On strong and successful teams, at least one leader will emerge.
In the case of the Waverly Tigers, senior Easton Wolf became the leader of leaders, securing Division IV Offensive Player of the Year (POY) for the 2018 Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association Southeastern Ohio All-District Football Teams.
This makes the third straight season a Tiger has earned the Offensive POY honor, as 2018 graduate Clayton Howell won it the past two seasons.
The following story includes sections on the three Pike County varsity football teams and their Southeast District awards. In all, 13 players were honored between Waverly, Eastern and Piketon.
This was a historic season for the Waverly Tigers. Before it even began, Waverly Head Football Coach Chris Crabtree believed his team could secure a third-straight playoff berth. That was a feat that had never been accomplished, as Waverly had never gone to the playoffs more than two years in a row. Not only did the Tigers make their third straight appearance, it was also the seventh time in school history that the Tigers have been in the post-season.
The Tigers started strong and roared out to a 6-0 start before suffering their first and only setback of the regular season in a loss to the Division V defending state champion Wheelersburg Pirates. Waverly went right back to work after that defeat, rolling off three straight victories to complete the regular season at 9-1 and secure the fifth-seed in Division IV Region 16 for the post-season. The Tigers traveled to fourth-seeded Cincinnati Indian Hill on Saturday, Nov. 3 where they suffered 63-28 loss, bringing the season to a close with an overall record of 9-2. The Tigers also finished Southern Ohio Conference Division II play at 3-1 to take second place behind the champion Wheelersburg Pirates.
All of those accomplishments led to six Tigers being named First Team honorees, including Offensive Player of the Year Easton Wolf, Payton Shoemaker, Macayne Bock, Haydn’ Shanks, Grayson Diener and Dakota Swepston. Two Tigers, Zeke Brown and Ethan Brooker, were tabbed Special Mention.
Leading the way as a First Team End and Offensive Player of the Year, Easton Wolf, a 6-foot-3-inch, 180-pound senior wide receiver/defensive back, was the primary target for sophomore quarterback Haydn’ Shanks, who completed his first full varsity season under center. On offense, Wolf finished the season with 59 receptions for 1,196 yards with 12 touchdowns. That worked out to an average of 108.7 yards per game. His longest reception of the year was 80 yards. In the Sept. 14 battle with Fairland with the Tigers teetering on the edge of losing the momentum, Wolf went off for 232 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches against the Dragons.
He also took three handoffs from Shanks on reverses for a total gain of 12 yards. Additionally, Wolf has 70 yards in punt returns and 19 yards in kick returns with a total of 1,297 all-purpose yards.
Wolf was also a defensive leader for the Tigers as the leading tackler with 84 (78 solo). He also had one tackle for a loss of five yards, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and four pass deflections.
Payton Shoemaker, a 5-foot-9-inch, 155-pound junior running back/defensive back, was named First Team Offense in the All-Purpose category. While serving as the Tigers’ primary tailback, Shoemaker filled many other roles and was seemingly everywhere.
Shoemaker finished the year with 174 rushes for 1,099 yards and 12 touchdowns. That worked out to an average of 99.9 yards per game. His longest run of the year was 68 yards. He wasn’t used much in the receiving game during the regular season, but added four catches for 50 yards in Waverly’s playoff battle with Indian Hill. He finished the year with eight receptions for 48 yards.
Shoemaker provided excitement in the return game for the Tigers. During the season, he had 19 kick returns for 456 yards (average of 24 yards per return) with one touchdown. That touchdown came in a 98-yard return against Zane Trace. Shoemaker also had nine punt returns for 175 yards, which worked out for an average of 19.4 yards per return.
Speaking of punting, Shoemaker also did that as well. He punted 31 times for 1,093 yards for an average of 35.3 yards per punt with the longest traveling 59 yards. He produced six punts inside the 20-yard line and one fair catch. He also had one touchback and one punt blocked.
Defensively, Shoemaker led the Tigers in interceptions, securing five for a total of 136 return yards and a pick-six touchdown of 73 yards against Valley. He added 10 pass deflections to lead Waverly in that category.
Shoemaker was second on the team in tackles for loss with 11 for a total of 35 yards. He also had one sack for a 12-yard loss. Shoemaker was fifth on the team in tackles at 42.5 (39 solo). He added one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Entering the season Haydn’ Shanks, Waverly’s 6-foot-3-inch, 185-pound sophomore quarterback, was an unknown to area fans. That didn’t matter. After taking over for three-year starter and two-time All-Ohioan Clayton Howell with essentially no varsity experience, Shanks completed 155-of-262 passes (59.2 percent) for 2,228 yards with 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions. That led to his selection as First Team quarterback.
In order for the offense to have success, a strong offensive line is needed. Leading the charge for the Tigers in that category was Macayne Bock, a 6-foot-3-inch, 285-pound senior, who was a First Team selection as an offensive lineman.
As a team, the Tigers amassed 2,274 passing yards and 1,484 rushing yards behind the offensive line. Bock was responsible for a highlight play against Portsmouth West. Payton Shoemaker had taken the handoff from Haydn’ Shanks and gained nine yards on a rush when a Senator defender popped the ball out of his grip. It sailed into the air and Bock caught it in stride, running six more yards before getting tackled. Bock’s defensive statistics include 19 tackles, plus 2.5 tackles for a combined loss of 3 yards. He also has two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.
