WAVERLY — In recent seasons, the Waverly Tigers have largely went toe-to-toe with the Wheelersburg Pirates for Southern Ohio Conference Division II football supremacy.
But, on a chilly Friday night in Waverly — these particular Pirates played every single solitary bit the part of the defending SOC II champion.
That’s because Wheelersburg rocked the Tigers to the tune of a 35-0 halftime tally — as the Pirates played tremendous keep-in-front defense, and mixed scoring drives of single explosive plays plus sustained possessions, all en route to a convincing 49-14 victory at Waverly’s Raidiger Field.
Oh, and don’t forget junior Connor Estep kicking extra points, as he made seven more on Friday night —netting now a perfect 36-of-36 in that department.
With the win, the Pirates pushed their SOC II winning streak to 10 —their last league loss coming at Waverly two years ago, when a Tiger two-point conversion pass succeeded, and lifted the home team to an epic 36-35 overtime win.
But, Friday night’s return trek to Raidiger Field wasn’t close.
“Our week’s preparation was where it needed to be. Now it was time to showcase tonight. Extremely pleased with our defensive performance, our offensive performance and our special teams,” said an elated Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward. “Our kids did what they needed to do throughout the week to get themselves ready, and then came out and showcased what they can do.”
The now 6-2 Pirates remain, along with West (7-1, 3-0 SOC II), atop the SOC II at 3-0 —and appear on a collision course with the Senators for the outright division title, which would take place in the regular-season finale.
Wheelersburg and West will be heavy favorites for wins again this week — as the Pirates play host to Valley, while West ventures to one-win Oak Hill.
The Tigers fell to 1-2 in the division, part of now 3-5 —as Waverly, although still unofficially, sits a precarious 16th in the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s Division IV Region 16 computer ratings.
The top 16 teams in each region qualify for the state playoffs at regular season’s end, as the Pirates’ win — also unofficially — clinched a Division V Region 19 playoff spot for them.
And, they appeared every aspect a postseason squad on Friday night.
In the second half, the Pirates responded to both of Waverly’s two touchdowns —Jase Hurd runs —with two of their own, as the first five third-quarter minutes were played with the OHSAA’s running-clock rule in effect, followed by the final minute and six seconds of the third quarter, and all but two minutes and 49 seconds of the fourth.
Speaking of 49, that was the third game in which Wheelersburg scored at least that many markers this season and second consecutive —as the Pirates have gone for 42 more or points five times now.
But, almost hitting half a hundred on the fast-paced Tigers, in their home den despite a different-looking 2022 team, perhaps surprised some observers expecting a closer contest.
The Pirates rushed for 369 yards on 38 carries, outgained the Tigers on the ground (369-75) AND overall (451-253) by almost 200 yards, and twice scored on back-to-back one-play possessions of at least 69 yards late in the second quarter —opening up the 35-0 halftime advantage and quieting the Waverly faithful.
The lopsided score even surprised, to some degree at least, Woodward — but his Pirates’ preparation for Waverly week was of no shock whatsoever.
The Pirates succeeded in stymieing the high-tempo Tiger offense, which works at a breakneck pace —usually running a play every 10 to 12 to no more than 15 seconds.
“Waverly is a well-coached football team, but our kids were prepared and our coaching staff did an outstanding job. Waverly’s scheme and system presents a lot of challenges, they run it very efficiently and effectively. Trying to get high school kids to recognize that and respond to that throughout a week’s practice…you’re always praying you have your kids understanding the importance of focus and listening and preparation,” said Woodward. “Our kids do a great job of listening, our coaches do a great job of recognizing and working to prepare them. Tonight, our secondary did an outstanding job of keeping everything underneath, and our guys up front did a great job on (Jase) Hurd. When you’ve got a team that explosive, you have to make sure you are not giving them extra possessions and not giving them a chance to potentially score quickly.”
The Tigers rushed for only 75 yards on 29 carries, as the Pirates held Hurd to 63 yards on 20 attempts.
Entering the game, Hurd had 1,013 yards and 15 touchdowns on 175 carries, but didn’t see the end zone until twice in the second half — when Wheelersburg was already ahead 35-0.
In fact, the Tigers’ longest rush was a Hurd eight-yard gain, while his 30-yard pass reception was the longest completion by quarterback Mason Kelly —setting up Waverly’s first touchdown.
Otherwise, the Tigers punted four times including three in the opening half —the first of which was following a three-and-out, followed by two more punts after five plays apiece.
With Wheelersburg ahead 21-0 and 28-0 in the second stanza, the Tigers twice drove to the Pirate 30-yard-line after marches of eight and 10 plays, but they turned the ball over on downs.
Part of that was the Pirates bowing up and bearing down to make the defensive stop, and part of that was Waverly making mistakes to stall itself out.
The Tigers were whistled for eight penalties, compared to seven for the Pirates.
“You hate to see that, because you have good drives going, and the penalties make it tough,” said Waverly coach Chris Crabtree. “And they played well defensively against us.”
Wheelersburg took the opening kickoff, drove a dozen plays and 76 yards, picked up five first downs and converted on third down three times —and scored when Creed Warren plunged in from three yards out at the six-and-a-half minute mark of the opening quarter.
