Brock Netter, Staff Writer
WAVERLY — Three years ago, Waverly’s football program was at a crossroads.
The Tigers were fresh off a 7-4 season and a postseason appearance. But at the end of that year, they were forced to say goodbye to quarterback Clayton Howell, who had thrown for 2,536 yards and 26 touchdowns as a senior.
Enter Haydn’ Shanks, an unproven sophomore at the time. Who would’ve thought he’d be one of the best quarterbacks to ever sport stripes?
In his three years as the maestro of Waverly’s offensive unit, Shanks broke Waverly legend Trevor Walls’ passing yardage and touchdown records while leading the Tigers to a 26-6 mark.
That includes three postseason appearances and three playoff victories.
“When I came in my freshman year, I wrote down some goals that I wanted to accomplish. Of course those records were on the list,” Shanks said. “It’s pretty special to be able to break one of the greatest quarterback’s records to ever come from Waverly. But none of those records would have been able to be reached if it wasn’t for my line and receivers over the years. Those guys were just as key as I am.”
This past fall, Shanks completed 180-of-268 pass attempts for 2,574 yards with a 31-6 touchdown-interception ratio. Following a season where he played with basically one leg, thanks to a torn ACL, he was as dynamic as he’s ever been.
That’s why he’s SOSA’s co-Football Player of the Year.
“When [former Waverly quarterback] Clayton Howell graduated, people were like, ‘What are you guys going to do?’ Then Haydn’ came out as a sophomore and lit it up,” Waverly coach Chris Crabtree said. “He played through an injury last year and then, this year, he came in and had an exceptional year. It comes down to have a great supporting cast. They made his job easy. But he did a great job of putting it where his receivers could catch it.”
Behind their leader, the Tigers finished this season at 8-1. They won their first outright SOC title since 2006, captured two playoff wins and beat several quality opponents including Granville, Archbishop McNicholas and, yes, archrival Wheelersburg.
It was Waverly’s first win over the Pirates since 2006, a 36-35 final that came in overtime — Shanks hit Penn Morrison for the game’s final touchdown before finding Phoenix Wolf for the game-winning two-point conversion.
“The joy and excitement of that game and being able to beat one of the powerhouse football programs [Wheelersburg] in Ohio was pretty special,” Shanks said.
All in all, Shanks led an offense that averaged 45.1 points per game. The Tigers never scored less than 28 in any contest. Their season eventually came to an end in a Division IV, Region 16 Semifinal against Clinton-Massie on Oct. 31.
And even in that game, a 31-28 loss, Shanks and the Tigers’ offense moved the football. They racked up 408 total yards while Shanks was 20-of-33 passing for 285 yards and four scores.
“We knew we had all the pieces to the puzzle and that we could go win the SOC and playoff games,” Shanks said. “What made it special was the guys in the locker room the hard work and dedication we put in over the off season. This team came out and worked every single day, starting back in June when we didn’t even know if we were going to be able to play.”
While Shanks time at Waverly is over, his football career hasn’t come to an end just yet. Although he’s not sure of what the future holds, he does know he wants to continue playing.
But no matter where he ends up, the impact that he’s had on Waverly’s football program will be a lasting one. As a freshman, he was chasing records. Now, he’s the guy being chased.
“Don’t let anything get in your way, I hope the young generation learns from me not to take anything for granted and to do everything like it’s your last time,” Shanks said. “You don’t know when it’s going to be your last time. So go out and give it your all, every single day even if you don’t feel like it.”