JOHNNY FUTHEY/Southern Ohio Today

Waverly seniors Spencer Pollard (55), Andrew Welch (56) and Aiden "Buddy" Diehl (70) were part of Waverly's offensive line that helped the Tigers' balanced offense in a 34-13 win over Cincinnati Archbishop McNicholas on Saturday.

Balanced Tigers bounce Archbishop McNicholas


Southern Ohio Today

WAVERLY – Like most opposing coaches, Cincinnati Archbishop McNicholas Coach Mike Orlando knew all about Waverly’s explosive offense led by senior quarterback Haydn’ Shanks and a corps of talented receivers.

What he wasn’t expecting was the Tigers’ ground game that was a force in their 34-13 victory in a Division IV Region 16 quarterfinal matchup Saturday in Waverly.

“If someone had told me before the game that they were going to run the ball like they did, I never would have believed it,” Orlando said.

Waverly running back Jaxson Poe had 95 of the Tigers 136 rushing yards on 21 carries and had three 1-yard touchdown runs. The senior credited the work up front from a senior-laden offensive line.

“We noticed on film that their linebackers were kind of far back from the line,” Poe said. “The guys up front did the work to open the holes, I just ran through them.”

Four seniors – center Spencer Pollard, tackles Aiden “Buddy” Diehl and Blaise Reader and guard Andrew Welch – join sophomore guard Brock Adams in a crew that gained the praise of Waverly Coach Chris Crabtree.

“Hats off to our guys up front. A lot of attention gets paid to our passing game, but we do like to run the football,” Crabtree said. “Jaxson did a really good job. He was very physical and was determined in his effort.”

The win moves the Tigers into the region semifinals where they will travel to tradition-rich Clinton-Massie, the state’s top-ranked team in Division IV, on Saturday.

A key sequence occurred late in the first quarter when it appeared the Rockets were starting to settle in. After McNicholas running back Tyler Snyder had a TD run from six yards out brought them within 7-6, the Rockets forced the Tigers into a punt and took over with good field position at their own 47.

On the first play of McNicholas’ series, tight end Lucas Boeckman snuck behind the Tigers’ secondary and was all alone, but he couldn’t bring in Taylor’s pass. On the next play, Waverly’s Will Futhey picked off a screen pass to swing the momentum back his team’s way.

Waverly wasted little time taking advantage of the turnover. Shanks found receiver Penn Morrison, who went up amid three McNicholas defenders and brought down a pass before being tackled near the goal line. The 45-yard connection set up the second of Poe’s three TDs and Ben Flanders’ PAT pushed the lead to 13-6.

Morrison led all receivers with 133 yards on eight receptions and had a dazzling, one-handed interception early in the fourth quarter. Shanks finished 29-of-39 for 322 yards and two touchdowns. All his completions went to Morrison, Futhey, Zeke Brown and Phoenix Wolf and each receiver had at least seven catches in the Tigers’ well-balanced offensive performance.

Midway through the second quarter, Crabtree rolled the dice at the end of a 13-play, 85-yard drive. Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 7, he decided against a Flanders field goal attempt.

The gamble paid off when Shanks found Futhey in the front right corner of the end zone, just inside the pylon, for the 7-yard score that allowed the Tigers to take a 20-6 lead into halftime. Futhey, who was quiet in the game’s early going and was shut out in the first quarter, came alive in the second. His TD reception was one of five catches in the quarter and he finished the game with 100 yards receiving on seven receptions.

Orlando said some ill-timed mistakes allowed the Tigers to dictate the first half and his team struggled to put points on the board despite averaging more than six yards a carry (217 yards on 34 attempts). Taylor, the Rockets’ shifty 5-foot-9 junior quarterback, had success against the Tigers defense and led all rushers with 146 yards on 20 carries. But the Rockets failed to score enough to keep up with the Tigers.

“First and foremost they are a really good, well-coached football team,” Orlando said. “But we just did a lot of things that were uncharacteristic of ourselves. When you get to this point in the playoffs, you have to take advantage of your opportunities. They did, and we didn’t.”

Waverly seized control of the game with its opening drive of the second half. Shanks engineered a 12-play, 69-yard march that ended with him finding Brown over the middle for a 5-yard touchdown and the Tigers ran the count to 27-6 after Flanders’ extra point. In one of the few instances where Shanks saw pressure, he sidestepped a defender and found Brown, who made a tough, juggling catch on the fourth-and-four play.

The Rockets (5-3) tried to claw back into the game on their next drive, driving from their own 30 to the Waverly 32, but on a fourth-and-three the drive ended when junior Mark Stulley wrestled the ball away from a McNicholas receiver for an interception on the 4-yard line.

Poe added his third rushing TD with 8:04 left in the game. McNicholas’ Nick Clark hauled in a 22-yard scoring pass from Taylor at the 6:02 mark and Nick Carter’s extra point finished the scoring.

Shanks extended his record for career passing yards. He broke the record in the Tigers’ playoff win over Norwood and his 322 passing yards against McNicholas push his total to 6,519.

The fourth-seeded Tigers (8-0) head to Clinton-Massie on a roll. Crabtree said the matchup with the tradition-laden Falcons means his team is still in the conversation.

“If a team can get out of this region, it has a good chance to win it all,” Crabtree said. “We’ll get ready to go and see what happens.”

McNICHOLAS       6  0  0  7 - 13

WAVERLY            13  7  7  7 - 34

W – Jaxson Poe 1 run (Ben Flanders kick)

M – Tyler Snyder 6 run (kick blocked)

W – Poe 1 run (pass failed)

W – Will Futhey 7 pass from Haydn’ Shanks (Flanders kick)

W – Zeke Brown 5 pass from Shanks (Flanders kick)

W – Poe 1 run (Flanders kick)

M – Nick Clark 22 pass from Pierce Taylor (Nick Carter kick)

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