Waverly.
Waverly’s no-huddle hurry-it-up offense keeps everybody on their toes and paying attention, and in their goal of wearing the Falcons down with an overdose of Payton Shoemaker mixed in with Haydn Shanks slinging the football all around, the Tigers scored in a variety of ways — while amassing 456 yards and 26 first downs on a whopping 76 plays from scrimmage.
“They (Tigers) are just a high-powered fast-paced offense. They get snaps off every 15 seconds. They are very efficient at what they do and have weapons all over the field. They like to go super up-tempo and it does stress the defense,” said Minford coach Jesse Ruby.
In addition, the senior standout Shoemaker — on Senior Night at Waverly High School — set the school’s single-season rushing record, which is now at 1,864 yards following his massive 43-carry 214-yard and two 1-yard TD night.
Of the Tigers’ 297 total rushes this season, the five-foot nine-inch 155-pound Shoemaker now has 232 — while rushing for 1,864 yards and 25 touchdowns, which is good for an average of exactly eight yards per tote.
Shoemaker broke the previous record held by Zach Montavon from 2001, as confetti — early, often and even late — flew from the home stands in celebration of not only Shoemaker’s accomplishments, but also the entire Tiger team.
The junior quarterback Shanks, playing on an injured knee all season which has limited his mobility, stood in the pocket and continually found receivers in the flat — to the tune of 193 yards and 21 completions on 29 attempts.
Two of Shanks’ actual downfield throws, to Will Futhey, resulted in two touchdown tosses of 31 and 15 yards — as Futhey finished with seven receptions for 81 yards.
Four other Tigers — Phoenix Wolf (five for 38), Penn Morrison (four for 51), Zeke Brown (three for 12) and Mark Stulley (two for 11) — all caught at least two balls.
“We were happy with the way we were able to perform offensively tonight,” said Waverly coach Chris Crabtree. “Haydn (Shanks) does a good job of getting the ball out on the edge, and obviously with our offensive line blocking for Payton (Shoemaker), who had another great night on Senior Night here by breaking the school’s single-season rushing record.”
Then there’s senior Grayson Diener, which is Waverly’s weapon as a placekicker.
Diener drilled seven kickoffs on Friday night — five of which went for touchbacks along with two others which were returned right from the goal-line.
The all-Ohio Division IV kicker calmly connected on all five of his extra-point kicks, and made it a full two-touchdown lead with his 29-yard field goal with four-and-a-half minutes remaining.
With Waverly so difficult to stop, it should be no surprise that the Tigers are officially fullsteam ahead into the state playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, as — per the unofficial yet respected computer rankings website www.joeeitel.com — they have clinched a playoff spot in Region 15.
Should Waverly win at Oak Hill in its regular-season finale, the Tigers will indeed host a regional quarterfinal on Saturday night, Nov. 9.
The top eight teams in each region qualify for the playoffs – with the top four squads earning first-round home bouts.
Both clubs entered Friday’s colossal affair at 6-2, while Waverly is now 3-1 in the SOC II — with the Falcons falling to 6-3 overall and 1-3 in SOC II play.
Speaking of the top eight, those same unofficial ratings list Minford — as of early Saturday morning — as the ninth-ranked team in Division V, Region 19.
Just two weeks ago, the Falcons were fourth, but an upset loss last week to visiting Oak Hill dropped them to sixth — and now ninth.
Minford must now defeat visiting Valley next week, and may or may not need additional assistance in order to qualify for for the first time since 2012.
The Falcons found themselves playing catch-up with Waverly for the overwhelming majority, trailing for all but a span of two minutes and 46 seconds in the entire game.
They trailed 7-0 at the 4:25 mark of the opening quarter, but almost a dozen minutes later led 10-7, only to see Shanks engineer a second 10-play scoring drive of least 78 yards and two minutes and 41 seconds — and complete his second touchdown pass to Futhey for a 14-10 Tiger advantage.
Ty Wiget’s 14-yard touchdown run capped an impressive 14-play 64-yard five-and-a-half minute scoring drive, as Wiget — who had the first and final carries of the series but missed the remainder because of cramps — gave way to quarterback Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis and all-purpose performer Matthew Risner.
How good was this Minford tandem?
