Trevor Arnett, Contributor
WAVERLY — It’s been a strange couple of weeks for the Waverly Tigers.
So a wild ending seemed more than fitting on Friday night.
After two game cancelations, the school district closing for the week, and picking up an opponent with just two days to prepare, the Tigers were able to overcome a mountain of adversity and pick up a gritty win in the closing second to beat previously unbeaten Portsmouth, 35-34.
The win couldn’t have come in a more dramatic fashion.
Trailing 34-27 with 1:12 remaining, the Tigers (4-0) took over on their own 45-yard line and proceeded to methodically move the ball down the field.
Waverly’s players had victory on their mind the moment they got the ball back. “We knew we were going to score,” senior Penn Morrison said of the last drive.
“Two plays before we scored, we started talking about what we were going to do for the two-point conversion,” senior Will Futhey explained of the win-now mindset. “We knew what we were going to do.”
As the seconds ticked away, the Tigers’ prophecy came true as senior quarterback Wade Futhey found Morrison on a 16-yard touchdown lob down the left sideline to cut Portsmouth’s lead to 34-33 with seconds remaining.
Waverly didn’t hesitate to make a decision next.
On a night that saw Waverly lose their only two remaining running backs to injury, the whole stadium, including the Trojan defense, was expecting a pass.
But the Tigers lined up on the right hash and ran a speed option to the boundary. Futhey took the snap and beautifully ran the quick pitch option, making the lone defender in his way commit before flipping the ball to junior Wyatt Crabtree, who sprinted into the corner of the end zone untouched.
Ball game, Waverly 35, Portsmouth 34.
The Trojans (4-1) got the ball back with just over 40 seconds remaining, but a desperation heave as time expired was picked off by Morrison, sealing the victory.
“We had to overcome a lot of tough things tonight,” Waverly coach Chris Crabtree said after the win. “This was a total team effort, from a staff to a program perspective. This is the second or third time we’ve had a big game like this come down to the last effort. I think it says a lot for our kids and our program.”
The Tigers’ passing attack was on full display as Wade Futhey amassed a huge 412-yard, five-touchdown night. Three of his receivers went over the century mark as well. Wade’s twin brother Will led the way with 132 yards and two touchdowns. Morrison compiled 130 yards and two scores of his own, and senior Mark Stulley had 119 yards and a score.
Portsmouth controlled the action for most of the game behind stellar play from senior quarterback Drew Roe, who was effective through the air and on the ground all night. The Trojans’ defense also held Waverly’s high-octane offense in check most of the night with heavy pressure.
But the experience of a battle-tested Waverly team showed through as the injury-plagued Tigers were able to pull out the victory.
The night began the way most do for Waverly — the Tigers received the opening kick and proceeded to drive 69 yards for a score.
On 4th and 1 from the Trojans’ 20, Wade hit Will on a slant route, and Will did the rest, breaking a tackle and trotting into the end zone. Keagan Smith added the extra point and the Tigers took a quick 7-0 lead.
Portsmouth answered with a long drive of its own, using speed to gain the edge on multiple outside runs. The drive was finished off with a nine-yard touchdown run via Amare Johnson at the 6:50 mark in the first quarter.
Both defenses would then tighten up.
After trading punts, the Tigers went on a long drive, but as they approached paydirt, Portsmouth’s Dariyonne Bryant picked off a pass in the end zone, stopping the drive.
Waverly then forced a three-and-out and got the ball back on its own 36 after the punt.
Early in the drive, the Trojans’ defense again came up huge. This time, it was junior corner Reade Pendleton who stepped in front of a screen pass, intercepting it and rumbling 49 yards for a pick-six, giving the Trojans a 14-7 lead.
Waverly answered on its next drive, despite immense pressure from the Portsmouth defense.
Futhey and the Tigers orchestrated another 70-yard drive that would end in Wade finding Morrison on an RPO slant for a seven-yard score. The teams were again tied, this time at 14, with under three minutes remaining in the first half.
But that was plenty of time for Roe and his offense to work their way down the field. Behind numerous scrambles from Roe, the Trojans drove 58 yards and scored just before halftime.
