Clay Archer, Contributor
WAVERLY — All year long, Payton Shoemaker has woven his way through opposing defenses, slice by slice and cut by cut.
His performances on the ground have been nothing short of spectacular as he’s carried Waverly’s offense all year long. But he wouldn’t credit himself for that. Instead, he’d deflect any sort of attention towards his offensive line. That’s the way he’s always been.
However, after what Shoemaker did Friday night, deflecting credit isn’t an option. As he rewrote his school’s history books, the credit falls squarely on his shoulders … even though he’d never be so brash to say that.
In a 38-22 win over Minford, one that all but guaranteed a playoff berth, Shoemaker rushed for 197 yards and two touchdowns on 43 carries. He now has 1,864 rushing yard this year … which is a new school record.
“It’s great and, honestly, it’s kind of a relief,” Shoemaker said of the record after the win. “That’s all everyone has been talking about. Everytime someone sees me, I just tell them I don’t want to think about it. I just want to run and do my thing. So it’s kind of nice to get it out of the way, but it’s also nice to get the recognition. But again, that goes out to our whole team. Everyone does their part.”
In an overall sense, the win puts the Tigers (7-2, 3-1 SOC II) in an extremely favorable spot moving forward. They’ll travel to Oak Hill next week and, with a win, can clinch a home playoff game in Week 11.
Then, of course, there’s also momentum at the right time.
“This is a big win for us,” Shoemaker said. “Coming back from [a loss] at Wheelersburg last week, hopefully this gets our momentum going again into the playoffs. We should have [a home game] now, so hopefully we can win out from there.”
After both defenses forced three-and-outs to start the game, Waverly got on the board first, capping a 91-yard drive with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Haydn’ Shanks to Will Futhey.
Down 7-0, Minford (6-2, 2-3 SOC II) responded with a 40-yard pass completion from Elijah Vogelsong to Matthew Risner that set up a 26-yard field goal, cutting the lead to 7-3.
Those two would again hook up at the 5:36 mark in the second quarter, connecting for a 32-yard touchdown toss and putting the Falcons ahead 10-7.
But Waverly, per usual, responded quickly.
Shanks completed five passes for 55 yards, on an 82-yard drive, with the last being a 15-yard touchdown connection to Futhey, putting the Tigers back on top at 14-10 with 2:45 left in the first half.
Shoemaker and company picked up where they left off in the third. After the senior broke the school’s single-season rushing record, he finished a 14-play, 76-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge, pushing the lead to 21-10 with 8:01 left.
Minford’s Ty Wiget was the next to score as he found paydirt from 14 yards out with 1:09 left in the third. Waverly struck right back as Shoemaker logged a second one-yard touchdown run at the 11:16 mark in the fourth, putting the lead at 28-16.
Nearly seven minutes later, Waverly’s Grayson Diener nailed a 29-yard field goal to make it 31-16 before Vogelsong hit Drew Skaggs for a 36-yard touchdown pass with 3:35 to go. Two plays later, senior Hunter Ward put the finishing touches on a Tigers’ win with a 52-yard touchdown run, rounding out the night’s final.
“Just super proud of [Shoemaker],” Waverly coach Chris Crabtree said. “That’s not his focus and he’s not one of those guys that look at things like that. But there were a lot of people talking about it. It’s a good thing to get off his shoulders. I’m proud of our offense, too. Minford has great athletes and they’re a well-coached team. We gave up some points defensively but we stepped up when we needed to. It’s a big win for us.”
Following Shoemaker’s performance on the ground, Shanks completed 22-of-30 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns. Futhey was the main target, catching seven passes for 82 yards and both scores. Penn Morrison was also effective, hauling in four passes for 52 yards.
For Minford, Wiget ended the night with 11 carries for 58 yards and two touchdowns while Vogelsong was 15-of-27 through the air for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Risner finished with five catches for 123 yards and a score.
While the Falcons look to get back on the winning track next week, hosting Valley, the Tigers will make their trip to Oak Hill to wrap up their regular season.
“Oak Hill beat [Minford] last week. So we have to be ready and make our situation the best we can for postseason play,” Crabtree said. “I think our guys have done a pretty good job all year taking one week at a time. We just want to go 1-0 each week. That’s been our focus.”