While Wiget rushed for 64 yards on 13 carries and caught three passes for 39 yards, Risner relieved him at tailback — and carried seven times for 33 yards while making five catches for a hefty 123.
Vogelsong-Lewis, the elusive and athletic left-handed signal-caller, completed 15 of his 18 pass attempts for 246 yards while rushing 15 times for 26.
“Minford has some good athletes with (Elijah) Vogelsong-Lewis, (Ty) Wiget, (Matthew) Risner and (Drew) Skaggs. They made a lot of big plays. But our goal was to get Wiget going sideways and keep him in front of us as much as we could. Vogelsong-Lewis is a running threat at quarterback, and he does a great job of rolling out and eluding the sack,” said Crabtree.
But unfortunately for the Falcons, Risner — who successfully made a 26-yard field goal with 28 seconds left in the first quarter and followed that up with his 32-yard touchdown reception and subsequent extra-point kick midway through the second stanza — missed the PAT following Wiget’s TD.
The Falcons then trailed 31-16 following Diener’s field goal with 4:34 to play, but four quick Vogelsong-Lewis completions — to Bryson Ashley for eight yards, two to Wiget for 15 and 21 yards and a 36-yard scoring strike to Drew Skaggs only a minute later — got Minford to within 31-22.
However, forced to attempt a two-point conversion, the run failed — and now the Falcons needed two scores to tie or take the lead instead of just one with the extra point.
They almost got it — believe it or not.
The Tigers went four plays on the ensuing possession, as Shoemaker carried twice to midfield before an incomplete pass — in which the Falcons knocked Shanks out of the game.
Facing 4th-and-3 from the 50, Shoemaker managed just two yards on the fourth-down carry, giving the ball back to the Falcons at exactly the three-minute mark.
But Shoemaker atoned three plays and 34 seconds later, when a Minford receiver slipped and fell down — and Shoemaker intercepted Vogelsong-Lewis at the Tiger 42-yard-line.
Finally, fellow senior Hunter Ward spelled Shoemaker on the next Waverly possession — and promptly picked up seven yards before putting the game out of reach with a 52-yard scoring scamper at the 2:05 point.
Crabtree was happy for Ward to score such a touchdown on Senior Night, as the Tigers only sport eight seniors.
Shoemaker, of course, is the most noteworthy — as he touched the ball for 43 of Waverly’s 47 rushes, with Ward’s two and two team kneel-downs being the others.
Shoemaker’s second 1-yard touchdown plunge answered Wiget’s scoring run, and ended a nine-play 70-yard drive which picked up five first downs but only lasted a minute and 51 seconds.
That made it 28-16 with Diener’s extra point and just 46 seconds gone by in the fourth quarter, as the Tigers then forced the fourth Falcon punt — and third three-and-out possession.
The Tigers then drove another 10 plays from their own 33 to the Minford 12 — and actually consumed five minutes and 10 seconds — as Diener delivered down the middle on his field-goal attempt to make it 31-16.
That was the Tigers’ second such well-executed ball-control second-half series, as arguably their longest drive in terms of yards and plays put them up 21-10 — and devoured the first four minutes of the third-quarter clock.
Mixing Shoemaker with Shanks passes, once again Waverly gained five first downs — marching a massive 83 yards in 14 plays and capped off by Shoemaker’s first 1-yard score.
His third carry of that series, for six yards to midfield, officially gave him the single-season rushing record at Waverly.
But it was that touchdown that followed up the Tigers’ final first-half defensive stop, with Minford stopping itself, that was more important.
With Waverly leading 14-10, and with 2:43 to play before halftime, the Falcons quickly moved into Tiger territory — thanks largely on a deep pass completion of 53 yards from Vogelsong-Lewis to Risner.
From the Tiger 16, Minford manged to get to the 6-yard-line, but back-to-back five-yard penalties pushed the ball backward — and two plays later Vogelsong-Lewis lost five yards.
That set up a 29-yard Falcon field-goal attempt as time was rapidly running out, but the Tigers swarmed, bull-rushed and blocked Risner’s kick — and returned it all the way to midfield.
