Brock Netter, Staff Writer
WHEELERSBURG — Anyone who was at Waverly last fall when Wheelersburg paid the Tigers a visit left Raidiger Field knowing that this season’s matchup had the potential to be a blockbuster.
The Tigers, a young bunch back then, still finished the year 9-2 and showed glimpses of just how good they were going to be in that contest.
The renewing of the rivalry is officially upon us as the top two SOC II teams, in the standings at least, square off on Friday for conference supremacy.
|3-7||All-Time Postseason Record||38-28|
|3||Consecutive Playoff Appearances||6|
|51-7 win over Valley||Last week’s results||55-0 win over Oak Hill|
Two streaks have the potential to end after the dust settles. Waverly hasn’t beaten Wheelersburg since 2006 (also the last time the Tigers won the SOC II title), and the Pirates’ five-year reign at the top could end with a loss.
Both teams have had this game circled on their calendars, and with good reason. Get your popcorn ready. This one has the potential to be an instant classic.
Here’s a preview of SOSA’s Game of the Week.
WAVERLY TIGERS (6-1)
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH FOR
- Haydn’ Shanks (QB), Payton Shoemaker (RB), Will Futhey (WR)
Last year’s 49-0 loss to the Pirates showed the Tigers they have to step up their game to hang with the top dog in the SOC II. Now is Waverly’s chance to become the top dog.
This offense has been on fire all season when healthy, scoring over 30 points in all six victories versus just 14 in a loss to Unioto when quarterback Haydn’ Shanks left the game in the second quarter due to injury.
There might not be a more balanced offense in Southern Ohio than Waverly’s. Shanks has thrown for over 1,000 yards while Payton Shoemaker, who is simply lightning in a bottle, has ran for just under 1,466 yards … in just seven games.
That averages out to 214.2 yards per game from Shoemaker alone … just think about that for a second. Needless to say, the Tigers have a very, very good offensive line.
An argument could be made that Waverly has more talent than Wheelersburg this year, and this is unquestionably its best chance to down the Pirates. It’s now or never.
The Tigers are currently No. 3 in the latest poll in Division IV, Region 15 as they control their own destiny for a playoff spot … Over the past five meetings, the Tigers haven’t scored more than 20 points against the Pirates … Shoemaker is in range to break Waverly’s school rushing record this week.
WHEELERSBURG PIRATES (4-3)
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH FOR
- Evan Horsley (QB), Makya Matthews (RB), Hunter Ruby (WR)
Every team from Ironton to Jackson has been licking its chops, patiently waiting to take their best shot at an “inexperienced” group of Pirates.
However, after last week’s shutout against Oak Hill, it looks as if Wheelersburg is back on track. The Pirates made their third switch at quarterback this season, tabbing Evan Horsley to hold the keys to the offense. He looked more than comfortable with the ball in his hands a week ago.
While the Pirates kept the play-calling simple, Horsley completed 7-of-9 passes, three of which ended in touchdowns, and ran for three more scores, showing off his speed.
The defense has been making plays over the past two games, getting crucial stop after stop in big moments. Now is the unit’s chance to make the biggest statement of the season and show they still run the SOC II.
Despite being just one game above .500, the Pirates currently sit at No. 3 in Division V, Region 19 in the latest poll thanks to strength of schedule … Since 2007, both programs have gone in different directions, until recently. Over the 12-year span, the Tigers have won more SOC II titles (7) than Waverly has had winning seasons (4).
BOTTOM LINE …
The SOC II spotlight is only big enough for one team in orange.
This game isn’t about playoff seedings, although that could also be affected. Either Wheelersburg proves once again its untouchable in conference play or Waverly shows it has what it takes to take down its arch rival.