The Pirates’ second series spanned just four plays and 55 yards and only 43 seconds, featured a 39-yard run by Eric Lattimore on a jet sweep, and ended when QB Eli Jones snuck in from a yard.
The third possession put the Pirates up 21-0 only eight seconds into the second period —when Ethan Glover capped a six-play, 40-yard, two-minute and 20 seconds drive with a 23-yard touchdown burst.
“They are big up front and we knew how well they could run the football. They have good backs, and with what they do formation-wise, they try to get you out-flanked on the perimeter,” said Crabtree. “I thought we had a good scheme coming in, and we had some opportunities, but due to some penalties and inconsistency and lack of execution on our part, we definitely gave up some big plays. A team that well-coached and with their ability, they are going to take advantage of that. We’re still struggling to find the ability to stop the big play. Against really good teams, that’s going to kill you.”
It did in the final four minutes of the second quarter.
Nearing the four-minute mark, and in between a Waverly punt plus its second turnover on downs, Warren got loose for a 69-yard scoring scamper —while Jones went deep to Lattimore with a minute-and-a-half to go, as Lattimore got behind Hudson Kelly one-on-one and made a reception in stride, dashing 70 yards to paydirt for the 35-0 lead.
In the second half, the Pirates drove 11 plays and 63 yards in five minutes and 23 seconds for their next score, then six plays and 53 yards and four minutes and 26 seconds for their last.
Glover dove in from two yards out with 1:24 left in the third, followed by Warren completing a TD hat trick — with a 13-yard run with 5:51 remaining.
“We’re not necessarily scoring as quick, but with the holes our offensive line is opening up, the job our guys are doing with misdirection and the different weapons that we have, it allowed us to offensively maintain control,” said Woodward. “I thought (Wheelersburg offensive coordinator) Coach (Dusty) Salyers did a tremendous job of really working the different things that we have.”
Warren rushed for an even 100 yards on only seven carries, while Lattimore added 88 yards on only five touches, Glover gained 71 yards on eight attempts, and Derek Lattimore workhorsed his way to nine carries and 61 yards.
“Big run by Creed Warren, big runs by Eric Lattimore, and the one-two punch in the middle with Glover and Derrick Lattimore…I mean Derrick Lattimore ran like a beast tonight,” raved Woodward. “And again, our offensive line is being very physical and opening up holes.”
And, the run-oriented signal-caller Jones completed 4-of-9 passes for 82 yards — of course 70 coming on the connection with Eric Lattimore.
Indeed, the Pirates played certainly the part of a defending SOC II champion on Friday night.
“Our guys came out and really showcased what they’ve learned in their growth and development and are able to do,” said Woodward. “It’s a really good win here.”
* * *
Wheelersburg 14 21 7 7 —49
Waverly 0 0 7 7 —14
Burg— Creed Warren, 3-yard run (Connor Estep kick), 6:34, 1st (7-0 Burg)
Burg— Eli Jones, 1-yard run (Connor Estep kick), 4:36, 1st (14-0 Burg)
Burg— Ethan Glover, 23-yard run (Connor Estep kick), 11:52, 2nd (21-0 Burg)
Burg— Creed Warren, 69-yard run (Connor Estep kick), 3:59, 2nd (28-0 Burg)
Burg— Eric Lattimore, 70-yard pass from Eli Jones (Connor Estep kick), 1:21, 2nd (35-0 Burg)
Wave— Jase Hurd, 2-yard run (Hunter Hauck kick), 6:59, 3rd (35-7 Burg)
Burg— Ethan Glover, 2-yard run (Connor Estep kick), 1:24, 3rd (42-7 Burg)
Wave— Jase Hurd, 8-yard run (Hunter Hauck kick), 8:40, 4th (42-14 Burg)
Burg— Creed Warren, 13-yard run (Connor Estep kick), 5:51, 4th (49-14 Burg)
First downs 22 16
Scrimmage plays 47 60
Rushes-yards 38-369 29-75
Passing yards 82 178
Total yards 451 253
Cmp-Att-Int. 4-9-1 22-31-1
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 7-76 8-71
Time of possession 21:30 26:30
RUSHING — Wheelersburg: Creed Warren 7-100 3TD, Eric Lattimore 5-88, Ethan Glover 8-71 2TD, Derrick Lattimore 9-61, Jake Darling 3-15, Eli Jones 3-8 TD, Ison Emnett 1-11, Riley Cunningham 1-9, Elijah Brown 1-6; Waverly: Jase Hurd 20-63 2TD, Creed Smith 7-20, Mason Kelly 2-(-8),
PASSING — Wheelersburg: Eli Jones 4-9-1-82 TD; Waverly: Mason Kelly 22-31-1-178
RECEIVING —Wheelersburg: Eric Lattimore 1-70 TD, Caleb Arthur 1-10, Derrick Lattimore 1-1, Ethan Glover 1-1; Waverly:Mason Pollard 8-47, Kody Swords 6-41, Hudson Kelly 4-38, Wyatt Crabtree 3-22, Jase Hurd 1-30