WAVERLY — Haydn’ Shanks, simply put, put on outstanding acting roles on Friday night.
From full-time Waverly football quarterback to part-time riverboat gambler, his most noteworthy characters — which Wheelersburg will always remember but will care to forget — were those of Pirate heartbreaker and SOC streak-snapper.
Of course, the Tiger star’s supporting cast all did their jobs as well — and what resulted was an award-winning performance for best picture with Waverly spilling across the field in wild celebration.
Thanks largely to Shanks, the senior surefire Southeast District Division IV first-team quarterback and early frontrunner for Offensive Player of the Year, the Tigers toppled the Pirates with a memorable game-winning two-point conversion pass in overtime —winning 36-35 in an all-time epic inside Waverly’s rave Raidiger Field.
It was a much hyped, much-anticipated affair between two undefeateds (3-0, 2-0 in SOC II) — while Wheelersburg was defending its six-time Southern Ohio Conference Division II championship title, along with its 28-game league winning streak.
The last time the Pirates lost an SOC road show and an SOC game period you ask?
Both were against Valley, as the former was in 2012 and the latter a year later.
Hence, with 2020 being an unprecedented, oddball and out-of-whack year, how fitting that the Pirates’ good thing came to a heartbreaking end on one final play.
With Waverly trailing 35-34 and after answering the Pirates’ overtime touchdown, Shanks and the Tigers decided to go for two —and the dramatic win.
And, what a roll of the proverbial dice it was —with Shanks rolling to his right.
He then stopped and threw all the way back across the field to his left —to an absolutely wide open fellow senior Phoenix Wolf.
Wolf made the catch, all alone in the end zone, but was almost immediately mobbed by his fellow Tiger teammates.
“The execution was a thing of beauty,” said Waverly coach Chris Crabtree. “And that’s what has to happen. Have to execute, and our kids did that.”
Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward said it’s a play that the Pirates themselves have ran in the past.
“It’s just a great design call by them and a play you’ve seen run on Sundays (in National Football League games) a number of times. We’ve capitalized on it in our own offense,” he said. “But hats off to them. It’s a great play call there and they executed it.”
Crabtree continued that his Tigers, with Wheelersburg scoring first in overtime, were going to go for the two-point conversion.
“We knew we were going for two in that situation,” he said. “Didn’t think twice about it. We made the decision already that’s what we were going to do. Go for the win at home. Just a great decision by our coaching staff and our kids executing it.”
With that, the Tigers remained undefeated at 4-0, seized the inside track to the SOC II championship, and defeated the longtime nemesis Pirates for the first time since their unbeaten campaign of 2006.
“This is what they make movies and write stories about, right? For our guys to be able to do this, it’s a great thing. For whatever reason and unfortunately, there are not many people here at Waverly who can say they have beaten Wheelersburg,” said Crabtree. “I couldn’t be more happy and more proud for a group of people. This is something they will always remember and no one can take away from them. It’s just a great program win for us. This was also an opportunity for our kids to go out and play their best. For the most part, they went out and played their best. And you HAVE to play your best to beat a Wheelersburg football team.”
Crabtree — who played for Waverly and was part of one Tiger team to take down the tradition-rich and proud Pirates — was an assistant on that 2006 squad, which was coached by Rusty Wright and quarterbacked by eventual Division I signee Trevor Walls.
On Friday night, it was Shanks —another college quarterback prospect — leading the Tigers.
He completed 20 of 35 passes for 11 yards shy of 300, as his second touchdown toss —which was just as dramatic as his two-point completion —put the Tigers in position to go for two.
With the thrilling back-and-forth four-quarter affair ultimately going into overtime tied at 28-28, Wheelersburg was first on offense in the extra session —and scored on its third play when Derrick Lattimore rushed in from 12 yards out with Braxton Sammons kicking the extra point.
Speaking of 12 yards, Shanks completed a pass to Jaxon Poe for that distance to the 8-yard-line —as Poe then rushed for four yards to the four.
The next two plays resulted in no gain, including Penn Morrison dropping a pass in the end zone on third down.
However, on 4th-and-goal and needing to score to continue, Shanks hooked up with Morrison — intended or not — in the back of the end zone to set up the subsequent two-point conversion.
Morrison made the two-handed catch with both of his hands above his head, and appeared to be one of three receivers in the same vicinity.
No matter, though, as his third reception for 54 yards was the most important —as four Tiger wideouts wound up with at least three catches for 45 yards.
Waverly was without wideout Mark Stulley, but Wolf (seven receptions for 76 yards), Will Futhey (five receptions for 102 yards), Zeke Brown (four receptions for 45 yards) and Morrison (three receptions for 54 yards) more than made up for it.
