Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — Two years ago, Payton Shoemaker was the “new kid” in town.
At that time, Shoemaker had just transferred to Waverly from Chillicothe before immediately becoming a member of the school’s football team. The Tigers welcomed him with open arms.
The rest, as they say, is history.
After winning the Tigers’ starting running back position, Shoemaker began to make plays that others simply couldn’t in all phases of the game. He proved his worth on a nightly basis, he showed glimpses of brilliance continually and he made his teammates better.
That continued throughout this fall as Shoemaker not only led Waverly to a fourth straight playoff appearance, but also the program’s first postseason win since 2007.
However, all good things must come to an end.
That, unfortunately, was the case for Shoemaker’s Tigers Saturday night in a 49-21 loss to Bloom-Carroll in a Division IV, Region 15 Semifinal at Chillicothe’s Herrnstein Field.
“These last two years have meant the world to me,” Shoemaker said. “From day one, I felt like I had the support everyone in Waverly. I just can’t thank everyone enough … the coaching staff, the community, the players … everyone has accepted me throughout the whole ride.”
This season, Shoemaker capitalized on every opportunity he was given.
He broke school records for rushing yards in a single season with 2,328 yards and single-season rushing touchdowns with 32. Both marks led the Southern Ohio Conference and both stand as figures of Shoemaker’s worth to a record-breaking offensive unit.
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“Not just offensively, but the things Payton would do on defense and special teams … he’s one of those dudes that come around every so often,” Crabtree said. “He’s something else. I hope he gets the opportunity to play at the next level. He’s going to give somebody a heck of a player.”
The offense also featured quarterback Haydn’ Shanks, who threw for nearly 2,000 yards and played through injury all the while.
Shoemaker and Shanks were two huge reasons why the Tigers were able to grow as a program.
“Obviously, this was a great season for us. We were a team that learned a lot about ourselves early and had to overcome some challenges,” Waverly coach Chris Crabtree said. “Some people know and some people don’t know but [quarterback] Haydn’ [Shanks] played on a bad leg all year long. For him to do that, and to go out there and compete and play at a high level, that says a lot. Then with Payton and the things the offensive line has done, it’s a special year. While we’d love to have Payton around for another year, we’re losing him and eight other seniors.”
As for Saturday’s game, the Bulldogs (10-2) used a quick start to swiftly bury Waverly’s chances for a win.
After Cody Harmon logged a 64-yard touchdown run with 10:48 to go in the first quarter, Waverly botched a snap on a punt attempt to give Bloom-Carroll possession at the Tigers’ five-yard line. Three plays later, BC quarterback Otto Kuhns scored to make it 14-0.
The Tigers went three-and-out again, giving Bloom-Carroll the football back at its own 48-yard line. Kuhns then proceeded to hit Eli Coppess for a 42-yard touchdown pass, pushing the lead to 21-0. On the ensuing Waverly possession, the Tigers lost a fumble. The Bulldogs quickly capitalized at the 3:56 mark as Kuhns hit Evan Willet for a 29-yard score to make it 28-0.
“The last few years, it’s been that way for us,” Crabtree said. “We kind of get something that goes wrong for us and when you get to Week 12, those types of things are even more important to not do. That was uncharacteristic. We haven’t really had that happen this year. But, again, [Bloom-Carroll] came at us hard.”
Waverly (9-3) finally got on the board with 10:57 left in the second when Shanks hit sophomore Will Futhey for a 42-yard touchdown pass, cutting the lead to 28-7. However, Bloom-Carroll earned the next two touchdowns, via a six-yard run and a one-yard from Josh Evans and Kuhns, to take a 42-7 lead into halftime.
With 11:46 left in the fourth, Coppess scored again on a 57-yard fumble return, stretching the lead to 49-7. Waverly’s final two touchdowns came thanks to Futhey and Shoemaker, to round out the night’s final.
Shoemaker had 28 carries for 143 yards and a score while Futhey caught 11 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns. Shanks finished the night 24-of-41 passing for 244 yards and two scores while Zeke Brown also helped out, logging four receptions for 44 yards.
For Bloom-Carroll, Kuhns finished the night 9-of-15 passing for 119 yards and two touchdowns while also adding 15 carries for 65 yards and two more scores. Harmon had five carries for 80 yards and a score, Hobie Scarberry had 13 carries for 75 yards, and Willet caught five balls for 58 yards and a touchdown.
The Bulldogs advance to face Newark Licking Valley in a regional final while the Tigers now turn their focus towards the 2020 season, where they’ll have plenty of talent returning to the locker room.
“These are things that are a learning experience for us,” Crabtree said. “The cool thing is that we have a lot of guys coming back. It’s one of those things where you get back to the drawing board a little bit and you go back to work, figuring out some things you can work on. But I don’t want to take it away from us … we took a big step forward this year.”