Trevor Arnett, Contributor
WAVERLY — 2020 has been a strange year. But the Waverly Tigers have made the most of it.
In one of the most unique years in recent memory, the Tigers ended their shortened regular season perfect after a 63-16 route of Oak Hill on Friday, with an SOC title to boot.
Success has been plentiful in recent years for the Tigers, but undefeated teams haven’t came often.
14 years ago, the 2006 Tigers did it at 10-0. But prior to that season, you’d have to go all the way back to 1969 to find the last perfect team.
The season may have been short, the circumstances may have been strange, but perfection is still earned. Add the 2020 Waverly Tigers to the short list.
“It’s an awesome moment, it’s great for our kids. It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been close, but couldn’t get over the hump before,” Waverly coach Chris Crabtree said after the game. “It’s been a different season, a unique season. But no doubt our kids have earned it. We’ve done great things this year, and hopefully we’ve got more great things to come.”
Crabtree and his Tigers (6-0, 5-0 SOC II) left no doubt on Friday night. They could have applied for frequent flyer miles in the end zone.
Senior Jaxson Poe got the scoring started in the first quarter with a two-yard touchdown run, making it 7-0. It would take just over three minutes of game play before the Tigers struck again, this time with senior quarterback Haydn’ Shanks finding Will Futhey in the back of the end zone from 17 yards out, putting Waverly ahead 14-0.
The Oaks, however, didn’t lie down.
Oak Hill (2-4, 2-3 SOC II) took the ensuing drive all the way down the field, milking the clock and working into the second quarter. Their drive would culminate in a three-yard touchdown run from Alex Firpo, cutting the lead to 14-8 after a successful two-point try.
But Waverly’s uptempo offense was simply too much for Oak Hill to keep up with. It took the Tigers just over a minute to answer with Poe finding paydirt for the second time on the night, this time from a yard out, giving Waverly a 21-8 advantage.
Against the ropes, Oak Hill attempted to go for it on fourth down, deep in its own territory on their next drive. The decision would backfire as Waverly earned a stop and scored two plays later.
Shanks hit Futhey again through the air, this time for a 35-yard touchdown, giving the Tigers a 28-8 advantage. The lead was pushed to 35-8 when Shanks found Zeke Brown for another touchdown toss just before halftime.
After receiving the opening second half kickoff, Waverly made it a 42-8 lead when Shanks found Brown for yet another score. Shanks then found Phoenix Wolf for a nine-yard touchdown pass, making it 49-8 midway through the third quarter and allowing the starters to find a seat on the sideline.
The Oaks tallied their final touchdown with 1:22 left in the third, thanks to a 19-yard run from Conor Dickens. Up 49-16, Waverly’s Wade Futhey connected with Mark Stulley for an 80-yard touchdown strike before later running it in from 12 yards out to cap the night’s scoring.
The end result signaled the end of quite the era at Waverly, although the Tigers do still have playoff football to focus on.
This year’s senior class is arguably the most successful class to go through Waverly. Two things had eluded them until this point, a perfect season and an SOC II championship.
Both of those goals now have check marks beside them.
“It really means a lot to our senior class, to achieve this after our four years. Working in the offseason so much, just putting in everything that we have to finally get to this point,” Blaise Reader, a senior lineman said after the game.
“It’s been a dream of ours for a while. We’ve known since fifth and sixth grade that this group was special. We always talked about it and now we’re living it,” Will Futhey said. “It’s a surreal moment and we’re cherishing it.”
Statistically, Shanks had another monster night for the Tigers, going 21-of-25 through the air for 279 yards and five touchdowns. Brown and Will Futhey each had two receiving touchdowns while posting 44 and 90 receiving yards. Wolf added six catches, 77 yards and a touchdown, and Poe scored twice on the ground while tallying 50 yards on eight carries. Wade Futhey also contributed, scoring on the 80-yard pass play and the 12-yard run.
For Oak Hill, Dickens ran the ball nine times for 54 yards and a score while Firpo had 17 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Waverly received a No. 4 seed in the Division IV, Region 16 playoff bracket. That means the Tigers will be in an unusual situation and receive a first-round bye … something the OHSAA implemented earlier this year.
When they are back in action, they’ll match up with the winner of Shroder and Norwood, two Cincinnati area schools, at Raidiger Field.
“In this day and age, you can find a little bit of information on everybody for the most part. We’ve seen some highlights and things,” Crabtree said. “The big thing is we have the bye week, so we can work on getting back to ourselves, stay focused, and take a look at those teams we might be playing.”