On the game’s opening possession, Shanks completed three passes of at least 15 yards, including a 28-yarder to Wolf for the game’s first touchdown on the Tigers’ fifth play — and only a minute and 33 seconds in.
Keegan Smith made the first of his four extra-point kicks, which jump-started four quarters of four Tiger touchdowns —only to be eventually answered by the Pirates each time for four ties.
However, Smith — replacing the graduated all-Ohio placekicker Grayson Diener — could have won it with a walkoff chip shot field goal in regulation, instead of Wolf with the two-point conversion in overtime.
With only a second-and-a-half left, Smith’s attempt was from 18 yards —even less distance than a PAT.
But Smith’s low kick went wide right, breathing new life into the Pirates — which only a year ago survived a similar overtime occurrence on the road, a memorable 21-20 triumph at Minford as the Falcons failed on their two-point attempt.
Perhaps Smith’s miss ultimately forced Crabtree’s hand.
“We can second-guess ourselves and probably try to run it there, because it was only a yard-and-a-half. But kicking it was the right thing to do,” said the coach. “Being that close, and Keegan is a left-footer, we thought where the ball was positioned it was probably good for him. He was just a little bit wide. Luckily, we were fortunate enough to live to have a few more plays.”
But with Wheelersburg going on offense in overtime, it indeed appeared as if the football gods were with the Pirates yet again.
The workhorse Lattimore, who amassed game-highs of 25 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns, landed in the end zone on his final attempt for the Pirates’ first lead.
Woodward was most proud of his Pirates for battling back the entire 48 minutes — and finally seizing the lead three plays into the extra session.
They did their best damage on the ground, rushing 52 times for 202 yards.
“We fought the entire game. We were down seven points the entire time and continued to fight from behind and not give up,” he said. “I’ll attribute that to our guys and the work ethic they put in. Can’t take that away from them for sure. We took some chances at times and missed some of those chances, but we have to do that in a big football game in order to come up with a victory.”
Both clubs took risks of course, and sometimes the rewards were there —while others were not.
The final minute and 15 seconds of regulation —and ultimately overtime —resembled that, as both teams turned out to have one unexpected possession before Smith’s field-goal attempt.
With the score tied at 28-28, Shanks took a shot downfield from his own 20, but Wheelersburg’s Matthew Miller — like a bonafide center-fielder robbing a home run— made the massive and impressive interception at the Pirates’ 38.
Back in business, Pirate quarterback Jake Gregg got going in the final minute —first completing a 14-yard pass to Eli Swords into Waverly territory, then scrambling for three yards before his deep down-the-middle ball to Miller was nicely knocked away by Waverly’s Keith Doughman.
Facing 3rd-and-7, Gregg —who completed half of his 20 passes for 164 yards and two TDs — tried to make a play, but instead his throw-away attempt was picked off amid a crowded pack by Futhey with 36 seconds remaining.
Futhey then made three consecutive receptions of 11, 12 and finally 27 yards —setting up the Tigers at the 1-yard-line and Smith’s attempt at a game winner.
“That was a turnover that gave us new life, and another opportunity where our kids executed. You only have so many opportunities and you never know when those opportunities are going to be taken away from you,” said Crabtree.
“It was a hard-fought ballgame on both sides. Football is a game of inches and certain plays that can help you or hurt you. You certainly saw that on both sides tonight,” said Woodward.
What fans also saw, whether inside Raidiger Field or on the livestream, was Wheelersburg matching Waverly score for score.
Kenny Sanderlin’s short run with 14 seconds remaining in the opening quarter capped a dozen-play, 50-yard, five-minute and 22-second drive to make it 7-7, before the Tigers responded with a 13-play, 74-yard, four-minute march with a Peyton Harris 2-yard plunge.
In the third frame, Lattimore had a 2-yard run three minutes in to end a seven-play, 40-yard, two-minute and 50-second drive, before the Tigers took three minutes and five seconds to answer —with Zeke Brown’s four-yard run to cap a seven-play and 69-yard march.
Brown then dove in from a yard with 5:14 remaining to make it 28-21 with Smith’s final extra point, which concluded an eight-play, 67-yard drive —and quickly answered the Pirates’ tying touchdown pass only two-and-a-half minutes earlier.
After Waverly went three-and-out and punted for the third and final time, Gregg took a shot downfield — and found an open Ian Fannin on the first play following.
The quick strike, as Fannin got behind the defense and simply outran the Tigers, covered 73 yards —and forged the 21-21 and penultimate tie.
