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Derrick Webb

Derrick is SOSA's chief content coordinator and has worked for the Chillicothe Gazette, the Portsmouth Daily Times and Eleven Warriors. He's a 13-time award-winning journalist, a self-proclaimed baseball purist, a suffering Bengals fan and has never met a stranger.

Waverly switches momentum, scores 28 unanswered to top Unioto

A hook-and-ladder play led to a come-from-behind victory for Waverly.

Derrick Webb, Staff Writer

Southern Ohio Sports Authority is presented by OhioHealth.

CHILLICOTHE — It was exactly how they drew it up, quite literally.

Trailing by a touchdown in the waning seconds of the first half on Friday, and in a hostile environment, Waverly coach Chris Crabtree dialed up a play that changed the entire trajectory of the evening.

Waverly’s Lane Bear, who intercepted a pass on Friday, breaks up a pass during the fourth quarter of a 28-14 win over Unioto.
CREDIT: Derrick Webb/SOSA

Following a timeout, and with 5.8 seconds remaining and the ball sitting at his Tigers’ 46-yard line, Crabtree ordered a hook-and-ladder. It was a last second attempt to steal momentum and, just maybe, find the end zone to tie the score.

It worked like a charm.

Quarterback Mason Kelly, in the shotgun formation, received the snap and immediately looked at receiver Kody Swords, who had ran a five-yard curl. The throw was on the money and Swords tossed the football to a sprinting Jase Hurd.

Hurd did the rest.

The senior tailback galloped up his team’s sideline, cut back at the 30-yard line before breaking three tackles en route to the end zone, making it 14-14.

“We had to dig deep tonight,” Hurd said. “That’s what it was. We pounded and pounded and pounded. We hit open receivers and scored when we needed to. That’s what it came down to. It was drawn up on the sideline. I just had to make two or three guys miss and I was in the end zone.”

And put simply, as early in the game as it was, it spelled the end for Unioto. Waverly (2-1) used the momentum to power its way to a 28-14 statement win over the Shermans — their first loss.

PHOTOS: Images from Waverly’s win over Unioto

“We had an opportunity and we took it,” Crabtree said. “Going into halftime at 14-14 is big. I give credit to my coaching staff. We ran a similar play in Week 1. It’s just something, in those situations, it’s an opportunity to gain a cheap one. You don’t know how it’s going to turn it out but if it turns out a big one, that’s great. We went away from the wide side of the field and saw what happened.”

Hurd was magnificent, as usual. His 180-plus yards on the ground paced an offensive effort that finished at 515 total yards.

But he got plenty of help from the Tigers’ explosive aerial assault. Kelly threw for nearly 300 yards and found four different receivers in the victory. The main beneficiary? Mr. Kody Swords, who racked up over 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

“We have to be able to pass and run,” Crabtree said. “When Jase gets rolling, it obviously opens up the passing game and makes life better for everybody. But Mason, standing in there and making the throws, we’re proud of him.”

Tale of the tape

The Shermans (2-1) got on the board first with 2:26 left in the first quarter. Quarterback Newton Hoops plowed his way past the goal line on the team’s fifth straight QB draw play call, ending a 15-play, 65-yard scoring drive to go ahead 7-0.

Unioto’s defense then forced a three-and-out and handed the keys to the engine over to Connor Dollison. He took it from there, racing 63 yards to the Tigers’ 18-yard line before scoring on a one-yard plunge at the 10:49 mark, making it 14-0.

But from that point on, it was all Tigers, all night long.

After converting on 4th & 2 from deep in its own territory, Waverly broke the scoring seal with a 46-yard touchdown pass from Kelly to Swords, making it 14-7 with 2:12 left in the first half.

The team’s defense then forced a three-and-out and the Tigers’ offense said thank you with a quick-strike scoring drive that ended with the hook-and-ladder play.

The gained momentum rolled into the third quarter.

The Tigers, who received the second half kickoff, took eight plays and drove 80 yards to take a 21-14 lead — thanks to a 36-yard touchdown pass from Kelly to Mason Sparks.

Less than four minutes later, the Tigers struck again. This time, it came after defensive back Lane Bear picked off a tipped pass near his own goal line. Kelly later hit Swords for a 72-yard touchdown pitch and catch, putting an exclamation point on an early-season marquee win.

“Our guys never feel like we’re out of the game,” Crabtree said. “I don’t know why but we didn’t start out the way we wanted to. This was a such a big, emotional game for us. We spent a lot of that early and walked through the motions a little bit.

Stat book

Hurd’s night consisted of 32 carries for 181 yards, as well as a 49-yard touchdown reception. Meanwhile, Kelly finished 14-of-29 passing for 299 yards and four touchdowns. Swords ended his night with 10 catches for 211 yards and a pair of scores. 

Dollison led Unioto, carrying the ball 16 times for 117 yards and a touchdown while Hoops went 17-of-36 passing for 147 yards alongside an interception. The signal caller also added a rushing score. Blake Hoops led the receiving corps, tallying nine catches for 59 yards.

What’s on tap

Both teams begin conference play next weekend.

Unioto will host Westfall — a 48-36 winner over Circleville on Friday — while the Tigers welcome Valley to Waverly.

“We have one of the best brotherhood bonds,” Hurd said. “The coaches have to kick us out of the locker room sometimes. But we just have to look at every [opponent] like we’re playing for the state title.”


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