Trevor Arnett, Contributor
WAVERLY — On an evening that began with numerous lightning delays, the Waverly Tigers and Granville Blue Aces put on a show well worth the wait.
The first quarter got underway with the Blue Aces receiving the opening kick. Granville’s offense came out hot, covering 60 yards in three plays, culminating in a pass from quarterback Carsyn
Crouch to Christian Hilton for a 44-yard touchdown. Granville then lined up in a swinging field goal formation, and threw for a two-point conversion, taking an 8-0 lead.
Waverly saw its first drive end in a punt, but on the next Granville possession, the Tigers brought the heat and forced Crouch to scramble and throw on the run. His errant pass would find the hands of Zeke Brown, who returned the interception 60 yards for the Tigers’ first touchdown of the night. Keagan Smith’s extra point attempt was good to make it 7-7.
Granville’s next possession was marred by high snaps, the second of which came on a fourth down punt attempt that saw the ball bounce its way out of the back of the endzone for a safety, giving Waverly a 9-8 lead.
The Tigers then took advantage of the sudden change as Haydn’ Shanks hit Will Futhey down the sideline on the first play of the drive for 45 yards. Futhey was called down on the 1-yard line, but Waverly’s No. 1, Mark Stulley, would punch it in on the next play, giving Waverly a 16-8 lead.
Granville quickly answered with another three-play, 60-yard drive, this time ending with Crouch finding Keshawn Bonner on a screen that popped open for a 52-yard touchdown scamper. The Blue Ace extra point was good, cutting Waverly’s advantage to 16-15, which was the score at the end of the first quarter.
Both offenses slowed to start the second quarter.
After four straight punts, two by each team, the Tigers started a drive inside their own 5.
Waverly dug out of the bad field position, but Granville’s Matt Chaykowski stepped in front of a Shanks pass for an interception. A few plays later, running back Connor Buerkel found paydirt on a 15-yard misdirection run.
The point after try failed, making the score 21-16 in Granville’s favor.
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After Waverly’s drive ended on a fourth down attempt, the Blue Aces took over, only for their first pass to be picked off by Waverly’s Penn Morrison. Waverly then took to the ground, seeing runs by Stulley, Jaxson Poe, and freshman Jase Hurd.
However, the drive seemed to stall at the Granville 21, where Waverly faced a 4th and 1. But Shanks handed off to Poe, who rumbled for 11 yards and the first down, before Phoenix Wolfe caught a nine-yard touchdown pass on the next play, giving the Tigers a 23-21 advantage heading into halftime.
Granville again found its way to the end zone to begin the third, with Crouch finding Bonner again for a 43-yard touchdown. The extra point was good, giving Granville a 28-23 lead.
The Blue Aces rode the momentum into the next drive, again forcing Waverly to punt. Then, Granville went into its bag of tricks and pulled out a double pass, Crouch to Jaden Rudder to Miles Eckenrode, for a 14-yard touchdown, making it a 35-23 lead heading to the fourth.
That’s when Waverly decided to switch into a different gear. Granville began the quarter with the ball, running the clock and keeping the ball on the ground. The Blue Aces eventually found themselves facing a 4th and long play from Waverly’s 25. They decided to punt, pinning Waverly inside the three-yard line.
On the next play, Shanks narrowly avoided being sacked in the end zone, reaching to get the ball out. The Tigers then ripped off a 99-yard drive, ending in a one-yard touchdown run from Shanks to cut the deficit to 35-29.
On Granville’s next drive, Waverly’s defense would hold, forcing a punt that gave the Tigers the ball with 1:52 remaining.
With one timeout left, the offense took the field and began to methodically move down the field.
Shanks found Brown for a 22-yard pass play that saw Brown run out of bounds to preserve the timeout. Shanks then went to Wolfe on what appeared to be the game-tying touchdown, but he was ruled down at the 1.
After a timeout, with 13.3 seconds to go, Shanks took a shotgun snap, faked a handoff and kept around the right tackle, finding a gap and the end zone to tie the game at 35.
Waverly’s kicker Ben Flanders took the field with a chance to put the Tigers ahead and under major duress, his kick was good and the Tigers took a 36-35 lead with only 10.1 seconds remaining.
The ensuing kickoff would go out of bounds, and Granville would elect for the Tigers to retry the kick. The retry was bobbled by the returner, who fell on top of the ball. The Blue Aces would attempt two passes to close out the game, the first batted down by Wolfe and the second falling incomplete to seal the Tigers’ victory.
“It’s just unbelievable … two great football teams going at it, to come right out of the gate and have a game like this. We knew those guys were a good football team, they’re a successful football team and they’ve been in the playoffs,” Waverly coach Chris Crabtree said. “We felt like we just needed to limit the number of explosive plays, and they got a couple on us. But hats off to our defense. We fought, we fought, we fought, and never gave up and with our offense, there’s always a chance.”
For Waverly, Shanks led the way statistically, going 21-of-40 through the air for 276 yards alongside two touchdowns and two interceptions. Wolfe had six receptions for 84
yards and a touchdown, Futhey had four grabs for 94 yards, Morrison ended with five catches for 32 yards, and Brown had three catches for 37 yards. On the ground, Shanks had two rushing scores, Poe had 13 carries for 60 yards, and Stulley had one touchdown.
For Granville, Crouch was 11-of-30 passing for 205 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions while Devon Haley had 23 carries for 119 yards. Leading the receiving corps was Keshawn Bonner, who had six catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
After the dramatic win, Waverly (1-0) will host West in Week 2 action.
“League play next week, which is kind of different because we’re in it this quick,” Crabtree said. “West, Ben [Johnson] does a great job down there, and he’s going to have his dudes ready. We’ve got to bounce back and put this behind us, and get ready for next week.”