“We were good tonight on our end about not making the mental mistakes. It’s great when you can get a team like Minford behind the chains, because it changes their play-calling,” said Crabtree. “Getting the blocked field goal there was crucial and was a big stop for us, then we follow that up with the first drive of the second half and score a touchdown.”
Indeed, by Minford getting nothing and the Tigers taking advantage immediately after halftime, it was a gigantic point-swing.
“That was a critical point in the game, and we failed to execute in that situation. Then credit them for starting off the second half with such a good drive and getting another score,” said Ruby. “Any time you play a team as good as Waverly, you have to take care of the little things. When your beat yourself with penalties and put yourself behind the chains, it makes it so tough to continue to convert on second down or third down. At times, I thought we executed very well on offense and moved the ball and ate up a lot of the clock to keep Shoemaker and their offense off the field. We just didn’t have the chance to do it as much as we needed to tonight.”
The Falcons were whistled for six five-yard penalties as well — five of which were false starts.
They also turned the ball over twice in the second half, including a lost fumble two plays after falling behind 21-10.
But Minford continued to battle, as Ruby said the effort was much improved over last week’s disappointing loss to Oak Hill.
“I thought our effort was great tonight and our kids were resilient and kept rebounding whenever there was a negative play or they scored,” said Ruby. “We just didn’t make enough plays or make enough scores to get closer to where we could have pulled it out late in the game.”
Now, to in fact qualify for the playoffs, the Falcons need to duplicate that determination against the rival Indians.
“Our kids’ mindset this week will be going out and getting a victory over Valley and get in the playoffs,” said Ruby.
As for the Tigers, they are already in the postseason — as they travel to Oak Hill with hopes of giving their seniors one final home game.
Which would be another opportunity to see some of the fastest fast-paced football you’ll ever see.
“We’re in the playoffs regardless, but we want to win that last game to get that home game in week-11. You don’t want to end the regular season with a loss,” said Crabtree. “Hopefully, another week here, we get healthy with a few guys and have a good week of practice for Oak Hill, then get excited about what we have postseason-wise.”
* * *
Minford 3 7 6 6 — 22
Waverly 7 7 7 17— 38
W — Will Futhey, 31-yard pass from Haydn’ Shanks (Grayson Diener kick), 4:25, 1st (7-0 W)
M — Matthew Risner, 26-yard FG, :28, 1st (7-3 W)
M — Matthew Risner, 32-yard pass from Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis (Matthew Risner kick), 5:36, 2nd (10-7 M)
W — Will Futhey, 15-yard pass from Haydn’ Shanks (Grayson Diener kick), 2:50, 2nd (14-10 W)
W — Payton Shoemaker, 1-yard run (Grayson Diener kick), 8:01, 3rd (21-10 W)
M — Ty Wiget, 14-yard run (kick failed), 1:09, 3rd (21-16 W)
W — Payton Shoemaker, 1-yard run (Grayson Dienerk kick), 11:46, 4th (28-16 W)
W — Grayson Diener, 29-yard FG, 4:34, 4th (31-16 W)
M — Drew Skaggs, 36-yard pass from Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis (run failed), 3:35, 4th (31-22 W)
W — Hunter Ward, 52-yard run (Grayson Diener kick), 2:05, 4th (38-22 W)
First Downs 18 26
Scrimmage Plays 56 76
Rushes-Yards 38-134 47-263
Passing Yards 246 193
Total Yards 380 456
Cmp-Att-Int 15-18-1 21-29-0
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 6-30 6-52
Punts-Average 4-33.5 2-23
RUSHING —Minford: Ty Wiget 13-64 TD, Matthew Risner 7-33, Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 15-26, Bryson Ashley 3-11; Waverly: Payton Shoemaker 43-214 2TD, Hunter Ward 2-59 TD, Team 2-(-10)
PASSING — Minford: Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 15-18-1-246 2TD; Waverly: Haydn’ Shanks 21-29-0-193 2TD
RECEIVING — Minford: Matthew Risner 5-123 TD, Drew Skaggs 3-58 TD, Ty Wiget 3-39, Bryson Ashley 4-26; Waverly: Will Futhey 7-81 2TD, Phoenix Wolf 5-38, Penn Morrison 4-51, Zeke Brown 3-12, Mark Stulley 2-11
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