Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
WAVERLY — It’s been quite some time since Waverly has won a playoff football game.
To be specific, it’s been 12 years.
In 2007, the Tigers handed Union Local a 27-21 loss in the opening round of the postseason.
But early Saturday night, behind the legs of Payton Shoemaker and an all-around stout defensive effort, the Tigers made sure that streak didn’t reach a 13th consecutive year with an impressive 40-0 win over Gallia Academy.
“This is just awesome. To have the home game and to be able to do what we did … it’s awesome,” Waverly coach Chris Crabtree said. “This is what it’s supposed to look like when you’re clicking on all cylinders and when kids are going out and playing for each other. It’s a great feeling.”
The victory is the program’s fourth-ever playoff win.
The Tigers (9-2) got on the board with 6:25 left in the first quarter when Hadyn’ Shanks found a streaking Will Futhey for a 23-yard touchdown strike to cap a 5-play, 51-yard drive.
Their next score came at the 2:11 mark when Shoemaker scored — a common theme — from three yards out to make it a 12-0 ballgame … after a missed PAT and a failed two-point try.
With 6:07 left in the second, the senior tailback scored again, this time from 72 yards out, to make it 18-0. On the ensuing Gallia Academy possession, Shoemaker then picked off a pass and ran it back 50 yards to the house, showing his versatility and making it a 26-0 ballgame after a two-point try.
But that wasn’t enough of a statement just yet.
Instead, Waverly’s defense forced a turnover on downs and gave its offense the ball back. That spelled trouble for the Blue Devils (9-2) … even if there was only seven seconds left on the clock.
Waverly’s quick-strike offense was given the ball at Gallia’s 44-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Shanks hit Futhey for a 43-yard gain just before Crabtree called a timeout with one second left. That’s when Shoemaker provided the dagger with a hard-nosed touchdown run, sending the Tigers into the locker room with a commanding 33-0 lead and a running clock.
The final touchdown of the night came with 5:57 left in the third, courtesy of Hunter Ward, who scored from three yards out to cap a 10-play, 55-yard drive.
While the offense racked up 348 total yards, and seemingly scored at will, Waverly’s defense forced five turnovers … four of which were interceptions, one by Shoemaker, two by Zeke Brown and one by Mark Stulley … to preserve the team’s first shutout this season.
“We executed our game plan pretty well,” Crabtree said. “There were some concerns for us and we made some adjustments. Our kids responded, they reacted and they executed. The big thing was that we got pressure [on the quarterback] tonight. That makes a big difference. Our kids were in position to make plays. Just an overall great effort by everybody.”
Shoemaker ended the night with 18 carries for 146 yards and three touchdowns while Futhey finished with four catches for 89 yards and a score. Shanks completed 12-of-18 pass attempts for 166 yards and a touchdown, and Penn Morrison had three catches for 48 yards.
The Tigers advance to Week 12, where they’ll meet with Bloom-Carroll at a neutral site. The Bulldogs were 48-39 winners over Indian Valley Saturday.
The location of that contest will be announced by the OHSAA Sunday afternoon.
“We play pretty well at home but we’ve been on the road and have done well this year,” Crabtree said. “[Next week] will have a different atmosphere. I thought our kids did a good job of being focused here and not letting the moment get too big. That’s what we’ll try to keep doing. We’ve kind of got the monkey off our back. Now we’re going to explore new territory.”