Rounding out the First Team honors on the offensive side of the ball is Grayson Diener, a 6-foot-2-inch, 155-pound junior kicker. Diener, who was also a First Team All-Southeast District soccer player, was honored for his ability to kick a football as well.
Diener’s kickoffs were a weapon for his team. He kicked 60 times for a total of 3,059 yards producing an average of 51 yards per kick with 22 touchbacks. He also added two touchdown saving tackles on kick returns.
Offensively, Diener was 35-for-39 in point-after kicks. He made 3-of-4 field goal attempts, connecting from 31, 23, 32. He missed a 40-plus yard try just wide.
Defensively, Dakota Swepston, a 6-foot, 200-pound junior linebacker was honored for the Tigers as a First Team selection. Swepston was known for getting into the backfield, generating 14 tackles for a combined loss of 71 yards to lead the team in that category. He also led the Tigers in sacks with six for a total loss of 44 yards. Swepston finished with 48.5 tackles (41 solo) for fourth on the team. He also had one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one blocked kick.
The Special Mention honorees, Zeke Brown and Ethan Brooker, also produced strong statistical seasons for Waverly.
Brown, a 6-foot-3-inch, 200-pound sophomore tight end/safety was second on the team in tackles with 63 (58 solo). He was fourth on the team in tackles for loss with five for a combined loss of 36 yards. Brown also assisted on a sack for a loss of three yards. He provided one interception, three pass deflections and one fumble recovery. On offense, Brown had 15 receptions for 135 yards and four touchdowns. He also secured three conversion passes.
Brooker, a 5-foot-10 inch, 160-pound senior running back/linebacker, returned to the field after missing his junior season with a knee injury.
Defensively, Brooker was a big part of the Tigers’ success. He was third on the team in tackles with 48.5 (39 solo). He was fourth on the team in tackles for loss with eight for 30 yards. Brooker added two sacks for a loss of 12 yards, one pass deflection, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. On offense, Brooker carried the ball 83 times for 360 yards and four touchdowns.
For the first time in their four-year varsity history, the Eastern Eagles made a climb in the Southern Ohio Conference Division I football rankings. Eastern finished in a tie for second place with the Green Bobcats at 4-2 behind the 6-0 champion Oak Hill Oaks. Overall, the Eagles ended the year at 5-5 for the third straight season.
Eastern’s season was a bit of a roller coaster. The Eagles played a challenging non-conference schedule to start, losing their first three games. Then they won their next four contests and appeared to be in the mix for the SOC I title. But setbacks with Green and Oak Hill followed. The Eagles closed the season with a 48-0 victory over Manchester.
In the Division VI All-Southeast District awards, senior Evan Leist and sophomore Logan Clemmons were First Team selections, while seniors Parker Clemmons and Garrett Allen were named Special Mention.
Leist, a 5-foot-9-inch, 160-pound receiver, led the Eagles in receiving yardage, receptions and touchdowns. He secured 34 catches for 471 yards and scored seven touchdowns. Leist did all of this while running cross country. He will be competing in his third straight state cross country meet on Saturday, Nov. 10.
Logan Clemmons, a 5-foot-10-inch, 150-pound sophomore wide receiver/defensive back, was honored for his defensive efforts.
Clemmons led the team in tackles with 78.5 and in tackles for loss with five. He produced one sack, two forced fumbles and blocked a punt. On offense, he was second in receiving with 20 catches for 442 yards and six touchdown. Clemmons also had seven carries for 79 yards and a touchdown.
Parker Clemmons, a 5-foot-10-inch, 180-pound senior quarterback/defensive back, did whatever was asked of him. When former quarterback Drake Myers was ruled out of the season with a hand injury, Clemmons took that role. Later, freshman Wyatt Hines became the quarterback to give the Eagles another athlete on the outside as Parker Clemmons played wide receiver and running back.
Parker Clemmons was the team’s leading rusher with 102 carries for 652 yards and six touchdowns. As a receiver, he caught eight passes for 116 yards and four touchdowns. As a quarterback, he completed 37-of-84 passes for 462 yards with three touchdowns and six interceptions. He led the team in scoring with 11 touchdowns and one conversion for 68 points.
Defensively, Clemmons had a pick-six interception with an 86-yard return for his touchdown. He also led the team in interceptions with three. He was second on the team in tackles with 66.5.
Garrett Allen, a 6-foot, 260-pound senior offensive/defensive lineman, was the four year starting center for the Eagles. Behind the line, the Eagles produced 2,891 yards (1,615 rushing, 1,276 receiving). Defensively, Allen added 30 tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Facing a year of injuries, the Piketon Redstreaks ended their season at 1-9 overall and 1-6 in the Scioto Valley Conference. Their lone victory came in the form of a 42-38 conquest at Zane Trace.
They had one Special Mention honoree in Division V, as senior Kannon Pack was recognized.
Pack, a 5-foot-10-inch, 150-pound senior wide receiver/defensive back, moved into the quarterback role for the Redstreaks midway through the season when starting junior quarterback Connor Galloway was injured.
In the final five games of the season, Pack averaged 100 rushing yards and nearly 200 passing yards per game. On the ground, he was Piketon’s leading rusher with 97 carries for 513 yards and seven touchdowns. As a passer, Pack completed 57-of-99 passes for 903 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. As a wide receiver, Pack had 10 catches for 124 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, he was fifth on the team in tackles with 35. He also had the team’s only interception and recorded three pass deflections.