Roe finished the drive with an eight-yard scamper to give the Trojans a 21-14 lead going into halftime.
Waverly came out of the locker room after the half with some added fire. The defense picked up a quick stop and the offense came back onto the field. Futhey’s offense struck quickly, ending in a 27-yard pass to Mark Stulley for the score, evening the score at 21-21.
On the next defensive series for Waverly, Stulley delivered a blow that jarred the ball loose to end the drive. Will Futhey scooped up the fumble and the Tigers’ offense would retake the field.
A few short plays later, Will would be rewarded for the turnover with another touchdown pass, this time from nine yards out, giving the Tigers their first lead since the first quarter at 27-21.
Portsmouth would answer.
The Trojans proceeded to drive 65 yards for the game-tying score. Facing a 4th and 13 on the Waverly 14, Portsmouth elected to go for it. Roe would roll right, then throw back across the field left where a screen for Beau Hammond set up nicely. Hammond did the rest and the score was knotted at 27. Waverly blocked the extra point to preserve the tie, with just over nine minutes remaining in the game.
Again, both defenses would tighten down.
The teams traded drives until around the three-minute mark when Portsmouth took the field. Roe would lead a master class in the quarterback scramble as he kept the Trojan drive alive.
Under heavy pressure on a second down play, Roe scrambled to his right, reversed field and came back to the left. Roe, keeping his eyes downfield, found a crossing Donovan Carr in the middle. Carr would make a defender miss and speed down the sideline 60 yards for the score.
After the extra point, the Trojans led 34-27 with 1:22 remaining in the game.
Little did they know, 82 seconds was far too long to leave for the Tigers. Actually, Futhey and company needed only about half of that.
After a squib kick, the Tigers took the field at their own 45.
Futhey successfully worked the two-minute drill, finding receivers along the sideline who quickly stepped out of bounds after each catch. With the ball on the 16-yard line and just under a minute on the clock, Futhey dropped back and found Morrison on the left for the touchdown, bringing the score to 34-33 in favor of the Trojans.
Waverly’s offense stayed on the field for the two-point conversion and the rest is history. Futhey pitch to Crabtree, Crabtree to the endzone. Ball game.
“At halftime, maybe we didn’t feel like we played very well. We were holding our heads a little bit low,” Chris Crabtree said after the game. “We said, ‘Hey, we’ve been in this situation before, This is why you play this game.’ This will pay dividends down the road. It’s going to help us win a lot more football games.”
This same matchup took place a little over a month ago, as Portsmouth and Waverly squared off in the final scrimmage of the preseason. The varsity portion of that contest ended with Waverly leading 42-21.
The Trojans have improved leaps and bounds since that night.
“It’s just cool. I love that staff over there, we’re good friends with those guys. We have mutual respect for each other. You hate to see someone lose in a game like that, but we were fortunate enough to come out on top,” Crabtree said.
The Tigers dealt with a number of key injuries on Friday night, the biggest of which was sophomore running back Jase Hurd, who is averaging over 100 yards per game. Hurd was lost early to an ankle injury. Starting the night, the Tigers only had two healthy running backs on the roster. The lone remaining back, sophomore Creed Smith, stepped up big, rushing for 96 yards on 16 carries before also being forced to leave the game with a lower leg injury.
Despite the injuries, Waverly was able to gain a total of 505 yards on offense.
Roe put together a stellar performance despite the loss. He amassed a total of 316 all-purpose yards, accounting for over three-fourths of the Trojans’ total offense. Roe was 17-of-32 passing for 183 yards alongside two touchdowns while rushing for 133 yards on 16 carries.
Hammond rushed for 82 yards on 14 carries and also had three catches for 28 yards and a score. Carr had four catches for 96 yards and one touchdown while Johnson added three catches for 22 yards and two carries for 17 yards and a score.
Waverly will enter Southern Ohio Conference action next week, hosting West, while the Trojans welcome in Coal Grove.
|17-32, 183 yards||Passing||31-45, 412 yards|
|32 rushes, 228 yards||Rushing||31 rushes, 93 yards|
|6 – 66 yards||Penalties||7 – 73 yards|