WAVERLY — Portsmouth head coach Bruce Kalb and Waverly head coach Chris Crabtree are good friends —and former football assistants together at Waverly.
Who knows if they are riverboat gamblers together also.
And while Kalb and his Trojans took a steep chance at impromptu scheduling the fast-paced, talented, and highly-touted Tigers, Crabtree’s call for Friday night’s two-point conversion run was the ultimate roll of the proverbial dice.
As a result, the Tigers came up an epic victor on the scoreboard —and in the Ohio High School Athletic Association computers— as undefeated Waverly, with a touchdown and the subsequent two-point run in the final 45 seconds, won a 35-34 thriller inside a steamy but rabid Raidiger Field.
That’s right, as the football marriage made midweek last week lived up — and even then some — to its anticipation.
Thanks to coronavirus-related cancellations involving their respective original opponents, Portsmouth (Gallia Academy) and Waverly (Washington Court House) went at it back-and-forth for Friday night—with undefeated records, playoff points aplenty, and even U.S. Route 23 bragging rights on the line.
The two had actually squared off against each other in an OHSAA Jamboree game in August, in which Waverly of Division IV doubled up the Division V Trojans 42-21.
Given that result, perhaps Portsmouth was in over its head against the Tigers, but Kalb and his Trojans are a light years different football team from weeks ago.
“It was one of those situations where that’s the perfect play call for them against our play call on defense. It came down to the final seconds of this game. If you rewind six weeks ago how this ended after two quarters, I think a lot of people counted us out tonight. A lot of people thought I was crazy for even scheduling this game,” said Kalb. “But it came down to the wire. It showed how much this team and this staff has grown in the past six weeks.”
Six weeks, and four quarters this time.
There were four ties and four lead changes, including the latter three times over the final 19 minutes and 10 seconds.
But still, the outcome indeed boiled down to a two-point conversion in the final 45 tics —and brought back memories from a year ago with Waverly’s 36-35 Southern Ohio Conference Division II overtime triumph over Wheelersburg.
In that thriller, and in the same south Raidiger Field end zone in fact, Penn Morrison made the overtime touchdown reception from quarterback Haydn’ Shanks — as Crabtree called for the two-point conversion play with Waverly trailing 35-34.
The Tigers got that colossal conversion, with the standout Shanks catching a throwback pass from Phoenix Wolf —and the Tigers marching on to capture the SOC II title.
While it was a non-league encounter in regulation this time, several of the same cast members took part for Waverly —with Morrison making the 16-yard TD catch in the corner from quarterback Wade Futhey.
That made it 34-33; capped a super-quick five-play, three first-down, 54-yard and 34-second scoring drive; and ultimately forced Crabtree and the Tigers — down three men in running backs by that point due to injury — to decide on kicking for the tying extra point, or go for the lead and possibly the win.
Not only did Crabtree call for the two-point attempt, but the play call came almost as a complete shock.
With Wyatt Crabtree lined up in the backfield, the Tigers ran an open option pitch to him to the right —as he almost walked in for the dramatic 35-34 lead.
Needless to say, the nine-year Waverly mentor made his decision look golden again.
“We talked as a staff and said that if we score, we’re going to end this now. We just didn’t think we could make it to an overtime because we were down to no running backs. It worked out for us,” said Coach Crabtree. “It was a good play call, and Wyatt was able to get it in the end zone.”
That he did, but it put the ball back in Drew Roe’s hands with 40 seconds showing — as Roe had given the Trojans their second lead with a minute and 22 seconds to go, connecting on a sizzling catch-and-run with Donavan Carr, which went for 60 yards.
Roe, who completed 17-of-32 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns, found Carr for 23 and Reade Pendleton for 16 to midfield —setting up one final shot for a touchdown toss with seven seconds remaining.
Roe rolled right, set his feet and launched a desperation but good-looking Hail Mary throw, but Morrison stepped up and intercepted for the Tigers right at the 10-yard line.