That’s because the Pirates posted the final —and most important — deadlock, driving 11 plays and 58 yards in four minutes and converting a pair of third downs.
However, it was the 4th-down-and-goal and pressure-packed conversion from the four which produced the touchdown —as Gregg found tight end Gage Adkins.
Adkins made the clutch catch, and Sammons calmly kicked the tying extra point.
With that touchdown, it made one wonder if the Pirates could have only scored on their final first-half series.
Trailing 14-7, they drove 10 plays and three minutes and 35 seconds from their own 29 to inside the Waverly 10 —buoyed by a pair of Lattimore runs that covered 24 and 28 yards.
But the Pirates — bypassing a Sammons field-goal try and with time rapidly running out — lost four yards on 2nd-and-goal from the 1, before facing 4th-and-goal at the 2.
The backup quarterback Sanderlin, who often is utilized as a runner in those short-yardage situations, stepped in and kept the ball for the final play — but the Tigers stopped him roughly six inches shy of the goal line.
“That was huge right there. I was so proud of our defense and the way they’ve had to step up,” said Crabtree. “Again, we gave up some every now and then, but that’s going to happen. You keep coming back and fighting. To stop them at that point after they get four shots at it, it was awesome stuff.”
Only a second-and-a-half remained, and the Tigers turned away the Pirates for what turned out to be an important moment.
Of course, no moment was more important —or memorable — than Crabtree rolling the dice and Shanks making it pay off with the two-point pass.
Woodward described it afterwards as a “learning moment”, as he also briefly reflected upon the Pirates’ pure SOC II dominance over the previous 28 games.
“It’s a ‘learn’ that we just suffered here, but we’re going to take it and grow from it. All you can ask for is your guys to continue to battle and fight. I thought we did that for four quarters and into overtime. We wanted it to come out the other way, but we’ve got to play better in order to do that,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of great players over the past seven years as part of that (streak), and we had a great group of players tonight. Our guys fought and their guys fought and it came down to the last play in overtime.”
* * *
Waverly 36, Wheelersburg 35, OT
Wheelersburg 7 0 7 14 7 —35
Waverly 7 7 7 7 8— 36
Wave— Phoenix Wolf, 28-yard pass from Haydn’ Shanks (Keegan Smith kick), 10:27, 1st (7-0 Wave)
Burg— Kenny Sanderlin, 3-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), :14, 1st (7-7 tie)
Wave— Peyton Harris, 2-yard run (Keegan Smith kick), 9:00, 2nd (14-7 Wave)
Burg— Derrick Lattimore, 2-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 8:56, 3rd (14-14 tie)
Wave— Zeke Brown, 4-yard run (Keegan Smith kick), 5:47, 3rd (21-14 Wave)
Burg— Ian Fannin, 73-yard pass from Jake Gregg (Braxton Sammons kick), 7:44, 4th (21-21 tie)
Wave— Zeke Brown, 1-yard run (Keegan Smith kick), 5:14, 4th (28-21 Wave)
Burg— Gage Adkins, 4-yard pass from Jake Gregg (Braxton Sammons kick), 1:15, 4th (28-28 tie)
Burg— Derek Lattimore, 12-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), OT, (35-28 Burg)
Wave — Penn Morrison, 4-yard pass from Haydn’ Shanks (Phoenix Wolf pass from Haydn’ Shanks), OT (36-35 Wave)
First downs 17 22
Plays from scrimmage 72 70
Rushes-yards 52-202 35-151
Passing yards 164 289
Total yards 366 440
Cmp-Att-Int. 10-20-1 20-35-1
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 3-20 5-35
Punts-Ave. 5-36.6 3-33
RUSHING —Wheelersburg: Derrick Lattimore 25-149 2TD, Eli Swords 8-21, Case Dyer 6-13, Carson Williams 4-12, Jake Gregg 4-(-9) Kenny Sanderlin 3-5 TD, Matthew Miller 1-7, Eric Lattimore 1-4; Waverly: Jaxon Poe 17-83, Haydn’ Shanks 9-42, Peyton Harris 7-21 TD, Zeke Brown 2-5 2TD
PASSING — Wheelersburg: Jake Gregg 10-20-1-164 2TD; Waverly: Haydn’ Shanks 20-35-1-289 2TD
RECEIVING — Wheelersburg: Ian Fannin 1-73 TD, Eli Swords 3-41, Josh Clark 2-24, Matthew Miller 2-10, Case Dyer 1-12, Gage Adkins 1-4 TD; Waverly: Phoenix Wolf 7-76 TD, Will Futhey 5-102, Zeke Brown 4-45, Penn Morrison 3-54 TD, Jaxon Poe 1-12
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved