Zeke Brown TD arms

Waverly senior tight end Zeke Brown uses his speed to go into the end zone untouched on a 57-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Haydn’ Shanks in Saturday’s 62-14 playoff victory over Norwood. At that point, the Tigers led 27-0 advantage, and it was still the first quarter.

Dominant was the word of the night.

If Waverly’s 62-14 Division IV Region 16 playoff victory over the Norwood Indians could be described in one word, it would be dominant. The Tigers were on the prowl with swarming relentless defense. The defensive pressure set the table for the offense, giving the Tigers great field position time and time again for speedy receivers to sprint evasively into the end zone after securing passes from quarterback Haydn’ Shanks.

“It is an awesome feeling,” said Waverly coach Chris Crabtree of getting a first-round playoff victory in the always challenging Cincinnati region. “Our kids came out and executed. After having that week off, our kids came back very focused. It was apparent that we had a mission in mind. We wanted to come out and be dominant, and our kids did a very good job of doing that.”

In the 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons when the Tigers competed in the Division IV Region 16 playoffs, an opening round victory evaded them. Last year, they moved to Region 15, shaking those three straight losses off and winning first-round playoff game, 40-0, over the Gallia Academy Blue Devils. It was their first playoff victory since the 2007 season when Trevor Walls was quarterbacking the Tigers.

In the Saturday’s opening round win over Norwood, Waverly senior quarterback Haydn’ Shanks surpassed the all-time passing yardage record set by Trevor Walls, a 2008 graduate, at 6,197 yards. Clayton Howell, a 2018 graduate, nearly reached that mark, having 6,145 yards. Shanks has surpassed them both and has at least one more game to add to his career yardage. This is the second time Shanks broke a school record this season. In the Sept. 25 game at Minford, Shanks had already surpassed the all-time passing touchdown mark of 67, also set by Walls.

Against the visiting Norwood Indians Saturday night, Shanks was 10-for-11 passing for 273 yards and 5 touchdowns. Adding up his career totals, Shanks has completed 438-of-689 passes for 6,282 yards and 78 touchdowns.

“It feels nice to be able to come out here and break another one of Trevor Walls’ records,” said Shanks, following Saturday night’s victory. “Hats off to the line and the receivers for making plays for me. I just get the ball in their hands and they go and make plays. The line protected me all night long.”

Waverly’s defense set the tone immediately. Tiger senior kicker Ben Flanders kicked the ball to the 3-yard line on the opening kickoff. Norwood’s Kevin English returned it 7 yards before being brought down by Waverly senior Keith Doughman. The pressure began immediately, leading to a pair of incomplete passes by Norwood’s Ryan Peter. On third down, Waverly’s Logan Long broke through the line for the first of 7 Tiger sacks on the night, pushing the Indians back 4 yards. A false start penalty moved them back to the 3-yard line where Dylan Carter punted the ball just 27 yards to the Norwood 30-yard line.

It took just one play for the Tigers to pounce, as quarterback Haydn’ Shanks delivered a 30-yard touchdown strike to Phoenix Wolf. Flanders kicked the ball through the goal posts, giving Waverly the 7-0 lead with 10:57 left on the clock in the opening quarter.

Once again, the defensive pressure of the Tigers didn’t allow the Indians to get anything going offensively. Waverly forced a second straight punt. The snap sailed over the punter’s head and he was tackled on the Norwood 26-yard line by Long.

The Tigers showcased the ground game on their second drive. Sophomore Peyton Harris took the first handoff from Shanks and gained 16 yards. Then with the second handoff, he covered the final 10, crossing the goal line with 9:47 left in the opening frame. Flanders delivered the kick, pushing the advantage to 14-0.

The Indians followed by gaining some ground on their next drive, pushing their way into Waverly territory near midfield. But then Waverly junior Will Futhey jumped into the passing route, snatching Ryan Peter’s pass and breaking to the end zone for a 48-yard, pick-6 touchdown. Flanders’ kick made it 21-0 with 7:39 left in the quarter.

Norwood’s next drive ended in a punt that went out of bounds at the Waverly 32-yard line. It took just two more plays for the Tigers to score once again. Senior running back Jaxson Poe started with an 11-yard run. Then Shanks aired the ball out to Zeke Brown, who was running along the Waverly sideline. No one could catch Brown, as he sprinted 57 yards to the end zone for Waverly’s fourth TD of the night, extending the lead to 27-0.

Another Norwood punt followed. Waverly appeared to be heading for another touchdown before the first quarter ended, but a fumble gave the ball back to the Indians on their own 16-yard line.

The Indians had their longest play of the game thus far on their next drive when Peter connected with Kevin English for a 46-yard gain, breaking into Tiger territory. Peter tried to pick up another chunk of yardage with a long pass, only to see Waverly’s Phoenix Wolf pick it off at the Tigers’ 11-yard line with 17 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Waverly started its next drive with an 11-yard rush from Poe. Then Shanks fired up the long ball, connecting with Penn Morrison for a 57-yard gain. On the first play of the second quarter, Shanks went to Morrison again for a 21-yard touchdown strike. With a kick from Flanders, the Tigers had a 34-0 lead just seven seconds into the second quarter.

The Tigers continued their defensive pressure, leading to another Norwood punt that Phoenix Wolf secured and returned 35 yards. Then Shanks delivered his first and only pass of the drive for a 17-yard touchdown strike to Wolf. With the kick from Flanders added, the Tigers led 41-0 with 10:42 left in the half.

The sack party continued for the Waverly defense when the Norwood offense took the ball again. Spencer Pollard and Wyatt Crabtree combined for a sack on second down. After Peter passed for a 28-yard gain, the Indians went backwards with back to back penalties. Then Crabtree broke in the backfield for another sack, producing an 11-yard loss that forced a punt.

Scoring for the final time in the half, Shanks connected with Wolf again through the air for a 15-yard touchdown strike to cap a seven-play, 46-yard drive. Flanders connected on the kick, extending the lead to 48-0 with 5:43 left in the half.

The Indians were frustrated. A scrum broke out, resulting in numerous personal foul penalties and even an ejection for a Norwood player. After officials sorted out the situation, Norwood was hit with 45 yards of penalties to be assessed on the kickoff. That resulted in Flanders kicking the ball off from the 20-yard line. He fired it through the goal posts for a touchback. Later during the second half, another Norwood player became frustrated and was ejected for shoving a Waverly player.

“It was one of those tough games when you jump out with a big lead,” said Crabtree. “Then it gets chippy. You don’t want to lose any of your guys when silly things happen. It makes a little bit difficult at times.”

Norwood was finally able to put together a scoring drive, capping it with a 29-yard pass from Peter to Elijah Partin. That made the score 48-6 at end of the first half.

Waverly opened the second half with additional excitement, as Phoenix Wolf produced an 80-yard kickoff return touchdown, weaving his way through would-be Norwood tacklers. Then Flanders added the drop kick extra point to make the score 55-6.

Waverly scored one final time, as freshman Jase Hurd capped a 7-play, 69-yard drive with a finishing run of nine yards, crossing the goal line on a spin. Then Flanders added his final drop kick of the night, increasing the lead to 62-6.

Norwood had the last touchdown of the night, adding a two-point conversion pass, 62-14.

“We came out and played defense like we knew how to,” said Zeke Brown. “We got a lot of pressure up front, and that was mostly with four guys rushing. That helped our secondary. Our secondary really stepped up. Their quarterback was having a hard time getting completions. That set the tone from the get-go.”

Statistically, the Tigers finished with 24 first downs, compared to 16 for Norwood. Waverly had 450 yards of total offense, including 285 passing and 165 rushing. Norwood had 257 yards of offense with 266 of that coming through the air. They finished with a loss of 9 yards in the rushing department. The defense piled up 7 sacks with Wyatt Crabtree producing three total for a loss of 24 yards. Logan Long had two for a combined loss of 10 yards. Jacob Crisp, Spencer Pollard and Will Futhey were all in on the action as well. Futhey had his pick-6 interception, while Wolf provided the other.

“We were able to get a lot of one-on-ones tonight,” said Wyatt Crabtree. “The coaches told us to be relentless.”

“That was our goal to come out and get pressure on them,” added Will Futhey. “We wanted them to be uncomfortable and make some bad decisions. We did a good job of that. I’m proud of us tonight.”

Their head coach, Chris Crabtree was in agreement.

“We are hitting on all cylinders right now. We executed well. We had a few mistakes here and there. Defensively, we were getting pressure. We played some man coverage and were able to lock them down a little bit. We were physical and aggressive,” said Waverly coach Chris Crabtree.

“One of the big things for us is to be relentless in everything we do, whether we are chasing down tacklers, running routes, going up catching footballs, or blocking. Our guys up front do a phenomenal job of blocking for Haydn’ and opening up the run game. It is nice when you execute and things go well. It was also nice to get our young guys into the game in this kind of (playoff) setting.”

With Shanks hitting 10-of-11 passes for 273 yards and 5 touchdowns, Penn Morrison was the leading beneficiary in yardage. Morrison secured 3 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. Phoenix Wolf had 3 receptions for 62 yards with 3 touchdowns. Zeke Brown had 1 for his 57-yard touchdown. Will Futhey caught 2 for 32 yards. Jaxson Poe added 1 for 17 yards. Creed Smith caught a pass from Wade Futhey late in the game to add 12 yards.

Jase Hurd was the leading rusher with 8 carries for 59 yards and a score. Peyton Harris had 5 for 52 and another touchdown. Jaxson Poe added 4 for 43 yards.

“This is a special group that has had a lot of success. These guys go out and earn everything they get. It is another nice week for them to go out, get a win, and be rewarded for it,” said Crabtree as his Tigers move on to the next round.

Waverly remains at home for another week and will square off with Cincinnati Archbishop McNicholas, which defeated Unioto 27-0 on Saturday night to advance.

“I don’t know much about McNicholas. I know they played Hamilton Badin a couple weeks ago, and it was a close game. It is another team from that (Cincinnati) region,” said Crabtree. “You know you are going to get good football players and athletes from that region.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Saturday night at Raidiger Field.

“We are going to prepare the same way we do every week and expect the same outcome,” said Zeke Brown.

Email at jbillings@newswatchman.com; follow on Twitter @ Julie_Billings

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