Hence, the Tigers moved to 4-0 with their week-four game against Chillicothe getting canceled —while Portsmouth fell for the first time in five games, and after giving up a season-high in points, albeit to a breakneck-paced and high-octane Waverly offense.
The pass-happy and spread-oriented Tigers ran an amazing 76 plays from scrimmage, snapping the ball almost every 15 to 20 seconds.
Futhey, taking over for the 2020 Southeast District Division IV Offensive Player of the Year Shanks, torched the Trojans for 412 yards and five touchdown passes on 31 completions.
He threw an amazing 45 times, as that number only went up because Waverly’s running backs kept doing down.
First, it was actually leading rusher Jase Hurd with what appeared to be an ankle injury after only four carries and one reception.
Then, after Creed Smith subbed in for Hurd and hard-charged his way to 15 rushes and three yards shy of 100, he too was forced to exit and not return — thus meaning Mark Stulley lined up behind Futhey, who himself ran eight times.
But Futhey more than made his impact via the air, throwing the five touchdown passes and overcoming two first-half interceptions — including one by Pendleton, which went 45 yards the other way for a Trojan touchdown and a 14-7 second-quarter cushion for the Trojans’ first lead.
Three receivers —Morrison (11 receptions for 130 yards and two TD), Stulley (eight receptions for 119 yards and one TD) and Will Futhey (nine receptions for 132 yards and two TD) — finished with at least eight receptions, 119 yards and one touchdown.
“With Wade (Futhey) not having the experience that’s he had, it says a lot for him to hang in there and have a short memory. And it helps him that we have good enough players around him that they are going to make plays for us,” said Crabtree. “At one point, we had minimal running backs, so they (Trojans) were just pinning their ears back and coming for him. He had to deal with a lot of pressure tonight, but I give our offensive line a lot of credit for hanging in there and doing the best job they could. And we practice the two-minute drill every day during the week, so our receivers do a good job of catching the ball, getting more yards, getting out of bounds and get us in manageable situations.”
The Tigers’ offense and ability to score points forced the Trojans to hang right with Waverly —which they more than did.
Besides Roe’s passing statistics, he rushed 15 times for 114 yards —including on a seven-yard run with 16 seconds left before halftime, which put Portsmouth ahead 21-14 with Zach Roth’s third of four successful extra-point kicks.
The Trojans needed just two-and-a-half minutes, eight plays, four first downs and 58 yards to answer the Tigers’ tying score at 14-14 —which was Morrison’s first touchdown reception from Futhey, and which was a six-play, four first-down, 78-yard and two-minute and 56-second scoring march.
In fact, all four Portsmouth scoring drives were at least seven plays and 58 yards —including its final, which spanned seven plays, three first downs and 85 yards in 2:55.
From his own 40, Roe completed to Carr right smack dab at midfield — as Carr caught the ball, turned, broke two tackles, and followed a convoy all the way to paydirt with only a minute and 22 seconds remaining.
Roth, who had his fourth extra-point attempt blocked and which left the game tied at 27-27, made this one for a stunning seven-point lead (34-27).
Carr was one of four Trojans who had three receptions for at least 10 yards —as his 60-yarder boosted his final yardage total to 94.
Pendleton caught five (28 yards), while Beau Hammond (28 yards) and Amare Johnson (25 yards) had three apiece along with Carr —including a 13-yard TD by Hammond, which tied it at 27-27 with 4:21 to play in the third.
Hammond had 14 carries for 82 yards as well, as Johnson — who scored the Trojans’ first touchdown on a nine-yard first-quarter run— rushed three times for 37.
But the blocked extra-point attempt after Hammond’s touchdown loomed large later, as did the Trojans’ lost fumble.
The Tigers, trailing 21-14, scored twice in a matter of a minute and 40 seconds —the second of which was off a short field following that turnover, on a one-play Portsmouth possession.
With the score tied at 21-21, and with 8:43 left in the third quarter, Waverly regained possession at the Trojans’ 23 —and took its second advantage at 27-21 only a minute-and—a-half later.
