It was a banner year for the Waverly Tigers on the gridiron.

They made the most of their COVID-shortened football season to run the table in the conference for their first Southern Ohio Conference Division II crown since 2006. The Tigers also completed a perfect regular season at 6-0, won back-to-back playoff games, were ranked in the top 10 of Division IV throughout the season, and played with Southwest Ohio powerhouse Clinton Massie down to the wire before falling 31-28 on a field goal as time expired.

In the march to the 5-0 SOC II finish, the Waverly Tigers were absolutely dominant in four of the five games. After claiming a thriller 36-35 victory over Division III Granville on a winning point-after kick from senior Ben Flanders, the Tigers started league play the next week. They showed their power in a 49-13 triumph over the Portsmouth West Senators. Next, it was off to Valley for a 56-10 victory over the Indians.

Then it was Wheelersburg week. And for the first time in 14 years, the Tigers defeated the visiting Pirates, winning 36-35 in overtime, with Penn Morrison, the son of Wheelersburg graduate Matt Morrison, catching the final touchdown pass for the Tigers. With the choice to kick and tie the game and force a second overtime, or pass and try for the win, the Tigers opted to pass. Quarterback Haydn’ Shanks delivered the conversion pass to Phoenix Wolf, who found himself uncovered, as the Pirates covered the trio of receivers — Will Futhey, Penn Morrison, and Zeke Brown on the other side of the field. With that catch by Wolf, the Tigers had won 36-35, matching the score of the thriller they won over Granville in the opening week.

With two SOC II wins needed to complete the run, the Tigers traveled to Minford where they came away with a 42-6 victory. Then it was back home to finish a perfect regular season with a dominant performance in a 63-16 win over Oak Hill.

When the Southern Ohio Conference Division II awards were announced, the 5-0 Tigers led the charge. Senior quarterback Haydn’ Shanks was named Southern Ohio Conference Division II Offensive Player of the Year, senior linebacker Zeke Brown was named SOC II Co-Defensive Player of the Year, sharing the honor with West’s Eli Tilley, and Chris Crabtree was named SOC II Coach of the Year. SOC II Lineman of the Year went to Wheelersburg’s Blake Richardson.

Waverly’s First Team SOC II honorees included Zeke Brown, Haydn’ Shanks, Will Futhey, Phoenix Wolf, Spencer Pollard, Jaxson Poe, Penn Morrison and Andrew Welch. Second Team SOC II selections included Wyatt Crabtree, Mark Stulley and Brock Adams.

For the second-place Wheelersburg Pirates, 5-1 after the loss to Waverly, their SOC II First Team selections were Blake Richardson, Matthew Miller, Gage Adkins, Josh Clark and Carson Williams.

Oak Hill and Portsmouth West both finished 2-5 in league play. For the Oak Hill Oaks, SOC II First Team honorees were Brock Harden, Conor Dickens, Cameron Kerns and Flint Barger. Their Second Team SOC II awards went to Evan Fisher and Brandon Beam. For the West Senators, SOC II First Team awards were given to Eli Tilley, Ryan Sissel, Luke Bradford and Luke Wroten. SOC II Second Team honors belonged to Ashton Klaiber and Jeffrey Bishop.

Minford and Valley both ended SOC II play at 1-4. First Team SOC II selections for the Minford Falcons included Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis and Matthew Risner, while Tate Walker was Second Team SOC II. The Valley Indians had Ty Perkins and Devin Wiley secure First Team SOC II, while George Arnett was named to Second Team SOC II.

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

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