Brock Netter, Staff Writer
WAVERLY — It’s no secret that Waverly’s ingredient to success has been a dynamic passing game. It’s widely considered as one of the best in Ohio.
The numbers back that up.
A receiving core that features Will Futhey, Zeke Brown, Penn Morrison, Phoenix Wolf, and others, have made the headlines, and it’s all, of course, been led by senior quarterback Haydn’ Shanks.
However, what gets lost in the shuffle at times is the fact that the Tigers’ running game is still very formidable and productive, despite the loss of Waverly record holder Payton Shoemaker last season.
Enter senior tailback Jaxson Poe, who has taken the lion’s share of carries for the Tigers alongside Jase Hurd and Peyton Harris.
“All the running backs knew we had great shoes to fill with Payton being gone,” Poe said. “Me and him had a good dynamic. He was shiftier in the open field, while I just put my head down and like to run through guys. There was a lot of offseason work that was put in, but it’s been completely worth it.”
Despite Poe being the starting back now, it wasn’t like that when the season started against Granville.
“The first game came and freshman back Jase Hurd got the start, and nothing against Jase at all because he can really play, but it sort of hit me like ‘Wow, I’m going to lose my spot to a freshman,’” Poe said. “He put in a lot of work to earn that spot, so I knew I had to put in more work. He made a couple of mistakes against Granville and that sort of opened the door for me to start and I haven’t looked back.”
Since that Week 2 start, Poe has been pedal to the metal, despite not getting as many carries as other running backs in the area.
So far this season, in eight games, Poe has amassed 92 carries for 531 yards and six touchdowns.
But he isn’t worried about his number of carries, nor has he ever been. He focuses on day-by-day improvement and continues to work on the little things, such as his pass-blocking, ball security and leadership.
“I was so terrified of fumbling the ball, and I still am. But I used to carry it with two hands no matter what, even if I was in open space with no one within five yards of me,” Poe said. “But I finally got the confidence and realized that I’m a strong guy that can carry the ball with one hand, which also made me a lot faster as well.
“While I’ve grown on the field, I think the off the field growth is the most important. Your leadership can either lift you up or hold your team down. I think it’s important to show leadership at all times for the younger guys and the team in general.”
While Waverly’s offense isn’t designed for a stout running game, Poe got his fair share of chances in Saturday’s playoff victory over Archbishop McNicholas. He ran 21 times for 95 yards and scored three touchdowns.
It’s that type of performance that Waverly has in its back pocket and one that Poe is capable of putting on week in and week out.
“Having a game like that lets me know that I can carry a heavy load when my number is called,” Poe said. “McNicholas dropped back throughout the game, but it gave me a lot more opportunities to run and gain positive yardage. There’s always the focus on the receiving core, but teams don’t realize that we have one of the strongest offensive lines there is and it catches them off guard at times.”
Now, Poe and the Tigers are focused on a Division IV regional semifinal against Clinton-Massie. That contest might not call for the running game to be used like it was against McNicholas.
But whether Poe gets one carry or 21 carries, he’s just focused on doing his job.
“Whether it’s running or pass-blocking and keep guys off of Haydn’, I have a job to do and I’m going to do it the best I can,” Poe said. “We have a ton of weapons and options to choose from, which is what makes us so good on offense. It’s just comes down to execution. We’re excited for Saturday.”