Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
WAVERLY — If you got used to seeing Payton Shoemaker break off long touchdown runs this past fall, join the club.
Waverly’s star running back enjoyed a benchmark year, setting single-season school records for rushing yards and touchdowns with 2,328 and 32. He made a habit of decimating defenses en route to a Division IV District Player of the Year selection as well as guaranteed All-Ohio honors.
Those impressive totals, and his ability to aid the Tigers into a playoff run, are the central reasons why he’s been named SOSA’s Co-Player of the Year — sharing the honor with Southeastern’s Lane Ruby.
“It’s been an amazing year with a lot of memories that will last a lifetime. I wanted my final year as a Tiger to be a good one and I feel I accomplished that,” Shoemaker said. “My favorite memory this year was probably beating Gallia Academy in the first round of the playoffs. Winning in Week 11 just has a greater feeling to it and it was nice to win in the playoffs since it hasn’t been done here in awhile.”
Winning in Week 11 hadn’t been done since 2007 to be exact. The Tigers ended that drought with a 40-0 thumping of the Blue Devils, one where Shoemaker rushed for 146 yards and three scores, and logged a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Those types of performances became familiar.
Shoemaker’s best individual game came in a 31-21 win over Fairland in Week 4. That night, with quarterback Haydn’ Shanks sidelined by injury, Shoemaker carried the ball 41 times for a school record 362 yards alongside three touchdowns.
But while he continued to be consistently magnificent throughout the year and dominate headlines, he never forgot to give his teammates credit as well.
Nothing has changed.
“[Winning District Player of the Year and All-Ohio honors] were both goals that I had set in the summer before this season.” Shoemaker said. “I have been working super hard to put myself in the best position to achieve those goals and it’s nice to get recognized for all the hard work I put in. But the key to getting these accolades were my teammates. I couldn’t do anything without all they do. The offensive line played amazing all year and they allowed me to do all I was able to. [Quarterback] Haydn’ [Shanks] does a great job at stretching the field too, which really opens up the running game.”
Waverly’s season ended with a 49-21 loss to Bloom-Carroll in a Division IV, Region 15 Semifinal.
However, the bond that Shoemaker and teammates created will last forever.
“We just all love each other. Not one person on the team thought they were above what we were trying to accomplish,” Shoemaker said. “Each and every day, everyone just worked to make themselves, and those around them, a little better. After a while, a little bit better every day turns into a lot better … and we’re just a big family. We all do everything together and we all have each other’s backs. We went to war for each other and laid it all on the line every Friday.”
As the Tigers shift to next fall, Shoemaker is still uncertain what his future might hold.
There’s one thing he does know … he wants to continue playing football at the next level, wherever the journey may take him. And, wherever that may be, there’s no doubt his mark has been left on Waverly’s football program.
“I hope that I set a standard to give your best every day and to represent yourself in a way that you can be a good role model for the younger kids that look up to you,” Shoemaker said. “It’s crazy how many eyes you have on you and I think it’s ultra-important to be good role models for them. Just being with all the guys in the locker room and being able to spend time with all of them … that’s definitely what I’m going to miss the most.”