Kalb said that in an offensive shootout, one turnover and/or extra-point misfire made all the difference.
“We’ve always been able to capitalize on turnovers, and tonight, they capitalized on that turnover. It’s a sign of two good teams going out and battling and it almost coming down to who has the ball last and makes the least amount of mistakes,” he said.
That, and Crabtree going riverboat gambling —and hitting the playoff points jackpot against his good friend and former Waverly assistant.
“We found a way to get through it, and I’m proud of our kids for hanging in there and believing in our staff and in each other,” said Crabtree.
Kalb fully expects his unit, as the Trojans turn their attention back to Ohio Valley Conference play this week against visiting Coal Grove, to bounce back — better than ever.
“This staff and this team will respond and we’ll grow even more after tonight. We can take this game and if we have another one down the road, we’ve been there now against a really good team and our kids know how to respond in that situation. The Trojan football program that I played in 20 years ago somewhere along the way got off track. When (PHS assistant) Coach (Aaron) Duncan took over seven years ago and when I took over four years ago, we started taking it back in the direction that we remembered it. People used to say that good, bad or indifferent, Portsmouth plays tough, tough football. The physicality of our kids tonight, especially on the defensive side, shows the style of football we’ve wanted to bring back has arrived,” he said. “We can’t hang our heads at all after this loss. We played one of the best teams south of Columbus to the wire, were up in the last minute, and it came down to a two-point conversion where they had our number. I know this team’s heart and I know they will respond and continue to take this program forward.”
* * *
Portsmouth 7 14 6 7 —34
Waverly 7 7 13 8—35
W — Will Futhey, 20-yard pass from Wade Futhey (Keegan Smith kick), 9:35, 1st (7-0 W)
P — Amare Johnson, 9-yard run (Zach Roth kick), 6:50, 1st (7-7 tie)
P — Reade Pendleton, 45-yard interception return (Zach Roth kick), 9:48, 2nd (14-7 P)
W— Penn Morrison, 7-yard pass from Wade Futhey (Keegan Smith kick), 2:56, 2nd (14-14 tie)
P — Drew Roe, 7-yard run (Zach Roth kick), :16, 2nd (21-14 P)
W — Mark Stulley, 27-yard pass from Wade Futhey (Keegan Smith kick), 8:50, 3rd (21-21 tie)
W — Will Futhey, 10-yard pass from Wade Futhey (kick failed), 7:10, 3rd (27-21 W)
P — Beau Hammond, 13-yard pass from Drew Roe (kick blocked), 4:21, 3rd (27-27 tie)
P — Donavan Carr, 60-yard pass from Drew Roe (Zach Roth kick), 1:22, 4th (34-27 P)
W — Penn Morrison, 16-yard pass from Wade Futhey (Wyatt Crabtree run), :45, 4th (35-34 W)
First downs 20 25
Scrimmage plays 64 76
Rushes-yards 32-233 31-98
Passing yards 185 412
Total yards 418 510
Cmp-Att-Int. 17-32-1 31-45-2
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 6-66 10-80
Punts-Ave 6-37 3-42
RUSHING —Portsmouth: Drew Roe 15-114 TD, Beau Hammond 14-82, Amare Johnson 3-37 TD; Waverly: Creed Smith 15-97, Jase Hurd 4-10, Mark Stulley 2-6, Will Futhey 1-3, Trey Brushart 1-1, Wade Futhey 8-(-19)
PASSING — Portsmouth: Drew Roe 17-32-1-185 2TD; Waverly: Wade Futhey 31-45-2-412 5TD
RECEIVING— Portsmouth: Reade Pendleton 5-28, Donavan Carr 3-94 TD, Beau Hammond 3-28 TD, Amare Johnson 3-25, Jayden Duncan 3-10; Waverly: Penn Morrison 11-130 2TD, Will Futhey 9-132 2TD, Mark Stulley 8-119 TD, Jason McClellan 1-20, Jase Hurd 1-6, Wyatt Crabtree 1-5
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved