Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
WAVERLY — On Sept. 27, in a game that featured two eventual playoff teams, Will Futhey provided a spark needed for his team to walk away victorious.
That night, Futhey caught 10 passes for a school record 290 yards and five touchdowns.
Fast forward nearly seven weeks later and that spark has turned into a full-blown blaze.
Since that 48-13 win over Amanda-Clearcreek, Waverly’s sophomore receiver has done nothing but burn opposing defenses. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound wideout leads the Tigers with 47 catches for 961 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Futhey is joined by playmakers like Easton Wolf, Penn Morrison and of course, Payton Shoemaker, in one of the region’s most high-octane offenses … one that’s averaging 35.7 points per game.
When Waverly has possession, it doesn’t take long for the Tigers to score. In 11 games this season, they’re possessing the football just over 18 minutes per game.
Futhey is at the center of that firestorm and he’s gaining attention from multiple major colleges including Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State.
“It’s been a wild ride, but most importantly it’s been very special. This year, being able to start on offense as a sophomore and produce big numbers and get recognition from big schools has been a dream come true,” Futhey said. “I’ve had a lot of great mentors, starting with my coaches, who have pushed me to give as much as I can. Being able to watch and learn so much from Easton [Wolf] last year has really helped me develop my skill and knowledge of the game. This year has been a breakout year for me, just being able to put up the numbers I have and making big plays. The offensive line has been outstanding and my quarterback is simply the best quarterback out there. He puts the ball right where it needs to be.”
One of the more outstanding qualities in Futhey’s skillset is his ability to go get the football, no matter where it’s thrown. On multiple occasions this season, he’s simply out-jumped or out-muscled defenders to come down with the catch.
That’s developed a relationship built on trust with quarterback Haydn’ Shanks, who seems to always look Futhey’s way.
“I love playing receiver, especially when it comes to going up and getting the ball. It starts with my line protecting Haydn’ and him putting it up where only I can get it,” Futhey said. “All I have to do is use my big body and put myself in the position to go up and win on jump balls. That is probably my best trait.”
Futhey is certainly onto something when it comes to Shanks as well.
The junior signal caller has been gaining interest from Division I colleges based on his accuracy, decision-making and ability to read defenses. So far this season, Shanks has 127-of-203 passes for 1,818 yards alongside a 17-3 touchdown-interception ratio.
“Haydn’ is just an amazing athlete and person. His character has really showed this year and it’s been fun to watch,” Futhey said of his quarterback. “Haydn’ and I have a special connection when it comes to the field and it all started in the offseason during the summer. It was probably our 7v7 at Ashland when we realized that we had something special and that we could use that connection to really do some damage this year. Like I’ve said, I have the best quarterback out there and there’s nothing like catching touchdowns from him.”
The pair have led an offense that continues to break school records along the way.
For reference, the unit has amassed a total of 4,347 yards — 2,416 rushing and 1,931 passing — while 596 playcalls, an average of 7.3 yards per snap. They’ve scored at least 30 points in eight games this year and 40-plus in five contests.
Phoenix Wolf joins Futhey in the passing games with 366 yards receiving, and running back Payton Shoemaker has run wild for a school record 2,185 rushing yards with 31 touchdowns.
To make a long story short, stopping the Tigers from scoring is no small task.
“Our offense has been historically great. I’m so happy to see how amazing Payton has been this year and all the accomplishments and accolades he’s achieved. It’s been awesome to be right by his side along the way,” Futhey said. “The atmosphere in our locker room and on the field is something special. Everyone is giving everything they have on every play. But at the same time, everyone is enjoying this year and having fun. The biggest thing that has helped us as a team to be successful is the brotherhood we have. Iit doesn’t matter who you are or what role you play. You’re going to war every week alongside your brothers.”
Last week, Waverly won its first playoff game since 2007 with a 40-0 drubbing of Gallia Academy where Futhey had four catches for 89 yards and a score.
Saturday night, Futhey and his teammates will put their season on the line once more in a Division IV, Region 15 Semifinal against Bloom-Carroll.
The Bulldogs come in with a 9-2 record after beating Indian Valley by a 48-39 final.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Chillicothe’s Herrnstein Field. Futhey says his Tigers will be ready.
“I believe we’re the better team overall, but we can’t take them lightly and we have to seriously prepare for this game and focus on the task ahead,” he said. “Regular season records don’t matter. It’s all about who wants it more. As long as we come out with the determination and energy we had against Gallia and we let Payton do his thing and put up points offensively, we will be fine. But we must execute and carry over the stellar defense we had from last week.”