John Bruce, Contributor
WAVERLY — To paraphrase Charles Dickens, as for Friday’s game between Waverly and Valley View, “It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.”
Friday night was truly a tale of two halves for the Waverly Tigers.
Trailing 18-0 at the half against the visiting Valley View Spartans, the Tigers never blinked and blew out the Spartans over the final 24 minutes to advance to the second round with a 28-18 victory.
“We were kind of down a little bit [at halftime] and in the locker room, we said, ‘Hey, we don’t want our season to be over,'” Morrison said. “We came out, we adjusted and our offense got in a groove. Once our offense gets in a groove, we’re dangerous.”
The typically high-powered Waverly offense was kept in check in the first half with three consecutive three-and-outs to start off their evening. The Spartans weren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut, but were able to move the ball a bit better.
Piecing together a 9-play, 38-yard drive, Valley View got on the board with a 32-yard field goal from junior Caden Phillips. Following another quick Tiger possession, the Spartans powered their way to a 10-play, 80-yard drive that finished when Jake Clark sprinted around the left end for a 12-yard score.
After a two-point conversion put Valley View ahead 11-0 in the second quarter, it felt as if the Tigers needed to get something going. Waverly was nearing the red zone before disaster happened as a Wade Futhey pass was intercepted by Valley View’s Tyler Brock, who coasted 68 yards to the house to put the Spartans ahead 18-0 at the half.
Coming out of the halftime break, the Tigers needed to get stops and to get their offense clicking if they were to make a comeback.
The Spartans began the second half by marching to the Tigers’ 20-yard line. After the drive stalled, the Spartans missed a 34-yard field goal, opening the door for the Tigers to begin their furious comeback.
“That team we were, that’s really the team we are,” Futhey said. “That team we were in the first half, it was sloppy and it was slow. But we did a really good job of adjusting, coming out and putting up points in the second half and doing what we needed to do to get a win.”
Sophomore running back Jase Hurd gashed the Spartans multiple times to get the Tigers past midfield. On the next play, Futhey hit a streaking Penn Morrison for a 47-yard touchdown to give the Tigers life. A Spartans three-and-out, highlighted by a JT Barnett sack on third down, and a short punt, gave the Tigers the ball at their own 43-yard line.
Futhey hit Morrison and Mark Stulley for first downs, before Hurd went through the left side from four yards out to cut the Spartans’ lead to 18-14. The Waverly faithful could feel the momentum swinging and the Tigers sideline was rocking. Three plays later and the crowd would be in an absolute frenzy.
Valley View’s Caden Henson broke out of the pocket and appeared to have a receiver open downfield, but Morrison seemed to come out of nowhere to intercept the pass and return it to the Spartans’ 10 yard line. On the next play, Futhey hit Morrison with a gorgeous back-shoulder throw and Morrison smoothly tapped his toes to put the Tigers ahead 21-18.
Once the Tigers had the lead, they began to rely on Hurd and their offensive line to put the game on ice.
The following drive featured Futhey connecting with Morrison and his brother Will for drive-extending passes, but it truly relied on Hurd. The sophomore gained 55 yards on the drive, including the final two on a fourth and goal play to put the Tigers up 28-18 after Keagan Smith’s fourth made PAT of the evening.
The Spartans were unable to sustain another drive, with their final effort ending on a spectacular interception by Morrison to seal the deal for the Tigers.
On the night, Wade Futhey was 20-for-31 passing for 239 yards and 2 touchdowns. Futhey also broke Waverly’s single-season passing yardage record at 2,590 yards — and counting. Hurd rushed for 155 yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns — 128 of those yards came in the second half alone. Morrison had a monster night with eight catches for 141 yards and two scores to go along with his two interceptions.
“It’s huge, especially being down 18 points,” Wade Futhey said. “Being able to go out there and get stops, turnovers, a couple of big plays on defense … I really think that set our offense up. It was big.”
The Tigers will move onto the second round where they will travel to Clarksville to take on the Clinton-Massie Falcons in a rematch of last year’s 31-28 last-second Falcon victory in a regional semifinal.
“We have to come out and play like we did in the second half for the whole game,” Futhey said. “We need to be explosive and make [Clinton-Massie] adjust to how we play.”